Drennen Warns of Lake Development – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Drennen Warns of Lake Development

When Tom Drennen, associate professor of economics and chair of the environmental studies department at HWS, gave the keynote address at a meeting of the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Alliance, he spoke of a “tipping point” at which the lake would go “from a fine water resource to one that is full of algae and weeds,” according to an article about the presentation in the Daily Messenger.

The article notes his concern about development is shared by many residents in Canandaigua and one which Drennen called one of the three main threats to the lake.

A member of the HWS faculty since 1995, Drennen earned a B.S. in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an M.A. in Public Affairs from the University of Minnesota, and a Ph.D. in resource economics from Cornell University. In 2006, he received the Hobart and William Smith Excellence in Teaching Award.

Drennen is the author of a book, “Pathways to a Hydrogen Future,” which seeks to untangle competing visions of a hydrogen economy, explain the trade-offs and obstacles, and offer recommendations for a path forward. The results are based on “The Hydrogen Futures Simulation Model,” developed at Sandia National Laboratories, where he is senior economist. The complete Daily Messenger article follows.


The Daily Messenger

“Pollutants a concern in lake development”

Kevin Fuller • staff writer • Aug 24, 2008

Canandaigua, N.Y. – In a keynote at the annual meeting on Saturday for the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Alliance, Dr. Thomas Drennen, environmental economist, warned members that development must be balanced with preservation on Canandaigua Lake to avoid what he calls a tipping point.

“Tipping point is that point at which the lake goes from a fine water resource to one that is full of algae and weeds,” Drennen said in his presentation. Weeds and algae become abundant when phosphorus is abundant in fresh water. “I think we can avoid going too far as long as we are vigilant,” he added after he addressed the members.

Two days after residents expressed concerns at a City Council meeting about the density of the housing and the traffic that a proposed $140 million lakefront development project would bring, Dr. Drennen, an economics professor and chair of environmental studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, discussed development concerns.

Land that includes 33.5 acres between Lakeshore Drive and Routes 5 and 20 is being eyed by Rochester-based developer Conifer Realty LLC, which has residents skeptical. In his keynote labeled, “Avoiding the tipping point: How to balance development and preservation on Canandaigua Lake,” he described development as one of the three main threats to the lake.

“This is such a beautiful and amazing resource,” said Drennen. “How much will this lake sustain when it comes to development,” he added. Drennen was voicing his concerns, which happen to be a lot of the same concerns of many others in the city of Canandaigua and residents surrounding the lake.

According to the Watershed Alliance, Phosphorus is usually present in fresh water at a few parts per billion- enough for modest plant growth. Sources of phosphorus include human and animal waste, fertilizers and dish-washing detergents. When development increases the amount of runoff into the lake that includes phosphorus goes up as well.

However, Drennen says development doesn’t need to stop. “Our goal should not be to prevent others from enjoying it, but to protect what we have,” he said. Also, phosphorus can be abundant when sewer systems are not in place, which is the case in some smaller communities surrounding the lake like Bristol.

“Why not put more pressure for a sewer system around the lake,” asked Morton Klineman of East Lake Road. Don’t look for a sewer system anytime soon, according to Edith Davey, secretary of Canandaigua Lake Watershed Alliance.

“It’s a matter of money,” Davey said. Although Canandaigua Lake is being developed, it is in good shape relative to other lakes according to Drennen. “This is the good news. Canandaigua Lake is still a very clean lake,” he said.