Our team attended the 2019 Finger Lakes Regional Watershed Alliance (FLRWA) Symposium on Thursday, August 15th at Ventosa Vineyards where challenges and opportunities for the Finger Lakes were discussed. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn how we can be a better resource for our homeowners and guests, and a better partner in the efforts to keep our lakes safe and clean.
There were two topics that dominated the discussion between the organizations, businesses, and state representatives present at the Symposium. They also happen to be the two greatest threats to the quality and future of the Finger Lakes.
The good news is that the water quality of our lakes is good and has remained consistent over the last 10 years. The bad news is that despite this there is an increasing presence of harmful algae blooms (HAB’s) along our shorelines. HAB’s are largely the result of external nutrients entering the water through storm run-off, shoreline development, and agricultural practices. The presence of dreissenid mussels (i.e. zebra mussels) also increases the presence of blooms. They prefer to feed on native cyanobacteria and algae, instead of the harmful and invasive types.
There is now a 50% chance that a bloom will appear when temperatures are high and the water is calm. In some cases, these blooms can contain high levels of toxins.
There is no way to prevent or predict when a HAB will form, but organizations, like the DEC and the Finger Lakes Institute are making progress. Monitoring buoys have been deployed to document water conditions and provide real time feedback when a bloom appears. The Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP) is a volunteer lake monitoring and education program that has been in place for over 25 years and has been vital in collecting data on HAB’s. The DEC has also created a website where you can see HAB’s reported within the last 2 weeks. It also displays archived blooms from the entire year. See it here.
For more information on identifying HAB’s and steps to take after exposure, visit the DEC website. The Department of Health recommends waiting 48 hours to swim after an algae bloom dissipates.
You can make a difference in reducing the likelihood that a bloom will occur. The following practices can avoid harmful materials getting into the lake through run-off:
- Clean up pet waste
- Limit lawn fertilization
- Maintain septic tanks
- Reduce erosion by installing and maintaining shoreline buffers
Invasive Plant Species
Our lakes have seen an increase in invasive species disrupting the watershed ecosystems. While invasive fish, insects, and mussels are all threats, the focus of the discussion was on invasive plant species. The priority invasives of concern for all of the Finger Lakes are Hydrilla, Water Chestnut, and Water Lettuce.
Finger Lakes PRISM is working diligently and having success in containing the spread non-native flora. Their goal is eradicate and contain harmful plant species early and while it’s still cost effective. Allowing these plants to flourish could be detrimental to our lakes and local municipalities that source their drinking water from them. Here are some simple actions you can take to support their efforts and prevent the spread of invasive plants to your lake:
- Report and send photos of suspicious plants to FLXplantID@gmail.com
- Purchase and plant native plant species only
- Routinely inspect, drain, and clean watercraft, especially when moving between bodies of water
- Don’t put anything in the lake that you wouldn’t put in a glass of water (garbage, lawn clippings, raked leaves, etc.)
Our mission moving forward is to stay up-to-date on these threats and gain the resources necessary to keep our employees, homeowners, and guests safe and informed. With the increased presence of HAB’s, it will be crucial to educate on when it is safe to swim, the symptoms of exposure, and how to identify and report these blooms. Above all, we are committed to doing our part to ensure the Finger Lakes remain safe and enjoyable for all.
For more information, visit the Finger Lakes Regional Watershed Alliance website.