Thursday, May 5, 2011

Aerial Photos Capture Champlain Sediment Plumes

A series of remarkable photographs issued by the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) shows shoreline erosion and sediment and nutrient loading of Lake Champlain as a result of the flooding that continues to occur around the region. The lake has reached historic levels that have accelerated shoreline erosion and sent dark plumes that likely contain contaminants into open water.

The filling of historic wetlands, channeling streams and development along watersheds that empty into the lake have increased storm water run-off and added what is considered an unprecedented about of contaminants – pollution, nutrients and sediment – into the Lake Champlain ecosystem according to the LCBP.

“While there will be time in the future for a careful assessment of the flooding of the many tributaries and of the Lake itself,” an LCBP press statement said, “it already is clear that the impact on water quality (in addition to the immediate human distress) will be very significant.”

Among water quality managers’ concerns is controlling run-off phosphorus pollution from household cleaning products and lawn fertilizers, believed critical to managing and reducing water pollution. Increased phosphorus pollution is linked to the growth of potentially toxic and economically disruptive algae blooms.

During unseasonably warm weather last July health warnings were issued in New York and Vermont for algae blooms in Lake Champlain (including some near Westport, Port Henry, and Crown Point). At the time health officials recommended avoiding all contact with the affected water including swimming, bathing, or drinking, or using it in cooking or washing, and to keep pets and livestock from algae-contaminated water.

The water quality issues come at a time when Plattsburgh is celebrating its 10th year of hosting professional fishing tournaments on Lake Champlain. According to Dan Heath, writing in the Press Republican, Plattsburgh has hosted more than 50 tournaments that included some 25,000 anglers since 2001. More than 3,000 bass anglers are expected for this year’s tournaments which together will offer $1,8 million in prizes. “Lake Champlain has earned a reputation as one of the best smallmouth bass fisheries in North America,” Heath wrote.

The tournament season will kick off withe the American Bass Angler’s Weekend Series on June 11th.

The Lake Champlain Basin Program has posted the aerial photos (taken on April 29-30, 2011) online; the photos are also linked to Google Maps. It’s likely a similar situation is occurring on many of the Adirodnack region’s lakes and reservoirs.

Photos: Above, sediment plume from the Ausable River and Dead Creek; Below, headland erosion and suspended sediment north of Mooney Bay. Photos courtesy the Lake Champlain Basin Program.

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