Controversy Erupts over Plans to Expand Taughannock Falls

Increased Water Flow to Come from Seneca Lake; Partnership with Elon Musk has Many Concerned

P. Arrier – Special Correspondent


As state budget dollars have become increasingly difficult to come by, political leaders in the Finger Lakes have begun to implement a bold and controversial plan to generate significant revenue via the regions natural resources. The plan for the project involves two core components: Increasing the volume of water over Taughannock Falls by more than twenty times, and then bottling much of that water to be sold across the country.


Local Politicians Influenced by Survey of – Influencers

Spectacular Taughannock Falls is already higher than Niagara, but the flow of water ranges from a torrent to a trickle depending on rainfall. And according to a study conducted by a a local tourism group, 98% of Instagram influencers prefer selfies in front of beautiful waterfalls with “a crap ton of water” compared to beautiful waterfalls with “a good amount of water”.
And because those influencers can drive a lot of tourism revenue, local politicians needed a plan to capture more tourism dollars. After a series of meetings with Cornell Hyrdrology professor Victoria Tona-Wadder, a plan was devised to put Taughannock Falls into what scientists formally call “all gas no brakes” mode 365 days per year.

The Project is Designed

The project itself is incredibly complex, but the concept is simple: Millions of gallons of water will be pulled from Seneca Lake into a canal that flows east and empties 300 yards above Taughannock Falls. That increased flow will not only generate more tourism, but also creates an additional commercial opportunity: At the exact moment the water makes it to the bottom, it will be seltzerized using the latest technologies, bottled and placed on store shelves within 36 hours.
Politicians get more money from tourism, and a share of the bottled water profits. But what about the certain flooding to happen across Cayuga Lake?

State Officials: Economic Benefits will Outweigh the Negatives

While controversial, Governor Hochul allowed the plan to move forward due to the significant economic impact for the region. In addition to the expected 300% rise in tourism, the state will receive 30% of the revenue from sale of the water – $3 per bottle based on the $9 retail price.
Arthur Van de L’eau, New York State Vice Deputy of Waterfall Tourism (Central Region) understands the concerns but wants people to understand the incredible economic benefits:
“Yes the water level will bring challenges – but we cannot ignore the fact that we are going to be bigger and better than Niagara Falls. More water than Niagara, a bigger drop than Niagara and it may take us a few years, but I can assure you that our strip clubs, casinos and souvenir shops will be bigger and better than ANYTHING Niagara Falls has to offer!”

Significant Flooding on Cayuga Lake

While he admitted the 3-4 foot increase in water levels at peak production periods could be “problematic” – he pointed out the newly installed warning system:



60 Minutes before Flooding is Predicted: “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin will play from a series of 36 8,000 watt speakers set around the lake. 
And not everyone is unhappy with that –  Chad Fitzer- Trumansburg Class of ’75 says  “Yeah man I mean the flooding sucks, but not gonna lie – it’s pretty fricken awesome to hear those first few drum beats echo across the lake and Jimmy start to riff. Reminds me of that rager at Big Mike’s house Junior year. Epic.”


Making it Happen: Seneca Lake, an Old Bootleggers Canal and a Whirlpool

With over 4 trillion gallons of water, there is no shortage of water in Seneca Lake – but how to get it nearly 15 miles to Taughannock? As the planning committee evaluated their options – someone wondered aloud if “old man McGillicuddy’s bootlegger canal was still around”. And sure enough it was – in nearly as perfect shape as it was in 1922 when Bill McGillicudy used it to carry thousands of gallons of apple jack every week from the shores of Seneca Lake to Trumansburg.

The Whirlpool

In order to keep the project environmentally friendly, the pumps typical of a project like this will be replaced by 143 “Swirlers” – above ground pool afficionados who have each achieved at least 42 likes on Facebook for their videos of kick-ass above ground pool whirlpools. When working in perfect unison, these swirlers can create an immense flow of water.
Captain of the Swirlers, Bob Ubbler of Interlaken is proud of the team they’ve put together:
Listen – for years my kids hated it when I’d have 6 or 7 Genny Screamers before noon and would start my “Whirpool. Whirpool.” chant. But look at me now – I’m leading a team of 142 of the greatest men to ever jog the circumference of an above ground pool.”

A Plan to Profit from the Water Itself

With the increased attention to the already incredible waterfall, politicians sought to profit even further. Initially the plan was to simply bottle and sell the water (a la Poland Spring) for a healthy profit. But after noticing the success of new sparkling water companies like Sanzo, the team started investigating their options for selling sparkling water. But the costs involved proved too high – or so they thought.

A Fateful Tweet, Elon Musk & a German Seltzer Expert

In a half joking tweet sent the night of August 11th, Tompkins County Representative A.G. Wah asked “anybody know how to carbonate water for free?”. Minutes later Wah had a direct message from Elon Musk.
As is often the case, Musk was already two steps ahead. Just days earlier he had recruited famed German hydrologist Werner Von BubleMacher from Berlin Community College. As most in the seltzer community know, Buble-Macher is the world’s foremost seltzer expert – having recently perfected natural seltzerization of water dropped from at least 50 meters.

A Covert Trip to the Finger Lakes

A week later Musk was on a covert trip to the region to negotiate a deal. He did his best to stay under the radar – but he didn’t go unnoticed.
Seth Olney, owner of the Olney Place on Keuka Lake saw Musk last summer, though he didn’t realize it at the time.
“He came in here last August – had a few beers in the tap room and we shot the shit. Nice guy, but every once in a while he’d go way off course. We’d be talking about IPAs and world politics and out of the blue he’d ask me if I knew how many gallons per minute flowed through the Keuka Lake Outlet, or how many parts per million of sulphates were typically in Seneca Lake in mid July.  After he asked that one I jokingly said “I don’t know dude, how much thrust does a rocket need to make it to the moon” – he paused for a moment, finished his beer and confidently said “somewhere between 9.4 and 9.6 million pounds is optimal – but who wants to go to the moon?”. Then he stood up, walked out the door and got into the ugliest truck I have ever seen.  That’s when it clicked for me.

Days Later the Deal Was Signed. Officials are unsure when it will be completed, but want feedback from the public on the project. 

Feedback Period Ending Soon – Comments Wanted

If you have comments on this plan, please reach out to your local representatives by the first of April, 2023. To clarify, do this by April 1st. 4/1/2023. Don’t be a fool.