Dear LGA Member,
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in December that he was convening four regional summits to discuss the threat of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) on New York lakes and develop ways to detect and prevent HABs, your Lake George Association was pleased to be invited to take part in the North Country Steering Committee.
The summit will take place in Ticonderoga on Tuesday, March 20. We encourage you to join us at 9 a.m. for the whole day of discussions, or just come to the evening session from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Best Western Ticonderoga Inn and Suites, 260 Burgoyne Road, Ticonderoga.
New York State is assembling experts in the field from within its own ranks and from across the country on this emerging issue in state waterways. Your LGA staff is pleased to have been invited to participate, and we are all looking forward to learning a great deal from these experts about HABs. We are also eager to share our knowledge about the Lake George watershed.
Because Lake George is oligotrophic (meaning: nutrient poor), the lake’s conditions aren’t very conducive to HABs – details borne out in our water assessment sampling program, Citizen Science Lake Assessment Program, done in conjunction with New York State.
But just because the Lake conditions aren’t conducive to HABs doesn’t mean an outbreak won’t happen here.
Even though Lake George is oligotrophic, the Lake has many different types of naturally occurring bacteria and algae. They are an important part of the food web that sustains our storied fishery. (More information on the fishery and food web is on the LGA’s encyclopedic website.)
Harmful Algal Blooms are actually caused by cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae.
Cyanobacteria have been in Lake George forever. The first major study of Lake George in 1920 (published in 1922) by James G. Needham et al, “A Biological Survey of Lake George, NY” noted the presence of two different cyanobacteria.
In some specific nutrient and weather conditions, blue-green algae can grow rapidly, creating a “bloom” of the algae, and in even more specific conditions that bloom can produce toxins.
While it is unknown exactly what triggers HAB outbreaks, a number of things are needed in order to cause them: Excess nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen); lots of sun; low-flow conditions; calm water; and warm temperatures.
All of those factors are out of our control, except one: Excess nutrients.
Now you’ve definitely heard your Lake George Association talking about preventing excess nutrients in the Lake for decades, because excess nutrients can lead to growth of invasive species, can damage the food web and fishery, and can degrade the overall water quality, among other problems.
That concern over excess nutrients in the water is why the LGA’s Lake-Saving projects are performed. They cut back on nutrients and sediment that get into the Lake, and are critical to the health of the Lake’s water.
In order to make decisions on the future, it is vital to know the chemical makeup of the water now and have a baseline reading. The publicly available information collected by our citizen scientists as part of the Citizen Science Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP) coordinated by the State DEC is used for that purpose.
We have been partnering with the state on that project for more than a decade now, along with LGA volunteers who help perform the sampling. New York officials said at a recent summit in Syracuse that one of the key components of the HAB project will be transparency in data. We are committed as always to sharing whatever data we collect on Lake conditions with as wide an audience as possible.
The CSLAP program has data going back about 14 years that shows the phosphorus, nitrogen, calcium and pH levels, among other information.
Lake George is still oligotrophic, so it is important that we have an action plan in place to prevent problems in the future.
Local stakeholders (including LGA staff members) have already met to develop a list of stormwater-cessation projects that will cut back on excess nutrients flowing into the Lake. In fact, all of our Lake-Saving Projects are focused on that very need – and have been for more than a century.
The state is setting aside funding to implement the action plans after they are developed, including treatment and monitoring technologies. We look forward to helping the state determine what projects will best be suited to be performed under the program.
It is also important for everyone in the watershed to advocate for funding assistance to replace the Lake George Wastewater Treatment Plant and update and repair the Bolton, Hague and Ticonderoga systems. There are also small systems around the Lake where upgrades would be very helpful: Huletts Landing, Rockhurst, North Queensbury, Pilot Knob and others.
We look forward to meeting Tuesday with our local partners, including the Lake George Park Commission, municipal governments and other nonprofit partners, in order to learn from state and national experts and get better prepared.
We promise to keep you updated as this process goes on.
LGA Executive Director