Since Skaneateles Lake experienced a lake-wide Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) in 2017, the Skaneateles Lake Association (SLA), made it top priority to take on a significant role in fighting HABs together with the community. HABs are made up of cyanobacteria that can produce toxins that cause health concerns for humans, pets, and wildlife.
In a low-nutrient lake like Skaneateles, the availability of phosphorous, found in stream and lake sediment and other sources, can act as a food source for HABs. In response, SLA, and others such as the Onondaga County Soil & Water Conservation District and the City of Syracuse’s Skaneateles Lake Watershed Agricultural Program are addressing sediment loading to better protect the lake and its ability to support quality of life and drinking water.
“SLA established the Skaneateles Lake Watershed Improvement Projects (SWIP) to work with willing landowners in key areas such as Willow Creek,” noted Frank Moses, Executive Director of the Skaneateles Lake Association, “Willow Creek was given high priority due to its location being south of one of the City of Syracuse’s drinking water intake pipes combined with a history of sediment loading and small algal blooms at the mouth of the stream.”
The Willow Creek project was selected to receive $45K by the Great Lakes Commission (GLC) as only one of eight funded projects through their 2022 Nutrient & Sediment Reduction Program. The federal grant supports an overall stream project that exceeds $200K.
“The Great Lakes Sediment and Nutrient Reduction Program continues to assist communities across the Great Lakes basin as they improve water quality and tackle pollution,” said Todd L. Ambs, chair of the Great Lakes Commission. “We are looking forward to seeing this new cohort of 2022 grantees work toward a healthier Great Lakes.”
Once the design, provided by Principal Tim Johnson and team at Anchor QEA LLC, was “shovel ready” and financial support was committed from the landowner and SLA’s Legacy Fund, the project was primed to garner support through GLC’s program.
“With dedicated landowners like those on Willow Creek, SLA hopes that beacon projects like this can educate and inspire future stewardship on Skaneateles Lake,” said Dr. Paul Torrisi, President of the SLA Board.
Improvements on Willow Creek with best management practices in sediment reduction complement lake protection efforts from local land trusts, governments, residents, and efforts through City of Syracuse and Onondaga County Soil & Water Conservation District’s Skaneateles Lake Watershed Agricultural program.
Syracuse, Soil & Water, and the US Fish & Wildlife Service recently completed the “Shotwell Brook Stormwater Attenuation Project” in 2020. Similarly, SLA and Brillo Excavating & Waste Disposal completed a stormwater diversion and retention project upstream on Willow Creek in 2021 that, coupled with the lower stream improvement project, will help reduce sediment and phosphorus transport to Skaneateles Lake.
“All hands-on deck will very much be needed with surmounting threats from HABs, climate change, and invasive species,” noted Torrisi. “Support for lake protection programs like the improvement of Willow Creek through SLA and its Legacy Fund will help ensure a better Skaneateles Lake for future generations.”
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