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Great Lakes Article:

Forum to explore Lake Ontario shore woes
Corydon Ireland
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

— Proliferating exotic weeds, pollution from city streets, leaking septic systems, shrinking wildlife habitat, odorous blooms of rotting algae.

All are among the problems besetting what some natural scientists call New York's "northern coast." The 300-mile Lake Ontario shoreline stretches over seven counties from the Niagara River to the St. Lawrence River.

A conference Friday in Pittsford, sponsored by the Rochester-based Center for Environmental Information, will puzzle over problems among the coast's bays, rivers, creeks and bogs.

"Some (shoreline) weed growth is so dense and intense it rules out recreation," said Robert K. Williams, director of Wayne County's Soil and Water Conservation District.

Swimmers don't want to jump into weedy water, he said, and tangles of aquatic plants foul boat propellers and fish lines in Sodus Bay, Blind Sodus Bay and other inlets that draw crowds in good weather.

Joseph Makarewicz, director of the environmental science program at the State University College at Brockport, said the conference will consider the state's lake coast as a region, with interconnected problems affecting shoreline water quality.

"The economies of individual bays don't mean much," he said. "But when you take the whole coastline of New York state -- that has a lot of impact."

And there's a deepening ecological cost, said Makarewicz. Polluted near-shore areas are not getting cleaned up as rapidly as Lake Ontario's deep water.

But regional planning and cooperation have worked brilliantly elsewhere, he said, reversing degradation in the upper Hudson River, in Chesapeake Bay and the Everglades of Florida.

More than 30 co-sponsors at the conference include public and private agencies and companies such as Eastman Kodak and Xerox Corp. Experts on tourism, fisheries, economics, planning and remediation will speak.

N.Y. Secretary of State Randy Daniels will speak, along with state Sen. George Maziarz, R-North Tonawanda, Niagara County, whose district spans three lake counties.

Lake Ontario's open water is cleaner than it has been in 100 years, said Makarewicz. But coastline pollution persists, and -- like the reek of summer algae -- is more obvious. "Most people walk along the shoreline," he said, "and that's where the problems are."

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