The 2018 Annual Meeting Fran Rotunno Fish
(Note: This article contains a summary of the “STATE of the LAKE” address made by Paul Torrisi, SLA President, at the 2018 Annual Meeting. If you would like a copy of the complete presentation, please click on the “contact us” tab on this website and request it and it will be emailed to you.)
On Saturday, June 30th, about 300 people came to Lourdes Camp for the first time or came back to the Camp of their own or their children’s or grandchildren’s childhood for the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Skaneateles Lake Association. Most came by car, some came by boat and a few, from close by, came by foot. Despite what was a brutally hot day, they came. The came because they care about and love the treasure that is Skaneateles Lake.
The meeting was enhanced by music provided by Ken Harms as a donation for the lake he loves, a picnic supper provided with great grilling by the Lourdes Chef, Tom; salt potatoes prepared by the American Legion; salads provided by Gilda’s, the Lake House Pub, Johnny Angel’s, the Skaneateles Bakery, Joelle’s, the Skaneateles Country Club, the Blue Water Grill, Krebs, and the Mandana Inn; Cole Slaw provided by Doug’s Fish Fry; appetizers provided by Valentines, Moros, the Colonial Lodge and Mezza Grande; watermelon provided by TOPS and wine provided by Anyela’s.
The meeting offered the opportunity for many to catch up with long-time friends, meet some new people enjoy the music and have a traditional picnic supper, but the highlight of the meeting was the “State of the Lake” presentation by SLA President, Paul Torrisi. A summary of his presentation follows. (The full presentation is on our website, SkaneatelesLake.org)
Dr. Torrisi noted that at last year’s annual meeting he remembered “bragging” how Skaneateles Lake was one of the only, if not THE only Finger Lake never to have had a HAB. He noted that while we had every right to feel “smug” about our relative “immunity” to such an event- with our deep lake, large volume of clear water and a relatively small watershed, along with historically low levels of nutrients, particularly phosphorous there are significant threats to Skaneateles Lake. He explained that Invasive Species continue to be a threat to the purity and clarity of the water, and with more organic material in the lake leading to increased foam affecting recreational enjoyment and the quality of the drinking water. He noted that Eurasian watermilfoil can be found throughout the lake and that for 12 years now through the efforts of the SLA, the milfoil biomass has been substantially reduced at a cost of well over $2 million still costs over $150k annually for the maintenance program to keep it under control. The lake is also infested with zebra and quagga mussels, and threatened by hydrilla, Asian clams, and others present in neighboring waterbodies. The SLA’s Lake Stewardship Program, the SLA has been attempting to mitigate the threat of the introduction of these invasive species, particularly hydrilla which could have devastating consequences as it nearly impossible unless toxic chemicals (herbicides) are used. The Stewardship Program established by the SLA in 2012 has been becoming more and more robust each year, the cost of which is rapidly approaching $50k/year. Thanks primarily to the efforts of Buzz Roberts it has been held up as a model program in the Finger Lakes region! But, it remains a voluntary participant program. Both of these important and essential SLA programs (Milfoil Control and Stewardship) are supported by the SLA annual membership dues and donations.
The lake has also been plagued by soil erosion along its banks and heavy storm water runoff into the lake from its 153 tributaries following ever increasing severe, episodic, storm events, like we experienced in July 2017- contributing to harmful nutrient loading, and along with the negative impact of invasive species have helped to promote the continuous degradation of the lake.
The lake remained in relatively good shape until the late summer of 2017 when for the first time in anyone’s memory it suffered a bloom of Microcystis aeruginosa, a toxic cyanobacteria commonly known as a harmful algal bloom (HAB). It captured the attention of the entire region because Skaneateles Lake was thought to be “immune” from a HAB. That is no longer the case. The degradation of Skaneateles Lake, if not slowed, will have an enormous impact on the entire region.
For the SLA Board, the HAB was a clarion call for action- and much has been done since last summer. The SLA hosted community forums to discuss and analyze the problem, and in October, 2017 quickly came up with its own HAB Action Plan consisting of 4 major initiatives aimed at substantially lessening the chances of HABs recurring by “control of the controllable”, i.e., the food (nutrients)- not the weather or the presence of the cyanobacteria (which have existed in every body of water on the planet for over 3 billion years).
The first element was the Formation of the Watershed Nutrient Management Work Group co-chaired by SLA Board Members Bob Werner, Ph.D. (Limnologist & retired Prof. SUNY ESF. and Bill Dean, Ph.D. (retired biochemist/Genentech). This stellar group met almost weekly starting right after the HAB last fall. They decided that a Nine Element Watershed Management Plan (9E Plan) through NY State was the next step. This plan will identify the sources and causes of nonpoint pollution, involve the key stakeholders in the planning process, and insure that restoration and protection strategies are implemented. It’s really boiling down to preparing ourselves for the increasingly more frequent “100 year” storms (like last July’s) with bigger better, buffer zones on farms and
basins, and retention landowners’ properties bordering lakefront and the extreme flow of water with increasing watershed wetlands, settling streams, holding back ponds, and re-engineering targeted tributaries and gorges that feed the lake. This group is working with Kathy Bertuch from the CNY Regional Planning and Development Board to process the 9E Plan application and the Town of Skaneateles has agreed to be the sponsoring lakefront municipality. He noted that 9E Plan application process will take years, but once completed and certified by NY State, will help the Skaneateles lake and watershed with sources of public funding to help with the modeling and mitigation required to change things in the watershed. It will also take lots of dollars since the recipients of any grants need to come up with 25% matching funds for any funds awarded.
Following the start of our 9E Plan application, Gov. Cuomo in Dec.,2017 announced at SUNY ESF a $65 million proposal to study and plan for HAB prevention in NYS. 12 selected lakes were earmarked for this money (Skaneateles Lake included). Summits were held in March, local steering committees were formed, and the individual HAB Action Plans for each of the 12 selected lakes were released to the public 2 weeks ago- with a deadline date for grant submission of July 27, 2018! We’re not going to be handed a check for $5 million. This money will need to be applied for in the form of individual grants through the CFA (Consolidated Funding Application) of NY State on a competitive basis, and anyone and everyone can submit requests (in addition to the original 12 selected lakes). So, at this point we are not sure when and how many dollars will come our way.
The second element of the SLA HAB Action Plan is the Watershed Citizen’s Work Group Chaired by Mary Menapace (nurse and community organizer par excellence). It is focusing on community education, public outreach, and the individual citizen’s efforts to lessen nutrient loading into the lake. Forums, education, task groups will give everyone in the watershed an opportunity to be a part of the plan to protect and restore the lake.
The third element of the SLA HAB Action Plan is the formation of the Watershed Governance Work Group Co-Chaired by Rich Hole, current SLA Board Treasurer (retired attorney/former managing partner @ BS&K) and Bob Liegel (former President of SLA, Skaneateles Village attorney). This group has been working on creating the Skaneateles Lake Watershed Management Council, Inc. to include all the municipalities on the lake, City of Syracuse, and 3 counties. It would serve as the central hub for collaboration among all the vital stakeholders in the watershed, existing in perpetuity. It would bring together water resource management professionals from all the municipalities and related agencies to work together and help make uniform Low Impact Development (LID) in all the municipalities the standard and work together to minimize the impact of and further introduction of invasive program similar to the one I described in Lake George.
The fourth element of the SLA HAB Action Plan is Funding the restoration of the lakes. Governor Cuomo proposed $65 million on 12/22/17 to combat the HAB crisis is not coming to us quickly and the time for action is NOW! The SLA’s annual expense of well over $200k for controlling invasives through its milfoil and lake stewardship programs has been funded through its annual and we cannot emphasize enough how dependent we are on annually renewed membership dues and additional donations directed at both milfoil control and the stewardship programs- please encourage those you know who have not stepped up (friends, neighbors, & businesses) to help us with this endeavor-it’s so important that we get everyone with a stake in this lake on board to help “spread the pain”!! Thankfully, these efforts have been augmented by a $25k annual grant from Onondaga Cty. these past several years through the thoughtful leadership of County Executive Joanie Mahoney.
With this loyal support, and continued growth of the SLA membership, we are confident of maintaining these critical invasive species programs; however, fighting HABs will require another and even greater level of financial support. The SLA is establishing The Legacy Fund for Skaneateles Lake Co-Chaired by Jessica Millman (Environmental watershed planner, former Town Planning Board andTown Comprehensive Plan Committee) and Dave Birchenough (Finger Lakes Land Trust Board). The goal is to raise at least $1 million and the campaign is quietly underway to expedite the work that needs to get done to prevent HABs from recurring. Dr. Torissi reported that through the early success and generosity of a handful of donors over the past 6 weeks the SLA has been able to contract with Upstate Freshwater Institute (UFI) to begin the critical monitoring of 3 additional major tributaries this season; Grout Brook, Bear Swamp Creek, and Harold Brook in addition to the 3rd season of monitoring Shotwell Brook which has been sponsored by the Town of Skaneateles. Capturing this data in 2018 will definitely provide a jump start to targeting sources of pollutant nutrients for remediation, going forward.
Source: Skaneateles Press