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Lake Associations: Partners in Environmental Stewardship - Fall 2009 Issue

(by James Tierney, Assistant Commissioner for Water Resources)

If water is the life blood of lakes, lake associations are an important part of the medical team that cares for and nurtures lakes, ponds, and reservoirs in New York State. They can be the technicians that draw the water, the physicians that diagnose various lake ailments, and even the patients who don't over nourish the lake and work to keep the lake healthy. Most importantly, lake associations represent the extraordinarily large number of New Yorkers who use or live on the shores of lakes, benefiting and suffering first-hand from the best and worst of times with these vital water resources.

Some lake associations are informal social organizations, sponsoring community picnics and organizing fundraisers for lake improvement projects. Others are fish and game or boating clubs, providing fish for stocking and rules for recreating on the lake. But most lake associations are environmental stewards, tackling major lake issues such as dam safety and ownership, invasive species management, prevention of toxic algal blooms, and conflicts with public access. Since many lake problems start small, from the first crack in a dam to a single sprig of a new invasive plant, lake associations play a critical first line of defense in the effective management of lakes. Lake residents provide eyes on the water and alert local and state officials to changes in the lake, whether it is dead fish or perfumed foam washed up on the shoreline, an unusual loss in water clarity or swings in water level. Since lake management is largely conducted at the local level, volunteers from lake associations provide hands on the deck - pulling exotic plants, collecting water samples, and removing litter and debris from beaches.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) works closely with lake associations on a variety of lake management and improvement programs. The New York Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP) is a volunteer lake monitoring program conducted jointly by the NYSDEC and the NYS Federation of Lake Associations (NYSFOLA), a not-for-profit coalition of lake associations throughout the state. More than 230 lakes have been sampled as part of this program, discussed in more detail in this issue of Clear Waters. The NYSDEC and NYSFOLA recently published Diet for a Small Lake: The Expanded Guide to New York State Lake and Watershed Management to help guide lake associations and managers through the lake management process. Lake associations have been closely involved in the development of new dam safety regulations by the NYSDEC Division of Water, and in lake and aquatic plant management plans also reviewed by the agency as part of the enhanced aquatic pesticides permit review process. Many lake associations are involved in water quality assessments used in the state Waterbody Inventory.

Lake associations serve a critical role in protecting and preserving the magnificence of more than 7,800 lakes, ponds, and reservoirs in New York State. The NYSDEC is proud to work closely with these organizations to enhance the quality of water resources for all New Yorkers.

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