This summer, environmental questions will be heard surrounding the construction of a new amphitheater on the old Solvay waste beds along Onondaga Lake. A draft environmental impact statement surrounding the project will soon be up for review.
Once lawmakers approve, Onondaga County will begin taking public comments on a 650-page document, which outlines what kinds of impact the entertainment venue will have. The big ones involve health, noise and traffic, according to Deputy County Executive Matt Millea. In a meeting with lawmakers, he emphasized that the report shows there will be no health risks to visitors on a lake that was once the most polluted in the nation.
"You can go out there now and walk around and have no risk to your health, and the human health risk assessment discusses that in great detail," Millea said. "And it will be made further safe by cover that will come in through this project. We’re going to bring in a lot of fill to create the aesthetics that we need for the amphitheater, and Honeywell will be bringing in fill as part of their agreement with the EPA and the DEC.”
Millea says the document came together quickly, mainly because the lake’s been studied so much.
"We’re not coming in cold to a site we don’t understand," he explained. "We’re coming into a site that many people understand extremely well, and there was remediation strategy already in the works by Honeywell. And really, it's just saying what does it mean if we put an amphitheater in place on top of these plans that were ongoing.”
He says if all goes well with this aspect of the environmental review process, work on the project could begin in a few months.
"We could see construction as early as November or December," Millea said. "And that’s not construction of the shed itself, but we could see roads and utilities going in. We could see the remedial strategy starting to be put in place as far as the cover that Honeywell will bring in or the fill that we need to bring in to start to bring in the lawn seating for example. That could all start this fall.”
There are some opposed to amphitheater siting. The Onondaga Nation, which views the lake as sacred, would prefer that all the pollution be removed from the waste beds.
The pubic comment period will run from July 11 until August 11, with a public hearing July 23. The amphitheater project is part of an economic development plan driven by $100 million of state and county money for the west side of the lake and the communities near it.
This environmental review statement only covers the amphitheater.