A beautiful, natural land that could be managed by the Finger Lakes Land Trust or DEC is in danger of being auctioned off by NYSEG.
This week, Assemblymember Anna R. Kelles and Senator Pamela Helming wrote to Governor Kathy Hochul to ask for her “urgent help preserving an undeveloped stretch of Cayuga Lake. Bell Station is a remarkable, 470-acre property featuring 3,400 feet of pristine shoreline on the east side of Cayuga Lake. The property was originally acquired by New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG) for a power plant that was never built. Bell Station features wooded hillsides, cascading waterfalls, extensive fields currently leased for agriculture, and several tributaries to the lake.
“Acquisition of the site for conservation will greatly enhance public access to the east side of Cayuga Lake, which is 90% privately owned,” wrote Kelles and Helming. “Permanent conservation of the property will also prevent additional residential development on the steep hillsides above the lake, development that would likely contribute significantly to increased erosion and to the lake’s harmful algal blooms (HABs). Given that Cayuga Lake already has the highest prevalence of HABs outbreaks in the Finger Lakes, allowing for further increased risk is unwise both for our ecology and for the agritourism industry that is a bedrock of our local economy.”
“In order to preserve this rare stretch of undeveloped land for the enjoyment of New Yorkers and the preservation of our natural resources,” continued Kelles and Helming, “we urge you to request that NYSEG cancel its auction and instead enter into transparent negotiations with the Land Trust, as agent for the NYSDEC. This will offer an opportunity for NYSEG and the State to ensure the future of this unique stretch of Cayuga Lake shoreline.”
On September 7, 2021 the Tompkins County Legislature adopted a Resolution Opposing the Proposed Public Auction of Certain Property on the Eastern Shore of Cayuga Lake by the New York State Electric and Gas Corporation (NYSEG).
The Lansing Town Board noted “There are few public access points on Cayuga Lake, as approximately 90% of the shoreline is privately owned. Bell Station would be a great benefit to our state residents if conserved as a future State Wildlife Management area or other venue allowing community access. It would also be a crucial connection to Cayuga Lake as part of the Blueway Trail, enhancing access by both water and land to this valuable conservation resource. However, the risk of development is now high.
Ithaca’s Mayor Svante Myrick and Common Council wrote, “The public and NYSEG ratepayers would be best served by conserving this property while paying NYSEG a fair price for the land. We request that you cancel the public auction and return to discussions with the FLLT and DEC and explore this opportunity to conserve this unique property on our treasured Cayuga Lake.”
Said Andrew Zepp, Executive Director of the Finger Lakes Land Trust, “Bell Station provides a rare opportunity to advance multiple state policy goals relating to water quality, public recreation, and renewable energy. It is a truly unique opportunity for the Finger Lakes Region and for New York State.”
According to the Cayuga Birding Club, “rare and threatened plant communities, including a large and flourishing population of a NYS threatened plant called Butterfly Leaf and a NYS rare plant called Pale Pea” thrive on this property and need our protection. “The population of Butterfly Leaf is the only such population in Tompkins County and is one of the largest of this threatened species in the State. Additionally, the mature Maple-Basswood forest provides necessary habitat for warblers, vireos, orioles, and other birds that have been declining in NYS due to habitat loss.”
According to the Tompkins County Water Resource Council, “The Bell Station property includes a large portion of the Nut Ridge Unique Natural Area – a designation by the Tompkins County Environmental Management Council – on the western half of the parcel. The entire property covers over 470 acres with 3,400 feet of Cayuga Lake shoreline and more than a dozen permanent and intermittent streams. Surface water is the drinking water source of over half of Tompkins County residents and is vulnerable to contamination from point and non-point pollution sources. Protecting those streams and the forested land that buffer them is critically important to protecting the water quality and ecology of the streams and Cayuga Lake, as noted in the Tompkins County Water Quality Strategy.”
3700 local residents have also signed a petition requesting that NYSEG “enter into negotiations with area organizations, such as the Finger Lakes Land Trust and DEC, to acquire this parcel for a fair price, so it can be conserved as a wildlife management area or other type of land available for the public and for future generations to come.