Site photography courtesy of Matt Champlin

LEGACY FUND: Fighting Harmful Algal Blooms together

Syracuse Mayor Walsh Visits Skaneateles


City of Syracuse Mayor Walsh Visits Skaneateles Lake to view Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program

SKANEATELES, NY – August 30, 2019 – As an increasing threat of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) looms throughout the Finger Lakes, Great Lakes, and water bodies worldwide, leaders throughout the Skaneateles Lake Watershed are taking further steps to address this surmounting issue.

As mentioned by Skaneateles Lake Association (SLA) President, Dr. Paul Torrisi, “The consequences of aquatic invasive species being introduced to a waterbody include disrupted lake ecology and diminished water quality. Regional economies can experience significant setbacks from adverse impacts on tourism and quality of life.” Torrisi continued, “Drinking water can ultimately be severely compromised by recurrent Harmful Algal Blooms. For example, zebra and quagga mussels, introduced over the past 30 years to Skaneateles Lake by recreational boats, are being increasingly implicated as major players in the HAB crisis.”

 In response to AIS entering Skaneateles Lake, in 2007 the SLA initiated the Eurasian waterMilfoil Control Project. The project is currently in its 13th season of operation, and is helping to keep milfoil from growing at an uncontrolled rate out competing native plants and becoming a potential nutrient source for harmful algal blooms. The SLA and it supporting membership has spent over $2,000,000 to operate the program since its inception.

It was quickly learned that once “difficult to control” invasives, such as milfoil and both zebra and quagga mussels, enter a waterbody they are essentially impossible to eradicate. SLA promotes that prevention is key and the most cost effective way to deal with Invasive Species.

Through efforts to take a responsible and effective approach, the SLA Boat Launch Stewardship Program was created in 2012 and is now in its 8th season of operation and growing annually.

SLA commended Mayor Walsh, Greg Loh, and other leaders at the City of Syracuse including the Common Council who voted to support the expansion of the Boat Stewardship Program in 2019. The $13,500 grant along with required match from the SLA in the same amount, has enabled the SLA to hire even more stewards and cover more boat launches for a longer period of time.

The SLA Boat Launch Stewardship Program was started in 2012 as a pilot program under Dr. Buzz Roberts and quickly grew, becoming a model for other Finger lakes to emulate. The SLA, Skaneateles, and Syracuse community recognized Buzz for volunteering countless hours, days, and weeks expanding and directing the entire program over the years, including the recruitment of stewards, headed up by Marty Minet. She and her staff of trained stewards have been visually inspecting watercraft/trailers and educating boaters as they enter these boat launches  prior to launching their boats. Boaters are asked for permission to visually inspect their rigs, all voluntary, and they are asked a few brief questions such as where they have been last boating, and whether their boats are clean, drained, and dry. Boaters overall have been supportive of the inspection program, but there have been some noteworthy exceptions, some from out of town water bodies infested with many other AISs.

Visual inspection is an important prevention step to take to minimize the risk via recreational watercraft, but this limited inspection alone often fails to detect seeds, small-bodied organisms, and dormant egg stages of many species. When boats arrive not complying with NY state law requiring them to be “clean, drained, and dry” on inspection, then decontamination becomes necessary before being permitted to launch.

Washing the boat hull and external surfaces with high pressure  (2,500 psi) hot water (140 degrees Fahrenheit) for ten seconds and flushing  motors and interior compartments is recommended by the U.S. Federal Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force (ANSTF). ANSTF does not recommend the use of chemical prophylactics or disinfectants as a primary method for disinfection because of environmental risks, varying levels of effectiveness, and potential equipment damage. Other methods of decontamination such as diluted household bleach, undiluted white vinegar and 1% salt solution can be effective but require application times of 1-24 hours.

According to SLA, going from a voluntary stewardship program such as theirs, to a mandated inspection/decontamination program that exists on Lake George and other lakes to maintain water quality is the logical next step. It is noted by SLA that it will require the leadership of the City of Syracuse along with the cooperation of all the watershed municipalities and stakeholders.

Torrisi offered the following sentiments to the watershed leaders that gathered at Skaneateles Lake, “Let’s hope the spirit of cooperation demonstrated today serves as a springboard for continuing growth and we can all work together to keep this lake pristine for generations to come.”READ MORE

News from the Skaneateles Lake Association

2019 Annual Meeting at Lourdes Camp                               Paul F. Torrisi

It was a picture-perfect evening at Lourdes Camp on the lakeshore on June 29th and over 300 SLA supporters were present, including those from all 5 towns in the Skaneateles Lake water shed and Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, Onondaga County Legislator Julie Abbott-Kenan, and Town of Skaneateles Supervisor Janet Aaron.

Annual Meeting Co-chairs Fran Rotunno Fish and Elizabeth Legg Madden and a very large corps of volunteers organized and coordinated the event. Those attending enjoyed vesting with old friends and making some new ones. A great picnic supper cooked over the grill by Lourdes’ own griller supreme , Tom, along with salt potatoes and a variety of salads , watermelon, cookies and drink provided with the generosity of Anyela’s Vineyards, the Blue Water Grill, the Colonial Lodge, Doug’s Fish Fry, Gilda’s, Joelle’s French Bistro, Johnny Angel’s, The Krebs, the Lake House Pub, the Mandana Inn, Moro’s Kitchen, the Skaneateles Bakery, Skaneateles Country Club, TOPS Food Market, Valentine’s Pizza and Deli, the Village Bottle Shop and White Birch Vineyards and the Falcone Family and wonderful members who baked cookies and made the salt potatoes, lemonade, iced tea and cucumber water. With music provided by Perform 4 Purpose the setting was perfect.

SLA President, Paul Torrisi opened the formal component of the meeting extending thanks to Mike Preston, Director of Lourdes for facilitating the SLA’s use of a wonderful facility, once again and to Fran and Betsey and their corps of volunteers.

In introductory remarks , SLA President Paul Torrisi mentioned that since 1994 the City of Syracuse has done remarkable work with the septic system inspection program and the Skaneateles Lake Watershed Agricultural Program (SLWAP) through the Onondaga County Soil & Water Conservation District (OCSWCD) as a requisite from the NYS Health Dept. to keep Giardia and Cryptosporidium out of its drinking water supply. In return, the City maintains its filtration avoidance waiver. These are two organisms from animal and human waste that can cause serious illness in humans, if ingested. He noted that these programs have also been shown to be effective in lowering phosphorous levels in the lake compared to slightly higher levels recorded previously.

He also noted that what was not active on the radar screen in 1994 are arguably, now, the two most critical things leading to the “tipping point” with the HABs crisis of 2017: 1st the exponentially increasing impact from climate change, i.e., sediment & nutrient runoff/erosion and 2nd the impact from aquatic invasive species (namely zebra/quagga mussels) which were introduced by watercraft at about that same time.

He emphasized that now, the City of Syracuse with this mandate from NYS to regulate the watershed, needs to not only continue these vital programs, but also show leadership among all the other municipal stakeholders forming a collaborative effort (call it what you like-a watershed council, inter-municipal organization, or even a commission) as an attempt to slow down further degradation of the water quality in the lake. This organized collaborative effort is absolutely necessary to effectively regulate and enforce a lake wide program of mandatory boat inspections and decontamination when necessary, and to uniformly lead the charge on “controlling the controllables” of runoff and erosion throughout the watershed.

Frank Moses was introduced as the SLA’s new Executive Director and Paul noted that after six weeks on the job it’s evident that Frank has the experience and “know how” to advance the SLA’s mission even further with his strong background in water ecology and education from SUNY ESF in environmental policy/management. Frank expressed that he was very thankful to have been able to overlap with Rachael DeWitt and appreciated the groundwork she established.

Fran Rotunno Fish, Membership/Fundraising Chair emphasized the need to spread the word near and far to neighbors, friends, family, and businesses in the area so that annual membership continues to grow and support SLA’s “game plan to protect and preserve our treasured lake.” She emphasized that “SLA is all about its MEMBERSHIP.”

Jessica Millman, Co-Chair of the SLA Legacy Fund Capital Campaign with David Birchenough, was happy to report that it has grown over $1million in a year and a revised goal was set at $1.5million! She reminded everyone that this Fund was established to provide “seed money” for watershed study and remediation work that is planned to control HABs in advance of completion of the 9E Plan certification, which will open the floodgates for additional funding in the years to come. The public component for this campaign was “kicked off” at the Party on the Point hosted at the Skaneateles Country Club just a few weeks ago with over 450 in attendance!

Joe Grasso, Nominating Chair, announced the new slate of Board nominees for approval by those present. They included Jessica Millman, Dr. Neil Murphy, Dana Hall, Michael McMahon, Rick Garrett, Dr. David Duggan, MD and JD Delmonico. All were elected to serve for a three-year term. In addition, seven of the existing Board members with expiring terms were all confirmed for another three years. Joe mentioned that with the recent revision of the By-Laws, the Board of Directors was increased in size to 25 members consisting of 3 distinct classes whose terms would expire at different times, thus allowing the Board constituency to be refreshed regularly. Anyone interested in nominating themselves or others as Board openings occur each year should submit names to Frank Moses or directly to the Nominating Chair for committee approval.

Buzz Roberts reported on the status of SLA’s boat launch Stewardship Program (8th season) to slow or prevent the influx of aquatic invasive species (AIS) into Skaneateles Lake. It is in the process of being expanded even further this season through contributions from our generous membership. More stewards are on board at the DEC, Mandana, and Scott launches and additional part time staffing will be scheduled for Glen Haven and possibly Borodino. It’s the sincere hope of the SLA leadership that a watershed wide program with mandated inspections/decontamination can be instituted soon once a form of watershed council or commission can be established under the leadership of the City of Syracuse.

Bob Werner and Bill Dean as Co-Chairs of the Nutrient Management Team reported that almost 30 sites within the watershed have been identified as potential areas where one form or another (stream restructuring, riparian buffers, retention/settling ponds) of work might have a significant impact for controlling runoff /erosion. Others are continuing to be identified by homeowners and farmers alike, so please contact the SLA through its website ( via the ‘contact us” tab) to report any sites you think could be added to the list for consider ation. Bob and Bill also referred to posters and displays at the meeting showing details of specific plans for remediation, including the 5-6 sites that have been targeted for work this season, and are currently at varying stages of approval.

Finally, multiple questions were fielded from those in attendance with responses from the experts leading to stimulating discussion.

The Board of Directors of the SLA extends a thank you to the hundreds of attentive and concerned folks who were there and especially to the many volunteers and community businesses whose generosity enabled the 2019 SLA Annual Meeting to happen.

Source:   Skaneateles Press Observer