Stream Assessment Program Shows Continued Health, State Confirms

Healthy streams continue to feed Lake George, according to the data and samples collected by the Lake George Association staff and citizen scientists in 2018 and reviewed by New York State.

“Regular stream monitoring helps to detect changes in the quality of the water over time,” said LGA Education Director Kristen Wilde, an environmental scientist. “The WAVE Program is our way of efficiently using resources to determine water quality here as well as assist the state in its efforts to determine the overall quality of water sources in the state.”

“The study is good news, of course, but isn’t the complete picture,” Wilde continued. “The important point to recognize is that this is a study of the biological conditions of these streams – indicating they have no known impact – but this particular state program doesn’t evaluate excess nutrients, excess bacteria, or other concerns. We use the Citizen Statewide Lake Assessment Program for that testing.”

“We know that the streams we tested feeding Lake George are rated healthy because of all of the work the LGA and its partners have done throughout the decades stopping stormwater runoff. The current results show how important it is to continue those actions and protect our streams actively both with practices and with regulations,” Wilde said.

The Lake George Association’s Wilde is the local coordinator for the Water Assessments by Volunteer Evaluators (WAVE) program, a citizen-based water quality assessment program developed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Its purpose is to train and enable citizen scientists to collect biological data to be used to assess the water quality of wadeable streams in New York State.

The LGA uses WAVE as one way to monitor the conditions of the streams that feed Lake George – which accounts for 55 percent of the water entering the Lake.

The citizen scientists collect samples of aquatic life in the streams, and the LGA staff identifies whether the samples are “pollution tolerant” or not. The number and types of aquatic life sampled also determine whether the stream is potentially impaired – something that has not been found in the streams in the Lake George watershed. If a stream is designated as potentially impaired, a follow-up study is planned to more certainly determine the problem.

“The biological samples from our citizen scientists and staff are collected here at the LGA office and then are sent to New York State scientists for review,” said Wilde. “The LGA provides the volunteers with the training and the materials they need to successfully sample the streams and understand the protocol.”

“Our goal is for our staff and citizen scientists to sample as many streams that feed Lake George as we can each year,” said Walt Lender, the LGA’s Executive Director. “We plan to hold a training session on June 28 for anyone interested in joining the program. The LGA currently has 34 trained citizen scientists, but the more volunteers we have trained, the more streams we can check.”

For more information on the training session, please call 518-668-3558 for more information or email [email protected]

“Coordinating the WAVE program here in the Lake George watershed is part of our commitment to protect the Lake’s water quality through scientific monitoring that leads to actionable results,” Lender said.

As part of their training, the volunteer citizen scientists choose their stream sampling locations. Their task is to collect aquatic life in the chosen stream, and sort the macroinvertebrates found into sample bottles. The samples are sent to DEC for review.

Another part of the training guides the citizen scientists in developing an assessment of both the potential for recreational use (water clarity, presence of plankton, trash, etc.) and the condition of the habitat (status of the channel, depositing of sediment, velocity and depth combinations, etc.) in order to provide the LGA and the state with as much information as possible about the conditions.

2019 will be the fifth year that the LGA has been a formal part of the New York state program.

The results of the 2018 WAVE sampling: Ten of the streams – Big Hollow Brook, Butternut Brook, Cotton Brook, Finkle Brook, Indian Brook, Northwest Bay Brook, Round Pond Brook, Shelving Rock Brook, Smith Brook and part of West Brook – were determined to have “No Known Impact” from pollution, according to the state criteria. The “No Known Impact” rating means that the samples collected from those brooks had at least six of the “most wanted” organisms. “Most wanted” organisms, according to the state program, are generally found in clean, unpolluted water and their presence in the sample is usually an indicator of good water quality.

None of the streams was rated as “Possibly Impaired” in 2018. In fact, none of the streams has been rated “Possibly Impaired” in the four seasons that the LGA has been participating in the state program.

Three other streams and two other stream sections sampled in 2018 were determined to have “No Conclusion.” Those were Edmunds Brook, two areas in Huddle Brook, one area of Indian Brook, Middle Brook and one area in West Brook.

The “No Conclusion” rating means that the sample taken from those tributaries contained neither six or more organisms that are “most wanted” nor four or more organisms from the “least wanted” list. The “least wanted” list includes organisms that are not good indicators of water quality conditions because they can be found in a wider range of habitats and water quality.

The samples and data collected are not just important for Lake George. New York State also uses the data for:

  • State and Federal Reporting – No Known Impact sites are included in the NYS Waterbody Inventory and EPA’s Clean Water Act Section 305(b) reporting;
  • Monitoring Reports – WAVE data are included in the Trend Monitoring and basin reports;
  • Rotating Integrated Basin Studies (RIBS) – WAVE data are considered when sites are selected for DEC’s monitoring program;
  • Non-point Source Discharges Issues – WAVE data provide basic background information on water quality conditions for NYSDEC staff working on non-point discharge sources.

The Lake George Association is the oldest and most experienced lake protection organization in the country, whose members support water quality protection, scientific monitoring, education and lake-friendly living programs that benefit the watershed from Lake George Village to Ticonderoga.

All the money raised by the Lake George Association stays in the Lake George watershed, and is used to support and fund projects and programs that protect Lake George water quality now and in the future.

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All the money raised by the Lake George Association stays in the Lake George watershed and is used to protect Lake George from Ticonderoga to Lake George Village.
Lake George Association

Lake George Association