In the latest action trying to spare Lake George from turning green, the lake’s main regulatory agency is proposing new rules to curb runoff from lakeside development, including a ban on lawn fertilizer within 50 feet of the lake.
The Lake George Park Commission recently posted its new stormwater regulations, which have been several years in the making, and is accepting feedback for the next two months. Stormwater is the term environmental regulators use for rain and snowmelt that sweeps pollution into streams, lakes and the ocean.
The commission’s new regulations are an attempt to walk a political tightrope. The lake’s health has been in slight but steady decline for the past several decades – it is saltier, potentially less clear and more likely to harbor algae. Over the long term, these declines could threaten the lake’s reputation, along with property values and the entire tourism economy.
But stormwater regulations cause businesses, homeowners and developers immediate pain in the form of paperwork, compliance costs and new prohibitions.
That often means they can only go so far. The proposed regulations, for instance, do nothing to deal with runoff from leaking septic systems.
David Wick, the park commission’s executive director, said the commission didn’t have the “horsepower” to deal with that right now, though it supported other governments around the lake that have tried to crackdown on sewage running into the lake.
Instead, the stormwater regulations deal with pollution that runs across the surface of the land and towards the lake and its tributaries. Fertilizer is one no-brainer, since by its very nature it is designed to feed plants, including the algae and toxic cyanobacteria often called algae that most worry lakeside governments.
The commission estimates some of the regulations that require homeowners to curb runoff could cost up to $4,000. The commission describes that as only “a small portion” of the cost of any project that would trigger the regulations in the first place.
The smallest project that would trigger the new regulations is generally one that disturbs 5,000 square feet of land, which is about the size of two tennis courts.
The commission has regulated runoff into the lake since fall 1990, but the regulations haven’t been updated in over a decade.
The new rules are likely to face some opposition from being too lax.
“These proposed regulations fall well short of what is needed for long-term protection of water quality and the negative impacts that we are observing,” said Chris Navitsky, the Lake George Waterkeeper, a nonprofit watchdog paid for by the FUND for Lake George.
The regulations also have new requirements for logging around the lake.
The commission is also proposing to allow certain development dozens of feet closer to the lake than existing rules.
The commission is working on a separate but related set of rules that prohibit activity near streams.
The commission is accepting comments from the public through Sept. 27.
Editor’s note: This originally appeared in Ry’s weekly Water Line newsletter. Click here to subscribe.
Photo of Lake-George from Anthony’s Nose courtesy of Carl Heilman II/Almanack archive