ALERT: Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) have been observed in the south eastern end of the lake.  LEARN MORE


Paul Torrisi

Following SLA’s very informative HAB Conference at the Hilton Garden Inn, Auburn, October 18th, much is in the works. That luncheon conference hosted by the Michael Falcone Family brought together over 100 folks from scientific experts on toxic algal blooms, representatives from local, City, County governments, Congressman Katko’s, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand’s, and Governor Cuomo’s offices.

 The NYS DEC was also well represented by Commissioner Seggos and many of his local and state colleagues. Concerned citizens were also in attendance.

 The agricultural community was represented well by Jim Greenfield, who gave an excellent presentation of Best Management Practices by farmers working closely with the County Soil and Water Districts.

 Much lively discussion with Qs & As from the audience and distinguished panel assembled by the SLA, followed. When all was said and done, however, the lingering question remains: FLUKE or NEW NORMAL?

 This toxic blue-green algal bloom was a shocker to us all! It falls under the “perfect storm” scenario with the unprecedented 25 inches of rainfall in spring/summer followed by the also rare prolonged calm, sunshine, and increased water temperatures, lasting almost two weeks in September. The cyanobacteria loved it! They had all the food from the increased sediment they could possibly wish for.  Presto- a green, unswimmable, undrinkable lake with lingering toxins.

 SLA decided to jump into action and not wait to see if this reoccurs next year or again in 5 years. The fact remains that our climate patterns are changing with temperatures trending up and more precipitation in CNY as rainfall rather than a more deliberate, slow melting spring snowpack, thus creating a recipe for repetitive severe runoff into the lake with its nutrient loading.

 So, SLA, hoping to function as a catalyst in this equation, came up with a 4 POINT ACTION PLAN as an attempt to try and “control the controllables”:

 1)  A Task Force Committee to study and control Nutrient Management and runoff into the lake, especially during the more frequent monster storms. Their goal is 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). Working with Bob Werner and Bill Dean are Rich Abbott (City of Syr. Water Dept.), Mark Burger (Onon.County Soil&Water Consv.District), Aimee Clinkhammer (DEC), Neil Murphy (ESF), Richard Wiles(Senior VP for Program Strategy & Integration at Climate Central,Inc.), Brian Madigan (Environmental Consultant), Zack O’Dell (FingerLakesLandTrust).

 2)  A Task Force Committee for Community Involvement. This is headed up by Mary Menapace .  Many have offered to help and as projects develop many more will be needed to assist with such things as publications, seminars and the like, to show citizens what they can do with their own properties on promoting a healthy watershed. Additionally, community “cove keepers “ and “adopt a stream” programs will be promoted. Also, many innovative policies regarding attitudes to lawn care, use of pesticides/fertilizers in the watershed, school programs, developing “watershed wise” logos and awards for homeowners and contractors- all to help keep unwanted nutrients and sediments from entering the lake.

 3)  Fund raising to establish a reserve fund in the SLA to address specific issues and/or projects as they come up, assist in work necessary to apply for larger governmental grants, and also to support a full time watershed management coordinator to help expedite ALL of the above.

 4)  Finally, a special SLA committee headed up by Bob Liegel,Esq. and Rich Hole,Esq. to look into establishing a Watershed Council or Intermunicipal Organization 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.

 Needless to say, we, as a CNY and Skaneateles Lake community have a daunting task ahead of us but the resources may become available from government and private sources to help pull this all together. All we can do as individual stakeholders is take a “personal pledge” to do everything possible to keep the lake blue, not green.

 To be continued….