OSWEGO — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo aims to bolster tourism in communities along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River dealing with shoreline flooding from unprecedented water levels through several initiatives.
The governor said Thursday that fishing licenses and fees have been waived for angling in Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River and Lower Niagara River through Labor Day, and that the camping and entry fees for 30 state parks in the area were cut in half. Benefitting state parks include Southwick Beach, Westcott Beach, Wellesley Island and Kring Point, among others, according to a news release.
The state also plans to invest $5.25 million to enhance the Salmon River Fish Hatchery in Altmar, which will help finance equipment that will help the hatchery reuse water as it increases fish production, according to the release. A new video advertisement from I LOVE NY that promotes Lake Ontario has also been launched to help attract more tourists to the area.
“We just have to get the word out about what we have here, and we have to get more people to experience it, because the more people who see it, the more people will come,” Gov. Cuomo said. “In the midst of what we’re dealing with, we want to promote tourism, upstate New York, especially around Lake Ontario because of the situation and the hardship that has been created.”
Excessive precipitation across the Great Lakes Basin and high outflow from Lake Erie, which also experienced record-breaking water levels, were key factors in Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River experiencing unprecedented water levels.
The effects were compounded as the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board decided to reduce outflows from the Robert Moses-Robert H. Saunders Power Dam in Massena and Cornwall, Ont., in the spring in response to record flows from the Ottawa River into the lower St. Lawrence River, flooding areas near Montreal.
The governor’s efforts follow him launching his Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative in June, a $300 million program aimed to help finance resilient infrastructure and economic development in waterfront communities.
The governor and state also want to bolster eco-tourism, or activities and services that highlight natural environments while supporting conservation, prompting an about $75,000 investment split between three areas, with each one awarded $24,999.
According to the release, St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce was awarded funds to create an inter-municipal plan for developing and enhancing eco-tourism and recreation opportunities for waterways, particularly Lake St. Lawrence, and trails. The Environmental Finance Center at Syracuse University was awarded funds to create plans for bolstering the North and South Sandy Ponds’ watersheds that incorporate ecosystem-based management alongside the town of Sandy Creek and the village of Sodus Point to build a handicapped-accessible canoe and kayak launch into Sodus Bay that includes green infrastructure.
“(Eco-tourism) is a growing market; all the data shows it and all the anecdotal experience shows it, so we’re going to be doing that also,” the governor said.