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Burke Proposes New Efforts to Protect Lake Erie

This community was founded on its water.  Its past, present, and future economic vitality will be based on our proximity to clean water. As populations migrate towards fresh water sources, it is inevitable that our region will grow dramatically. We call this future economic opportunity the blue economy.

Knowing how important Lake Erie is to our economic future and public health, you would assume its protection would be our first priority. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case. The legacy of treating Lake Erie as a deposit for chemical, agricultural, and sewage runoff needs to be addressed before it’s too late. Every year, the rivers and streams that feed Lake Erie are taking in hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage which contain fecal matter, E.coli, and other harmful bacteria. Our beaches are closed for swimming way too often. A toxic algae bloom on the western edge of Lake Erie wreaked havoc on the City of Toledo. Toledo’s water supply was shut down for three days and their economy took a beating. It's unimaginable that a city that sits alongside the greatest freshwater resource in the world would have a problem getting access to clean water, but that's exactly what happened in Toledo and it’s our job to make sure it doesn’t happen here.

NYS has mandated that municipalities fix their subpar sewer systems, but they did that without supplying the necessary resources.Taxpayers throughout Erie County will face enormous costs to repair their community sewer systems.  Homeowners are required to personally pay for aging lateral pipes which run from the home to main sewer lines and can cost up to $15,000

It’s imperative that Erie County find the resources to relieve taxpayers and homeowners of these exorbitant, but extremely necessary, costs. This has to get done and the longer we wait to repair our sewers, the more it will cost us in the long run.

I am proposing a 3% increase in the hotel occupancy tax so that those from outside our community but utilize our resources can give relief to local taxpayers and contribute to water infrastructure improvements.  2% will go towards a water quality fund which homeowners can use to take out no-interest loans for lateral pipe replacement, municipalities can tap into the fund to save money on sewer upgrades, and our water conservationists can address non-point source water pollution issues.  The other 1% will be used to increase tourism to make sure our hotels are full, and that our water quality fund is plentiful.

We've spent a fortune on creating access to the waterfront.  Now, we have to prioritize and protect the actual water.