Monday, March 22, 2021

A New Day is Dawning on Lake George Protection

Lake GeorgeBy Walt Lender, Executive Director, Lake George Association and Eric Siy, Executive Director, The FUND for Lake George

The unprecedented threats imperiling the water quality of Lake George demanded a game-changing response. It came on March 9.

In a move that was both visionary in purpose and difference-making in action, the boards of the Lake George Association and The FUND for Lake George approved a merger that will create a single new preeminent and more powerful protector for the Queen of American Lakes.

Our combined staffs look forward to this exciting new era in Lake George protection. For the past 40 years, our organizations have worked independently, yet in common purpose, on behalf of the Lake we all love. Now, Lake George needs us more than ever, and we will answer that call together and more effectively than ever before.

By combining our teams’ scientific, technical, advocacy and educational expertise and resources — including the Lake George Waterkeeper and the Jefferson Project collaboration with IBM Research and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute — the new Lake George Association will bring to our Lake a constellation of freshwater protection, with a level of science-guided programs unmatched anywhere in the world. And fittingly so, as Lake George is unlike anywhere in the world.

This will be a next-generation commitment, united in action, grounded in science, supported by education, and powered by investments as well as partnerships with every constituency that has a stake in the fate of Lake George — property owners, business leaders, elected officials, regulators, and families and their children, who will someday themselves fill these leadership roles.

Why now?

The answer is clear.

The threats to the Lake’s water quality today are unprecedented in their complexity and potential impacts. While most originate with human activities that we can all work together to mitigate, many are exacerbated by the effects of our changing climate. And that makes our protection role all the more challenging.

In just a four-month span late last year, we were confronted by the first significant Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (HWA) infestation in the Lake George Watershed and the Lake’s first confirmed Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB). The HWA puts at risk the Eastern Hemlock trees that make up approximately 80% of the watershed’s forested area and provide essential water quality and ecosystem protections. If HAB occurrences continue, they threaten to turn our crystal-clear waters pea soup green, wreaking havoc on the Lake’s ecology and economy.

These emerging threats are in addition to those that have been with us for some time. Aquatic invasive species continue to arrive in growing numbers on boats and trailers. Road salt use, while greatly reduced through our road salt reduction initiative with municipal highway departments, continues largely unchecked on private properties. That salt, inevitably, makes its way into tributaries, groundwater, soils, and the Lake itself. Many hundreds of private septic systems in the watershed continue to age and fail, leaking harmful HAB-causing nutrients. This is compounded by nutrient pollution from stormwater runoff, made much worse by the increasingly severe storms resulting from climate change.

Together, we are better prepared to act in reducing the intensifying effects of these stressors and improving the Lake’s resilience.

Science-guided action will be the mantra of the new LGA. We will harness science to educate and empower those who live, work, and vacation on the Lake to take actions that help ensure its sustained protection. We will use science to develop and implement innovative and results-driven protection programs with direct, meaningful benefits to water quality and the entire watershed.

The new LGA will provide property owners, local government officials, business leaders and others with the information needed on the state of the Lake’s health and what is required from all of us to protect it. We’ll be the Lake’s greatest advocate, working hard on the local, state, and federal levels to ensure that public policy decisions are made to safeguard the Lake and make our work a model for others to learn from and adopt.

In the coming days, the Lake George Association membership will be asked to cast their votes in favor of this new era in Lake protection. We are confident they will agree:

When it comes to the sustained protection of Lake George, the new LGA will be both history-making and future-building. Most important, it is the right thing to do.

We invite you to learn more at

Photo: Lake George South from Record Hill Anthonys Nose, courtesy of Carl Heilman II/Almanack archive

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The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with an interest in the Adirondack Park. Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor Melissa Hart at

15 Responses

  1. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “This will be a next-generation commitment, united in action, grounded in science, supported by education, and powered by investments as well as partnerships with every constituency….”

    Just think if we put this same thinking into all of our actions relative to whatever the issue regards protection of our natural resources. Just think how much would still be with us, how much woods and farmland there would still be, clean rivers, lakes, etc. Imagine if all was considered as sacred as Lake George!

  2. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “Why now? The answer is clear. The threats to the Lake’s water quality today are unprecedented in their complexity and potential impacts….”

    Yeah but! Why do we always wait until the damage is already done? Because short-term pleasures and dollar amounts are the forerunners in our stinking thinkers! Two reasons why!

  3. Stephen Wilson says:

    Wonderful news & potentially significant progress in protecting her value as a natural resource & everlasting beauty.

  4. Bob D. says:

    Terrific news for all Lake George region residents & visitors. Maybe this larger organization can encourage the LGPC to address wastewater issues ASAP.

  5. james amann says:

    what to do with a neighbor with a outdated septic system 45′ from the lake ? The system is APPROX.. 90 YEARS OLD. NOT FAIR TO THE LAKE OR THE NEIGHBORS !!!! .

  6. Scott S says:

    Zero interest loans are a start, but we really need matching funds for septic upgrades.

    • J. Grant says:

      Matching tax-payer funds for private septic system upgrades? Absolutely not!

      • JohnL says:

        Agree JG. This outdated homeowner thing is NOT an issue taxpayers should be paying for.
        Here’s the issue with the neighbor? If it’s not up to code, make them fix it, sell it to someone who will fix it, or shut them down and put a big red X on the front porch. That’s what local codes/zoning are for. If the codes/zoning are not up to date, have our ‘public servant’ political leaders bring them up to date. That’s what they’re there for.

        • Scott S says:

          Many homeowners can’t afford $30,000 to upgrade and code clearly states that older systems are grandfathered until transfer. If you want to actually fix ALL the systems, and not just argue on the internet, cost needs to be addressed or it will just continue to be business as usual. And I did not state taxpayer funded – there are other funds. Who’s paying to buy all the surrounding land?

          • JohnL says:

            If you know of (other) funds that are available that I didn’t pay into…then wonderful. No issue.
            If local codes say that some places are grandfathered in, then those same local codes should specify who is going to pay for upgrades that need to be done for public safety.

            • Scott S says:

              WHat happened to this initiative?


              July 23, 2018…. The initiative was started by Dunham’s Bay residents, and then the Fund for Lake George helped encourage people to replace their systems by offering matching grants of up to $12,000 for each homeowner. In 2017, the Fund scaled that back to $8,000. So far, the Fund has spent $104,000 on 11 systems. A total of 15 systems have been replaced on the bay. About 70 properties are located there, so there’s a long way to go…

            • Balian the Cat says:

              JohnL – I am not sure I get your argument here. Are you saying you oppose the use of tax dollars to improve a public good? The harmful (possibly toxic) algal blooms these leaking systems are creating affects all of us. If you don’t care about resource protection, think of the economic hit the region takes if LG becomes a unattractive place to visit. A free society has obligations. I don’t really care about the streets in your neighborhood, but sleep okay with the thought that my tax dollars help maintain them. I don’t have kids, but don’t argue about school taxes as my hope is that maybe someday this will become a better world to live in. I do get annoyed that so much of my money goes to the healthcare of people who live unhealthy lives by choice…but I’m a member of the community and we don’t – yet – all live in self contained compounds that only take care of it’s members. Lets keep sewage out of the lake, eh?

  7. JohnL says:

    All I’m saying is this. If someone owns property, it’s the HOMEOWNERS obligation to keep it up to code, i.e. safety, health, or whatever code is duly in place for that neighborhood. If it’s not up to code, local municipalities should follow whatever guidelines are in place to get it up to code. Pretty simple really.

  8. Boreas says:

    I understand the costs involved with upgrading septic systems today. I also understand the grandfathered septic systems. How does LG zoning address upgrades/remodels/additions to these same structures while still ignoring the polluting infrastructure? I guess my feeling is if you can’t “afford” to upgrade your septic, you can’t afford a new deck or a new addition or a new kitchen. Freeze cosmetic upgrades until the polluting infrastructure is addressed. But I don’t know how their zoning works.

  9. CS says:

    It’s not just septic. It’s deforestation. Cutting down the trees around the lake deprives it if it’s natural filtration system. Homes now built around the lake have variances granted which allow them to take up more room, destroy natural habitat, and remove all the trees. Fewer trees means the water also gets and stays hotter. Please, please start paying attention to the TREES. They are the key to the water. My family has been on the lake For 75 years so I have seen what cutting down the trees does.

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