SKANEATELES — The town of Skaneateles became the sponsor of a state grant application to map the Skaneateles Lake watershed and its sources of nutrient loading at a town board meeting Monday night.
Called a Nine Element Watershed Plan, or a 9E Plan, it will model what kinds of pollutants are in the watershed, where they are coming from and where practices could be best implemented to reduce nutrients entering the lake. The Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council is currently working on the same plan.
The watershed model will ultimately allow the town and other stakeholders to be eligible for state funding to implement those practices identified, said Skaneateles Town Attorney Brody Smith.
Board members utilized a 9E Plan grant application created for Oneida Lake as a guideline document, but amended their funding request from about $375,000 to $500,000. Board member Kevin McCormack said since Skaneateles Lake is a drinking water source for not only the town and village but also the city of Syracuse, it would be worth investing more funds than Oneida County had in its 9E Plan.
Board member David Badami said he wouldn't mind making the request $1 million. Town Supervisor Janet Aaron warned that as part of the grant, the town would be responsible for providing a 25-percent match, though that could be in in-kind services. The Skaneateles Lake Association and the Central New York Regional Planning & Development Board, who are already working on data collection for the lake's 9E Plan, are keeping track of their in-kind hours, Aaron added.
The board unanimously voted to authorize an application for the 9E Plan not to exceed $500,000 with the stipulation that that number could be changed should the board wish to amend the amount.
The authorization came soon after Upstate Freshwater Institute scientist David Matthews presented his annual water quality data about Skaneateles Lake. Since 2007 the institute has been studying Shotwell Brook, a tributary in the northeastern section of the lake's watershed, in addition to some spots in the lake proper.
Matthews said 2017 was a rough year. An increase in flood events contributed to an increase in sediment to the lake. In turn that increased the amount of phosphorous entering the water body, which Matthews said likely contributed to the particularly large and concentrated harmful algal blooms in September.
"Skaneateles was the last lake I would have expected to have a problem, and it was the last lake to get it," he said of the algal blooms.
While those blooms shocked the community and the state, Matthews said harmful algae, called cyanobacteria, have always been in Skaneateles Lake.
"It just wasn't until September this year particularly in the north end of the lake that they were really able to get a foothold and dominate," he said. "Something has changed for them to out-compete the other algae, which aren't as noxious."
The good news, he added, is the lake is still the clearest and one of the cleanest lakes in the state. He was unsure whether the large blooms from last summer were a one-season phenomenon or part of a new pattern.