U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to offer all necessary resources to the Sandy Pond Channel Maintenance Association (SPCMA) to help stop further buildup of sand in the channel connecting Sandy Pond to Lake Ontario. The accumulation of sand in the channel has prevented boaters from entering and exiting Sandy Pond, causing a decline in the tourism and recreation industries, and costing revenue to local retail businesses that operate around the pond, including restaurants, marinas, sporting goods stores, gift and antique shops, camp grounds, motels and other small businesses.
"The buildup of sand in the channel is coming at a major cost to the local economy of Oswego County," Senator Gillibrand said. "When boats can't travel through the channel and reach Sandy Pond, it robs us of a thriving tourism and recreational industry, and holds a whole range of local businesses back -- costing us revenue and risking local jobs. It's time for the Army Corps of Engineers to step in, and offer any resource available so we can get Oswego County's economy back on the move."
On top of the cost to the local economy, the buildup is also raising concerns about the effect on public safety. The Coast Guard, Sheriff's Department and Sandy Creek Fire Department all rely on Sandy Pond to access Lake Ontario. The accumulation of sand makes navigating the channel into Lake Ontario more difficult, which puts the local communities at potential risk in the case of an emergency.
The full text of Senator Gillibrand's letter is below:
Dear Lt. General Bostick,
It has come to my attention that Sandy Pond, a small lake in Oswego County, is experiencing large amounts of sand filling its channel entrance, which threatens to effectively close down the access point for boaters between the Pond and Lake Ontario. Even after dredging this year, the channel currently is not in a safe condition for boaters. This has caused alarm because boaters are not being allowed entrance into or out of Sandy Pond due to safety concerns, resulting in a notable impact on the economy of Sandy Pond and Oswego County.
My office has heard from Cathy Goodnough, President of the Sandy Pond Channel Maintenance Association (SPCMA), who has informed us that there are several year-round large restaurants, a large golf course, many smaller seasonal restaurants, marinas, sporting goods stores, gift and antique shops, camp grounds, motels and other small businesses in the area that are affected by this situation. The tourism and recreation industry is a major economic driver in this region and due to the closed channel, a significant decline in tourist activity has severely impacted the business community. This is evidenced by the relocation of twenty charter fishing businesses that previously operated out of Sandy Pond. Additionally, the New York State 2007 Fisheries Report showed Oswego County benefitted from $42,623,006 in revenues from fishermen who visited the area, however, this year fishing tourism decreased with the entrance closed off and many of the summer residences sat empty because they could not navigate their boats out to Lake Ontario.
I am also concerned about the effect that this closure will have on public safety. The Coast Guard, Sheriff's Department and Sandy Creek Fire Department all launch their rescue equipment at Sandy Pond to access Lake Ontario. These agencies have faced difficulties this year in safely navigating through the channel, which poses a grave danger to the local community.
I am writing to ask you to work with the SPCMA and offer any resources available to address this issue. The SPCMA is holding a meeting on October 11, 2012 to discuss this issue, and I urge someone from the Army Corps of Engineers to attend. If it is not possible for a representative of the Corps to make that meeting, my staff would be happy to assist in setting up another meeting at a more convenient time.
Thank you for your attention to this issue, which is urgent to the residents of Oswego County. Please do not hesitate to contact Jordan Baugh, of my staff, at 202-224-4451, if you have any concerns or would like to further discuss this matter.