BASS Times: Settlement pays for access

CHAUMONT BAY, N.Y. — Boat launches and marinas will be restored and fish spawning habitat repaired as a result of New York state's 2006 settlement with Occidental Chemical Corp., according to Pete Grannis, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner. The settlement arose from allegations by New York that Occidental polluted and severely damaged sportfishing in Lake Ontario and the Niagara and St. Lawrence rivers.

"Most of the habitat restoration money went toward helping species other than black bass," said Burnie Haney, conservation director for the New York B.A.S.S. Federation Chapter (NYBFC), "because we're blessed in New York with a naturally reproducing population of bass."

Rather, the funds received by Haney and fellow NYBFC members went toward better angler access.

Their first priority was to improve the boat launch facilities at Chaumont Bay. "It was in bad shape, and we thought this would be a useful improvement for bass anglers in the area," Haney explained.

Their efforts were successful. The state found their plans acceptable and New York has thus far allocated $350,000 of the settlement proceeds for the project. In the meantime, the state is working to acquire surrounding land to make the effort viable, and Haney and his fellow anglers are confident the project will proceed to completion.

Their second effort has been aimed at Sandy Pond, where they believe a dredging project would improve the area. "If we can get this done, it will open up a direct access route to Lake Ontario for us. That would be fantastic," says Haney. "Some dredging has been done in the past but not enough. This would make a big difference, not only to bass anglers but to anyone using the water."

Nothing has been finalized yet concerning Sandy Pond, but that doesn't bother Haney. He points out that governments move slowly and that it took more than a year to get approval for the Chaumont Bay project. He remains optimistic.

"Overall we're very happy with the way things have worked out," he says. "I would have liked to see some habitat work, but we can't have everything. If we can get better access to our fishing waters, it will make a huge difference to New York bass anglers." 

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