Owasco Lake Day Festival 2018

The Cayuga County Water Quality Management Agency Thursday voted to support a plan to temporarily the water level on Owasco Lake in a bid to kill disruptive invasive species like the Asian Clam, which clusters in the area around Emerson Park.

SENNETT — A proposed plan to lower the water level in Owasco Lake this winter in hopes of killing multiple types of invasive species received a boost Thursday as the Cayuga County Water Quality Management Agency voted in its support.

The WQMA passed a resolution expressing support for a plan being considered by the city of Auburn to use a lowered lake level to kill the Asian Clam population in the Emerson Park area of the lake.

The plan would lower the lake to 709 feet above mean sea level for the 2018-29 winter in order to expose them to lethal ice contact.

Asian Clams, as well as other invasive species like the aquatic plant milfoil that would also be killed by the freezing, are suspected to contribute to the spread of harmful algal blooms on the lake.

Auburn's Director of Municipal Utilities Seth Jensen said the plan would only be undertaken if conditions in the watershed were right. In particular, there would need to be sufficient snow pack to ensure the lake could be raised to its target elevation of approximately 713 feet in the spring.

WQMA Board member and Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District Executive Director Doug Kierst asked what the lowered level would mean for homeowners who draw surface water from the lake for personal use.

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WQMA Chair Stephen Lynch suggested the city, in cooperation with the WQMA and its member groups like the Owasco Watershed Lake Association could help communicate with those homeowners in advance of the lowering.

"We are definitely in favor of this," OWLA past-president James Beckwith said, adding that many such homeowners are members of the group.

With the need to adhere, with some discretion, to what's known as the lake's rule curve, a standard of elevation maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, the lowering would likely only last one to two weeks, according to Owasco Town Supervisor Ed Wagner.

Kierst, who cast the lone vote against the resolution expressing support, also noted concern about other animal life in the lake that could be affected by the lower level.

Turtles, frogs, and other native species could be affected by the ice, Kierst said, and the native plant life used by those animals and fish for habitat in the spring in summer could also suffer.

The plan does not require approval from the Auburn city council, Jensen said, but it was his plan to seek recommendations from the various agencies and groups that work with water quality on the lake regardless.

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Staff writer Ryan Franklin can be reached at (315) 282-2252 or ryan.franklin@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @RyanNYFranklin