Governor vetoes Oswego River Basin Commission bill

Gov. Eliot Spitzer has vetoed a bill passed by the state Assembly and Senate last year that would have created the Oswego River Basin Water Level Management Commission that would have included the Seneca River.

If created, this commission would essentially have managed the levels of the basin that also includes Oneida Lake, the Finger Lakes and the Oswego River.

"Many Central New Yorkers who live along the shores of the river basin have expressed concerns about water levels and flooding," said state Sen. John A. DeFrancisco, one of the bill sponsors. "I've been trying to work with them to find a way to protect their property while also preserving our treasured waterways.

There is no doubt that flooding of our lakes, rivers and streams cause significant damage to property and can have a devastating impact on local economies, Spitzer said. However, I do not believe that creating a new commission and giving it the task of 'managing water levels' within a 5,000 square-mile area is the best solution to this problem.

Although I understand that the sponsors of this legislation are concerned about the causes of flooding along the Erie Canal and in other areas within the Oswego River Basin - a concern which I fully share - I disagree with the approach taken by this bill, which simply creates a new and duplicative bureaucracy and grants it powers that are inappropriate.

He said the area defined as the basin is larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

Needless to say, asking a commission to manage the water levels in this area is a monumental task, particularly given that much of this area constitutes a natural flood plain for the many rivers, lakes and streams in the basin, Spitzer said. This task is made even harder by the fact that the area includes several hydroelectric power facilities that obviously have a strong interest in the area's water levels, but which fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and not this new commission."

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