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