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Milfoil war on Chateaugay lakes in jeopardy

DANNEMORA - The town of Dannemora may not be able to continue making good on a pledge to help rid the Chateaugay lakes of a longtime environmental problem.

Mary McLean Johnson, president of the Chateaugay Lake Foundation, approached the Dannemora Town Board at its May 25 meeting about restoring funding in the town budget for the foundation. The town has provided $2,500 to the foundation per year for the past three years to assist with removal of Eurasian water milfoil - a nonnative invasive aquatic plant known for clogging boat motors and degrading water quality - from Upper Chateaugay Lake and Lower Chateaugay Lake and the connecting waterway between the two bodies known as "The Narrows." However, the town will be unable to make its commitment to the foundation given the town's current financial status, said Town Supervisor Americo "Ves" Pivetta.

"There's no money, so we took it out of the budget," said Pivetta, who cited the recent closure of the Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility as one of the chief economic concerns for the town.

The lack of a commitment for funding from the town comes at a crucial time for the foundation, said Johnson, as concentrated efforts by teams of trained professionals to remove milfoil from the lakes enter their fourth year. Since the foundation adopted its mission to eradicate the aquatic threat, nearly $250,000 has been raised, with additional commitments made for future years.

Though the foundation largely relies on the support of private donors, such as property owners along the lakes and local businesses, the continued support of the towns of Dannemora and Ellenburg in Clinton County and town of Bellmont in Franklin County is important, said Johnson.

"The state funding that used to be there to help with this problem is pretty much gone now," said Johnson, who noted the burden of funding projects like the foundation's now rests on the shoulders of leaders at the local level. "The towns have a vested interest in maintaining water quality ... When they invest in the water quality, they reap the benefit by preserving the tax base."

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