Site photography courtesy of Matt Champlin

News From the SLA…Looking Back and Looking Forward

Fran Rotunno Fish

The Board of Directors of the SLA, SLA members and the entire lake community know that 2017 will be a year to remember ….for many reasons.

The year begin with the Board of Directors making the decision to purchase another acre of matting to be prepared by John Menapace with cable/rebar to hold it in place so that during the season we could increase matting of milfoil patches from 5 to 6 acres.  This was a $10,000 decision that could only be made with the confidence that our ANNUAL membership dues and additional donations would grow to support the decision and still fund our total Milfoil Control Program and the Invasive Species Monitoring Steward Program.  With intensive membership promotion efforts, the lake community responded.

The Board determined that it needed to enhance its efforts to protect the lake from additional invasive plants and animals by expanding the Steward Program season into the Fall and beginning it earlier in the Spring (when our student stewards are generally not available) AND to develop written materials and audio-visual programs that we could use on our website, at community meetings and via social media. To accomplish this effort the SLA would need seed funding and it was decided to apply for a grant from the Central New York Community Foundation.  A group of SLA Board members worked together to complete the grant application and in June 2017 the Board was advised that the grant had been approved.

As a result, we were able to hire 4 adult Stewards to be on site at the DEC, the Town of Skaneateles and the Town of Scott boat launches during the Fall season and over 400 boats were inspected to ensure no potentially invasive plants or animals were transported from other bodies of water into Skaneateles Lake.  Continuing an expanded season for our Invasive Species Monitoring Stewards can only continue with an increasing ANNUAL SLA membership as grant seed money is provided to get something started not maintain long term programs.

The SLA has also started working with Carrie Lazarus, who is volunteering her services, to produce a video about Skaneateles Lake emphasizing what makes it special, how invasive species will continue to be a threat and what everyone needs to do to help prevent the introduction of new or additional invasive species into the lake.  We look forward to the completion of this video for widespread use.

In July, we held our 7th annual SLA meeting on the property of Bill and Janet Stinson in the Highlands of Skaneateles.  Over 250 people joined together in their commitment to the continued beauty of Skaneateles Lake and its clear, pure water.  At that meeting, perhaps prophetically, Bill Stinson spoke of his hope we would all work together and that the landscape would remain green and the lake water blue.

AND THEN IN SEPTEMBER THE HARMFUL BLUE GREEN ALGAL BLOOM APPEARED and the Skaneateles Lake Association was the first responder, collecting the sample, getting it initially tested and alerting all the government agencies.

The SLA Board immediately went into action and consulting with community experts to develop an action plan and the workgroups described in that action plan have been hard at work and gathering participation from committed community members.

The Watershed Nutrient Management Workgroup chaired by SLA board members, Bob Werner and Bill Dean, tasked to study and control nutrient management and runoff, has been meeting regularly to develop a plan to control input of nutrients into Skaneateles Lake at levels that would greatly reduce the probability of a harmful algal bloom (HAB).

The Watershed Community Involvement Workgroup, chaired by Mary Menapace, is developing plans for community forums, literature and programs.  The plans will offer every member of the lake community the information needed and the opportunity to do the right thing to care for the watershed and the lake and step up to the plate to help conduct these programs and practices on an ongoing basis.

The Watershed Governance Workgroup headed up by Bob Liegel, Esq. and Rich Hole, Esq. is working to establish a Watershed Council of all the watershed municipalities to speak with one voice regarding watershed rules and regulations, and enforcement.  This would help unify the entire watershed and expedite much of the work that needs to be accomplished.

The opportunity to discuss the seriousness of the Harmful Algal Bloom and the SLA’s commitment to respond to it was provided at a community meeting hosted by the Falcone Family and organized by the SLA on October 18th.  Community representatives from across the Lake Community and village, town, county and state representatives from every level gathered and gave insight to the issues and potential for action.  With the presence of the Basil Seggos, Commissioner of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation it was a powerful meeting and a powerful vehicle for gaining the close attention of the Governor.

This Action Plan and its 3 Workgroups have become all the more important with the announcement by the Governor of significant funding for the protection of 12 NYS Lakes, including Skaneateles Lake, from Harmful Algal Blooms.  While we anticipate that this funding and the actions taken will be implemented under the State DEC we know that Aimee Clinkhammer from the Finger Lake Watershed Hub, who has already been working with the SLA Watershed Nutrient Management Workgroup will be the DEC coordinator for Skaneateles Lake.  As such we expect our Watershed Nutrient Management Workgroup will continue to be a key member of the team.

The Board of Directors of the SLA reminds the entire Skaneateles Lake community that we need their continued ANNUAL membership and the memberships of many more, especially lakefront property owners who have not previously joined the SLA, to continue to carry out all of our ongoing plans to protect the treasure that is Skaneateles Lake.

You can join the Skaneateles Lake Association online at or call 315-685-9106 and ask that a registration form and return envelope be mailed to you.

Source:  Skaneateles Press


From the SLA: Addressing harmful algae blooms

SLA News Update on HABs by Paul Torrisi

Following the detection and reporting of the recent Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) on Skaneateles Lake in September, the SLA continued to take the lead in organizing a plan of action to “control the controllables”. We all quickly learned that the “toxic bloom” we experienced was not an “algae” bloom but a response from a tiny bacteria that has existed in every body of freshwater on the planet for billions of years, i.e., cyanobacteria (aka blue-green algae).

The nutrient loading that occurred with the unprecedented 25 inches of rain in the spring and early summer creating a turbid, debris strewn lake for most of July, was a set up for what occurred in September-an almost unheard of 12 day period of perfect calm, higher water temperatures, and nothing but sunlight! These tiny organisms flourished in a nutrient rich lake in a “perfect storm” scenario and released their toxins, resulting in an un-drinkable, un-swimmable lake for months.

The “dagger in the heart” was a restaurant in Syracuse with its window sign “bragging” that they don’t get their drinking water from Skaneateles Lake!!!

This Four Point Action Plan from the SLA was activated in October, a few weeks into the toxic bloom:

1) Nutrient Management Committee to study and implement control of runoff/nutrient loading into the lake – a daunting and long term task! A group of experts was recruited by SLA’s Bob Werner and Bill Dean and have already met twice, and are continuing to study on a daily basis what needs to be done to reach their goal: “develop and ensure the implementation of a plan to reduce the input of nutrients into Skaneateles Lake to levels that will greatly reduce the probability of a harmful algal bloom.

This is a very complex issue with perhaps a multitude of contributing factors to the HAB, especially on a “low phosphorous” lake. Do invasive species such as zebra mussels and Eurasian milfoil play a role? Stay tuned for lots more information from this group!

In addition to Bob Werner (SLA) and Bill Dean (SLA), this task force includes Rich Abbott(City of Syr.), Mark Burger(Onon. Cty SWCD), Aimee Clinkhammer (DEC), Mary Sennett (SLA), Neil Murphy (SLA/ESF), Richard Wiles (SLA), Zack Odell (FLLT), and Brian Madigan (SLA).

2) Community Involvement Committee headed up by SLA’s Mary Menapace.

This group is focusing on what we can do as individual stakeholders and as a community, immediately and long term, to have a lasting impact on the health of Skaneateles Lake.

Mary is already working with Annette Becker writing a “best practices” booklet on how each individual can positively and negatively affect the Lake’s health with our daily routine and management of our own properties.

Carol Stokes-Cawley (Sustainable Skaneateles) along with Deb Hole and Jim Huber are helping with the editing of this booklet which will be in both hard copy and Email versions for widespread distribution.

Holly Gregg (CPCS), Debbie Bobbett (school curricula), along with Janice Wiles, Julie Scuderi, Claire Howard, Neil Murphy, Rick Garrett (H.S. Environmental Club), David LoPiccolo (adopt a stream), and Deirdre Aureden have all volunteered to help Mary coordinate community involvement.

Mary’s plan for citizen stakeholder’s involvement:

One-education and outreach in the form not only of printed material, but starting this winter with community forums on Best Management Practices (BMPs) on and near the watershed.

Two-serve as a resource for implementing these BMPs-such as septic maintenance, lawncare, gardening, design with natives, without using potentially toxic pesticides and fertilizers-offering guidance on direction, funding, and even use of volunteer experts.

Three-this SLA Committee to help coordinate other local Agencies (Cornell Coop. Extension, CPCS, Sustainable Skaneateles, local schools and municipalities, the City and all 3 counties, farmers, DEC) to expand and amplify their good programming, and to all work in concert toward the common goal of keeping the lake healthy.

3) Watershed Governance Committee. This committee is headed up by Bob Liegel and Rich Hole, working with Jim Lanning, Joe Hennigan, and Patty Orr.

Their goal is to study and develop a governance structure for implementing a watershed management plan to protect Skaneateles Lake. The governance structure would be designed to facilitate collaboration among the counties, towns, and the village in the watershed and the City of Syracuse to develop and implement a watershed management plan (using the work product of our other two committees) and to speak with one voice regarding rules, regulations, and their enforcement!

To date this SLA Committee has reviewed governance structures used to manage and protect other lake watersheds, spoken with representatives of these governance structures, spoken with State officials involved with protecting water supplies, and met twice in committee to review and discuss their findings.

This SLA Watershed Governance Committee’s success is critical since implementation of both the Nutrient Management and Community Involvement initiatives will be difficult, if not impossible, without the cooperation of all these stakeholders.

4) SLA Fundraising to establish a reserve fund in the SLA to address specific HAB related (and invasive species) issues as they come up, and support a full time SLA Executive Director (ED), helping to coordinate all these activities in the watershed, promoting education, and serving as a constant SLA liaison among all the stakeholders.

The ED could also be instrumental in helping with other critical SLA programs such as the robust and ever-growing Stewardship Program in the lake watershed, and the Eurasian milfoil control program which will be on-going in its 12th season.

The growing scientific evidence suggesting a correlation between zebra mussels and HABs in low nutrient lakes such as ours helps to point out how these or any invasive species can have a negative impact on the health of a lake (and regional economy) years after their introduction. The fight must go on !!

Source:  Skaneateles Press