By Walt Lender
Lake George Association Executive Director
The Lake George Association believes that protecting streams and stream corridors in the Lake George watershed is a critical component to protecting the Lake’s water quality, which has been the LGA’s focus for 136 years.
About 57 percent of the Lake’s water comes from streams. As we all continually work on holistic approaches to water quality protection, the streams and stream corridors throughout the watershed need greater protection to ensure the water quality continues to be excellent.
Thus, we support the Lake George Park Commission in its efforts to enact these proposed stream corridor regulations.
We welcome the new stream corridor protections as we welcomed the proposed stormwater regulations – as an important next step to keeping Lake George clean and its water quality protected now and for the future.
The proposed stream corridor regulations set a 35-foot-wide corridor on either side of a DEC regulated stream (you can see a map of those streams here: https://gisservices.dec.ny.gov/gis/erm/ and under “Layers and Legend” click on the box next to “Waterbody Classifications for Rivers/Streams) where any development, land disturbance or construction is managed by the Park Commission, the state agency that the LGA works with to protect the Lake George watershed.
The buffer’s proposed size was arrived at following a deep review of studies and scientific literature and is a balance between the rights of a property owner and the benefits which a buffer of that size will provide to the Lake’s water quality.
The proposed buffers will capture and prevent a significant amount of polluted stormwater – including sediment from erosion and all of the nutrients that it carries – from getting into the DEC regulated streams and then into the Lake, increasing the potential for algae growth, creation of deltas, and adding the components needed in the Lake to create a Harmful Algal Bloom.
The proposed plant buffers in the stream corridors will insure vegetation is kept along the streams, performing a similar job to the lakeside shoreline buffers that we encourage homeowners to have as part of our “Lake Friendly Living” program – the vegetation in the corridors fortify the stream banks, they stop erosion, they capture nutrients, and they keep polluted stormwater out of our Lake.
And, the proposed buffers will sustain a tree canopy over the water as it flows, ensuring that the water temperature is not affected. Warmer water is one of the potential triggers for a Harmful Algal Bloom, along with an abundance of blue green algae (which our water quality monitoring show at very low levels) and available nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen).
We generally agree with the criteria for stream crossings and stream bed disturbances while doing work. These changes will also ensure that fish passage is included in the plans and that the current expected stormwater flow is managed adequately.
We are in favor of the proposed regulations “grandfathering” current structures within the corridors that have been approved already, but for the future will allow a minimal amount of impervious surfaces – which convey polluted stormwater – to prevent water quality problems.
Our experience with porous concrete pavers, which direct the polluted stormwater into the ground to be naturally filtered, show that a balance of hardscape and environmental protection can be had on any property – and we encourage future consideration and use of these types of porous products throughout the watershed, not just in stream corridors, to stop polluted stormwater from getting to the Lake.
The regulations provide for a small opening in the vegetation along the DEC-regulated stream to be cut by a property owner that does not exceed 30 percent of the stream length on the site, or 75 linear feet, whichever is less. This will also allow a property owner flexibility while still protecting the Lake’s water quality.
Finally, we encourage these regulations to be adopted in the watershed to provide a uniform, base level of water quality protection for our streams.
Watershed-wide regulations are important because although the watershed is composed of 11 towns and a village, we are all one Lake that needs protection.
Walt Lender is the Executive Director of the Lake George Association, whose members support water quality protection projects and water quality monitoring, the prevention of invasive species introduction or spread, as well as education and lake-friendly living programs that benefit the watershed from Lake George Village to Ticonderoga.