March 26, 2018
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces Fourth Harmful Algal Blooms Summit in Rochester

Governor Cuomo Announces Fourth Harmful Algal Blooms Summit in Rochester

Fourth and Final New York Summit Brings Together National and State Experts with Local Steering Committees to Develop Action Plans for Chautauqua, Conesus, and Honeoye Lakes

Evening Summit Sessions to Allow Residents to Hear from Harmful Algal Blooms Experts

Critical Piece of $65 Million State of the State Initiative to Combat Harmful Algal Blooms

Lessons Learned from Studying 12 Priority Lakes Will Be Applied to Waterbodies Across the State

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today kicked off the last of four summits to support the state's comprehensive effort to protect vulnerable lakes and waterbodies in Upstate New York from harmful algal blooms, or "HABs." The Western New York Summit, taking place in Rochester, is part of the $65 million four-point initiative unveiled in the Governor's 2018 State of the State address to aggressively combat these algal blooms. The increasing frequency and duration of harmful algal blooms threaten drinking water quality and the recreational use of lakes essential to upstate tourism.

"Protecting New York's natural resources is key to ensuring residents have access to safe water, and through this collaborative summit, we are addressing the growing threat of harmful algal blooms," Governor Cuomo said. "By bringing together experts from across the state and country to develop real solutions to safeguard quality drinking water, we are helping to ensure our assets remain accessible and sustainable for future generations of New Yorkers."

As part of the 2018 State of the State, the Governor directed the state's Water Quality Rapid Response Team, co-chaired by Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos and Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker in partnership with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, to convene four regional Harmful Algal Blooms summits. The summits bring together national and state experts, including scientists from Kansas, Ohio, Tennessee and Vermont, as well as SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, SUNY Stony Brook, Cornell University, DEC, DOH, DAM, the New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, and local stakeholders. The first three HABs summits were held in New Paltz, Syracuse, and Ticonderoga, respectively.

Western New York HABs Summit

The Western New York Summit will guide the development of action plans to maintain the health of Chautauqua, Conesus, and Honeoye Lakes. These waterbodies are typical of lakes that both support recreation and provide drinking water. Lessons from these lakes will be applied to other waterbodies characterized by shoreline residential development, the prevalence of on-site septic systems, heavy recreational use, upland forested land and agricultural use, and other nutrient inputs. These are common characteristics shared by many Western New York lakes.

Experts attending the Western New York Summit are:

  • Dr. Art DeGaetano, Cornell University
  • Dr. Christopher Gobler, SUNY Stony Brook
  • Dr. Dave Matthews, Upstate Freshwater Institute
  • Dr. Greg Boyer, SUNY ESF
  • Dr. Nelson Hairston, Cornell University
  • Dr. Sally Flis, The Fertilizer Institute
  • Dr. Steve Souza, Princeton Hydro
  • Dr. Tim Davis, Bowling Greene State University, Ohio

The public is invited to the Western New York Summit evening session from 6-8 p.m., at Monroe Community College's R. Thomas Flynn Campus Center, 1000 East Henrietta Road, Rochester, New York 14623.

Affected Waterbodies in Western New York and the Finger Lakes

Chautauqua Lake is a 13,156-acre lake in Chautauqua County. The lake is 17 miles long and drains a watershed that is more than 100,000 acres. The lake serves as the public water supply to the town of Chautauqua and the Chautauqua Institution. The lake is used for boating, fishing, sailing, and swimming, as well as the world-renowned Chautauqua Institution, located on its shore. The lake has experienced high-toxin algal blooms every year since 2012.

Conesus Lake is in Livingston County. It is eight miles long and has a surface area of 3,420 acres. This lake provides the public water supply for the villages of Avon and Geneseo. It is used for swimming, boating, fishing, and other recreation by many residents and visitors. Subject to residential and agricultural influences similar to many lakes in western New York, Conesus Lake has confirmed cases of HABs in 2016 and 2017.

Honeoye Lake is a 1,772-acre lake in Ontario County. It is 4.5 miles long and provides the water supply to numerous private intakes on the lake. It is used for swimming, boating, and fishing. Honeoye Lake has had evidence of HABs since 2012, high toxin blooms were found in 2013, 2014, and 2015, and confirmed blooms in 2016 and 2017.

HABs Summits

Twelve lakes vulnerable to HABs and representing a wide range of conditions and affected uses were prioritized for this comprehensive planning process in the first year of this new initiative. Lessons learned from studying the twelve priority lakes will be applied to waterbodies across the state.

At each HABs summit, nation-leading experts work with local steering committees to begin development of tailored action plans to address the causes of algal blooms in the twelve priority waterbodies across the state. The action plans developed for each waterbody will be used to guide the development and implementation of priority projects, including new monitoring and treatment technologies. The action plans will be completed by the end of May and the lessons learned through these action plans will be applied to other impacted waterbodies. In addition, grant funding will be made available to the priority lakes reviewed during this process, and all waterbodies impacted by HABs, this fall and summer.

Each of the four summits includes an evening session that is open to the public where background information about harmful algal blooms will be provided. The sessions include talks by experts, a panel discussion, and an opportunity for local residents to share recommendations and ideas. The media are encouraged to attend the evening public sessions.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "At Governor Cuomo's direction, DEC scientists and water quality experts are actively investigating the causes of algal blooms across the state and are pioneering cutting-edge solutions to reduce these blooms and the threat they pose to drinking water and recreation. With the launch of these regional summits, DEC will work with national experts, our state agency partners and local leaders, to prioritize actions necessary to protect New York's vital water resources."

Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "It's been a pleasure to be part of these discussions with the state's scientific teams and the local and national experts that will help formulate an action plan to continue to stay ahead of this potential threat to public health. The Governor's leadership has been critical in combatting harmful algal blooms here in this region and across the state."

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "The Department is pleased to join DEC and DOH at this summit and engage in the work needed to address these threats to our environment and drinking water. Thanks to the Governor's forward thinking approach, the actions we as a State take now to combat harmful algal blooms will ensure the preservation of one of our most precious resources--our lakes and waterways--for years to come."

Senator Tom O'Mara, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, "It is undeniable that we must take algal blooms seriously and I thank Governor Cuomo and NYS DEC for this aggressive response to this environmental crisis. With a deeper understanding of the scope of blooms and the risk that they pose to both lives and the environment, we will be much better prepared to effectively eliminate this threat to our lakes and ensure that further damage is minimized."

Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, said, "New York's lakes and clean water resources play a critical role in our communities, serving as a source of drinking water and a place of recreation and tourism. I want to thank the Governor for bringing local communities together with experts on harmful algal blooms to develop action plans to address one of the most devastating problems facing our surface water resources."

Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello said, "I'm looking forward to the summit as an important first step in addressing the serious challenge and threat that harmful algal blooms pose to Chautauqua Lake and other bodies of water throughout New York State. I appreciate the Governor's focus on a more comprehensive and proactive approach to addressing HABs by bringing together stakeholders and experts to solve this problem."

The evening sessions will also be available live online. Visit the Livestream to watch these events in real time.

Governor Cuomo's Harmful Algal Blooms program builds on New York's $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act investments in clean water infrastructure and water quality protection. The Harmful Algal Blooms initiative is supported with funds from both the Clean Water Infrastructure Act and the $300 million Environmental Protection Fund. Through the Governor's leadership, New York has developed the most comprehensive HABs outreach and monitoring programs in the country, led by DEC sampling of ambient waters across the state and DOH sampling at regulated beaches and public water systems.


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