State lawmakers hear Conservation Alliance's concerns about West Canada Creek

Kim Dunne

The water crisis last year at Hinckley Reservoir effected more than homes and businesses that needed to conserve water. It also effected fishermen throughout Herkimer County who often fish in West Canada Creek.

The creek was closed to the public during the water crisis and fishermen say a solution has to be found to prevent such a crisis from happening again.

The Herkimer County Conservation Alliance met Saturday with elected officials, Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport, state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, and state Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, to discuss concerns and offer solutions to the problem.

“Fisherman come to Herkimer County, stay in Herkimer County, camp in Herkimer County and fish in Herkimer County,” Butler said. “It's a direct fiscal impact on the county when the West Canada Creek is closed like it was last year.”

“It's good to get together and talk about these issues facing our sportsmen in our region,” Seward added. “It is a tremendous impact on our local economy.”

West Canada Creek was shut down due to a decision to try to decrease the amount of water running out of Hinckley. Much of the water in the creek comes from the reservoir. By decreasing the outflow of Hinckley, the creek's water levels dropped, which caused the water temperature to rise and threaten the fish population in the creek.

Fishing was banned in the creek by early October.

The fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts want answers as to how officials will ensure that this doesn't happen again.

Griffo said the Hinckley Reservoir study group, also known as the Hinckley Reservoir task force, put together by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, will work to determine what the main issues are and come up with suggestions as to how this can be avoided in the future.

“We need to bring together everyone to reach some objectives,” Griffo said. “We need to ensure we have safe drinking water, we need to promote economic development, and we need to allow for recreational use. We hope to be able to bring everyone to the table and get the best results for everyone.”

A concern raised by those who attended the meeting was how fishermen were not included or represented in any meetings about the creek.

Bruce Kellogg, president of the West Canada Creek River Keepers, told the elected officials that he would like to see a new study done about the proper use of the water from Hinckley Reservoir.

“We need to make sure there is an adequate water supply in West Canada Creek to supply the area,” Butler said. “We need to sit down and solve this problem regionally.”

“I'm hoping 2008 will be the year we can really sit down and come up with a plan and work together as a region for the benefit of all,” Seward added. “The top priority is protecting the great resource we have - water.”