Third of Four Summits Brings Together National and State Experts with Local Steering Committees to Develop Action Plans for Lake George and Lake Champlain
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 announced the third of four summits supporting the state's comprehensive effort to protect vulnerable lakes and waterbodies in upstate New York from harmful algal blooms, or "HABs", in Ticonderoga, New York. Today's North Country Summit is part of the $65 million four-point initiative unveiled in the Governor's 2018 State of the State to understand the cause of and prevent the growth of 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 water quality is a top priority and it is critical that we address the growing threat of harmful algal blooms," Governor Cuomo said. "By bringing together experts from across the country, we can develop new and innovative strategies to safeguard our water and ensure these beautiful natural resources are safe and clean for future generations."
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, Ag and Markets, the New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, and local stakeholders.
The first two HABs summits were held in New Paltz and Syracuse, respectively. At the second summit at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, HABs experts from around the U.S. discussed the issue with a focus on three lakes that have all recently experienced HABs. More than 300 members of the public came to a public session the following day to hear presentations about the summit discussions and to ask questions of the experts.
North Country Summit
The North Country Summit will guide the development of action plans to maintain the health of Lake George and Lake Champlain. These waterbodies are vital lakes that support recreation and provide drinking water. Lessons from these lakes will be applied to other water bodies 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 North Country lakes.
Experts attending the North Country Summit:
Dr. Greg Boyer, SUNY ESF
Dr. Tim Davis, Bowling Greene State University, Ohio
Sally Flis, The Fertilizer Institute, Washington D.C.
Dr. Eric Howe, Lake Champlain Basin Program
Dr. Dave Matthews, Upstate Freshwater Institute
Dr. Tim Mihuc, SUNY Plattsburgh
Angela Shambaugh, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation
The public is invited to attend the North Country Summit evening session from 6 to 8 p.m. at:
Best Western Ticonderoga
260 Burgoyne Road
Ticonderoga, NY 12883
The evening sessions will also be available live online. Please visit Livestream to learn the many ways in which these events can be watched in real time including a desktop browser, mobile browser, free livestream mobile app, and others.
Affected Waterbodies in the North Country
Lake Champlain is ninth largest natural freshwater lake in the United States. The lake has a history of HABs across many bays and segments of the lake. More than 145,000 people in surrounding municipalities get their water from the lake, as well as countless other private users in New York, Vermont, and Quebec. Lake Champlain is 120 miles long and has a surface area of 435 square miles. The lake is used for swimming, boating, fishing, and other recreation. There are more than 50 swimming beaches along the New York shoreline, and some of these beaches are periodically closed due to HABs.
Lake George is 32 miles long and has a surface area of 45 square miles. Lake George is a drinking water source for the village of Lake George and the Ticonderoga Water District, as well as numerous non-municipal public water supplies and untold additional individual users with intake pipes. The lake and its surroundings are a popular four-season recreation destination, supporting swimming, boating and fishing. HABs have not been documented on Lake George, although other lakes with similar conditions have recently experienced these blooms and therefore the emphasis is on effective prevention of HABs. Lake George has experienced repeated beach closures at Million Dollar Beach due to high levels of bacteria, as well as invasive zebra mussels.
Upcoming HABs Summit
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 include 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.
Western New York Summit
Monday, March 26 from 6 - 8 p.m.
R. Thomas Flynn Campus Center, SUNY Monroe Community College, the Forum,
1000 East Henrietta Road, Rochester, NY 14623
Free parking is available in campus lots N and M.
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 is a pleasure to once again to join with DEC, the Department of Agriculture and Markets and national experts to discuss initiatives that address harmful algal blooms, a known potential threat to public health. By engaging local stakeholders and scientific experts, the Governor has assembled a team that is well-suited to effectively combat algal blooms and protect New York's water resources."
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."
Senator Betty Little said, "The health of our lakes is paramount to our future and the sooner we understand the cause of the algal blooms the better off we'll be. I applaud this statewide effort of Governor Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation. Naturally, I am grateful to see a focus on the North Country. We have many experts in the region and an engaged public eager to do their parts to inform effective public policy."
Senator Patty Ritchie said, "When our waterways are threatened, our economies and our recreational opportunities are threatened as well. I am pleased that Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Seggos are spearheading this effort to safeguard against harmful algal blooms and am hopeful it will be expanded to focus on other key bodies of water that help to support tourism and outdoor recreation in Upstate New York."
Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne said, "Lakes of all sizes around the state are suffering from harmful algal blooms, and it is vital to our environment and economy to strike at this issue now and preserve the fresh water assets we have for years to come. Solutions exist to solve this problem and with the advances in data collection and technology to reduce pollution we should be able to make targeted investments and revive the health of our water bodies. Getting multiple agencies engaged in this effort, along with leading research and technology firms, we can ensure our most valuable resource is protected and put to its best use for the benefit of the entire state."
Assemblyman Billy Jones said, "Harmful Algal Blooms have wreaked havoc on our North Country waters and they can potentially produce harmful effects on people, wildlife, drinking water and tourism. I am pleased that the state is committed to combatting this issue and by having a summit in the North Country we can work to protect our waterways from future devastation while ensuring the unique needs of our region are being met."
Assemblyman Dan Stec said, "Protecting our water resources must remain a priority. We must continue to reduce the threat of long term damage to our lakes and ensure clean drinking water to our communities. I applaud this investment being made to our state's water bodies."
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.