Legislature rejects invasive species law
YATES COUNTY—The Yates County Legislature voted down a proposed local law to prevent the introduction and movement of aquatic invasive species during their meeting Monday, June 10. Legislators Daniel Banach and Mark Morris were the only two legislators who voted in support of the law.
This decision came despite several audience members speaking in support of the prepared legislation. President of the Keuka Lake Association Bill Laffin said the waterways in Yates County are vital to the local economy and “doing nothing is similar to Russian roulette.” He said if preventing the spread of invasive species were impossible, then the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) would not be diligently working to fight them. He said the cost of combating an invasive species once it arrives is far greater than it would be to enforce this law, with $120 billion being spent across the nation every year to combat invasive species.
“Allowing boats to willfully launch into Keuka Lake without following DEC protocols should be a crime,” Laffin said.
Janet Ingalls VanDine of the Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association said every level of government, including state and federal, are trying to stop the movement of aquatic hitchhikers, and the proposed legislation to protect Yates County lakes, waterways and watersheds is a “tremendous start.”
Despite the public support, the legislature chose to vote against the legislation, opting instead to pass a resolution supporting the prevention of introduction and movement of aquatic invasive species by urging the state to adopt laws supporting local governments in these measures. Legislator Bill Holgate said while he agrees the Finger Lakes are very valuable, he feels the proposed law is “feel-good legislation” that does not have a place at this time in the county. He said the law tells people they have to be experts on every different invasive species, and before they pass measures to punish people, the county has to go down the route of education.
“There is a lot of education that needs to be done before we say ‘we have passed a law, we are good,’” Holgate said.
Legislator Rick Willson agreed, saying the legislation attacks people for making a mistake, while the county does not put anything out there for proper disposal. Legislator Tim Dennis said it is not enforceable. He said it is a statewide issue and needs to be dealt with on a statewide basis. Sheriff Spike said the law would also require additional training for officers, which would be difficult when it came to identifying invasive species.
After voting against the law, Chairman Taylor Fitch said the county should continue to look into the matter. He said while the proposed legislation had its flaws, but should still move forward with some sort of policy to keep invasive species from spreading into Yates County.
In other business:
• Spike gave a presentation to the public on the efficiencies he has been trying to find in his department, outlining several steps he has taken to save the county money. He said overall, changes like the cook/chill prison food program and U.S. Marshal inmate housing amounted to a $92,142 savings in the first four months of 2013.
• The legislature voted to place the position of animal control officer within the Yates County Deputy Sheriff's Association union that represents certain personnel within the sheriff's office. County Administrator Sarah Purdy said given advice of their labor attorney, the legislature agreed to allow the position to become unionized at an additional cost of $2,000 per year. Purdy said under the criteria there is no reason to deny this request. She said the other option is to fight it, taking it to the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) and spend $5,000 in legal fees to most likely be ruled against anyway.