An unusual thing happened during this past weekend’s severe cold snap: Between 6:30 p.m. on Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday, Otsego Lake, the largest lake in Otsego County, froze over completely. With this week’s warmer weather forecast, it may well thaw again and, if it does, it will follow a somewhat disturbing trend that could spell trouble in the years ahead.
Records of ice cover on Otsego Lake have been kept since 1842 and, with the establishment of the SUNY Biological Field Station on the Lake in 1968, extensive research and record-keeping on all aspects of the health of the lake have been an invaluable resource.
LAKE ICE CLOSES: SUNY Oneonta Biological Field Station Director Willard Harman confirmed Tuesday morning that Otsego Lake has frozen over. According to Dive Master Paul Lord, “I drove the length of the lake Saturday morning and it was frozen. It is unusual to see the lake freeze in one night. The lake was open Friday evening at 6:30 p.m. and frozen solid Saturday at 8 a.m.”
OTSEGO LAKE—Above, SUNY Oneonta Biological Field Station Master Diver Trainer Paul H. Lord, SUNY Oneonta BFS Volunteer Diver and Diver Instructor David Turner, SUNY Oneonta graduate biology major Brandon Guerrero and SUNY Oneonta undergraduate biology major Kari Minissale smile after diving in Otsego Lake to retrieve the Springfield Landing no-wake zone buoy on Saturday, December 17.
Most septic systems are designed to remove solids and bacteria, not nitrogen and phosphorus. The harmful algae blooms, or HABs, in Otsego Lake are driven by two key nutrients: nitrogen and phosphorus. Septic systems in the Otsego Lake watershed—including ones that are adjacent to the lake—may be leaking nitrogen and phosphorus into the soil, which may subsequently enter the lake, feeding a toxic bloom. Old-fashioned septic tanks are the culprits in other areas where HABs are becoming chronic.
Most of the housing on Cape Cod is on septic tanks—which can introduce nitrogen into the ponds and creeks, triggering HABs that have closed ponds for swimming and killed wildlife. Let that be a warning to Otsego: You’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod. Until you gag on the water.
Glimmerglass Lake (aka Otsego) faces its biggest ecological challenge since the last Ice Age in the form of harmful algae blooms, “HABs,” which can make lake water not only unpotable, but un-swimmable, un-skiable, un-rowable and unpopular. Fortunately, we have the A-Team on the job: The new incoming president of the North American Lake Management Society, none other than our own Dr. Kiyoko Yokota of SUNY Oneonta, and Mr. Doug Willies, who is going to lead the effort to get a DEC-approved HAB mitigation and remediation plan in place in order to organize and formalize the response. Kiyoko is a brilliant scientist whose specialty is quagga mussels, the little culprits that may be exacerbating the HABs, and Doug is a can-do organizer and a canny Scot who can pinch the life out of a penny or a quagga mussel. We couldn’t have a better team leaders to address the challenges of keeping Glimmerglass Lake from turning into Pea Soup Pond.
Chip Northrup Cooperstown
Editor’s Note: The Harmful Algal Bloom Action Team—a collaboration of water professionals, researchers, and educators from the national network of Water Resources Research Institutes, the North Central Region Water Network, and Cooperative Extensions from the 12 states in the North Central Region of the United States—is holding its third annual Harmful Algal Bloom Research Symposium on January 5 and 6, 2023. This virtual symposium is free. Visit the North Central Region Water Network’s website for more information. The symposium will include discussions about the latest harmful algal bloom research, examples of effective bloom management, and the latest technologies being used to tackle this global issue.
Proposition 1 passed last week. It authorizes state bond funds for environmental infrastructure—including $650 million for clean water projects. The Otsego Lake community should make a proposal to address harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the lake.
The funding proposal should come from the Village, the townships and the county. The proposal should be crafted by the lake stakeholders and experts—led by the Biological Field Station.
HABs can be reduced by better watershed management and in-lake remediation. As of last week, state funds may be available to support our effort to keep Glimmerglass Lake from turning into Pea Soup Pond.
The Otsego Lake and SUNY Oneonta communities worked together to protect property, life, and the environment around Otsego Lake on Saturday, November 5.
Saturday morning had me concerned about whether the autumn no-wake zone buoy Buoyfest would be a success or would be only the first day of a multiple day effort to retrieve our NWZBs. Winds were strong enough to cause concern, and we had lost the services of four divers, who we had planned to work with us, in the 24 hours prior to the event.
Health and other good reasons prevented those four divers from participating. The preparation work provided on Friday by Otsego Lake Association members Bill Richtsmeier, Mickie Richtsmeier, Doug Willies and Peter Regan facilitated an early departure. The focus and experience of graduate students Sarah Coney and Brian Hefferon provided core successes which inspired our SUNY Oneonta undergraduate students and recent graduates, Liv Bartik, Alan Brault, Zach Lebid, and Katlin Mancusi, to see the work through to completion.
The OLA Board of Directors was well represented, providing essential tender services: Wayne Bunn, Peter Regan and Kiyoko Yokota. Chuck Hascup masterfully employed his barge to support our work. I am grateful to all.
The last two NWZBs, at Springfield Landing and Lake Front, will be retrieved and swapped for spar buoys, as is our tradition, on the weekend prior to Christmas Eve. That typically involves breaking through thin ice along the shoreline to reach those buoys, but the shallow depths involved encourage a lighthearted attitude about this December work.
Paul H. Lord SUNY Oneonta Biological Field Station Divemaster and Instructor
Otsego County and Central New York are expected to hit peak leaf peeping season in the coming days, with foliage estimated at 65 percent changed in Cooperstown last week according to the I LOVE NY “Fall Foliage Report.” This year, shades of orange and yellow seem to be outshining the reds, as shown here. The top photo showcases the view from Beaver Meadow Road in Cooperstown, the middle picture is a shapshot of Allen Lake Road in Richfield Springs and, below, a flock of Canada geese enjoy their layover in Otsego Lake on their way to points south.
Labor Day. The end of an exceptional summer in Cooperstown. Dare we say exceptional? Yes we can, despite the ominous glooms of COVID and recent blooms of algae.
Our Main Street businesses are still here. They may not have had their best summer, and they may still be sadly short-handed, but they are proudly displaying their wares and energetically inviting shoppers into their establishments. The Hall of Fame reopened its doors for Induction Weekend, welcoming pre-COVID crowds for a celebratory salute to the national pastime. Baseball fans swarmed the streets, and the Village was clean within hours. Doubleday Field is refurbished and Dreams Park is back. Our Village is alive.
The summer of 2022 will be remembered as the year our beloved Lake Otsego first suffered a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB).
The conditions which allow a HAB to occur are known. This column reviews Village of Cooperstown public beaches, boat launch sites and most importantly, Village drinking water.
The SUNY Oneonta Biological Field Station (BFS) has monitored lake conditions for decades. This summer, when Glimmerglass State Park first noted an algae bloom on July 27 and closed, BFS began twice weekly testing at locations around the lake. The results of those tests are on their website — suny.oneonta.edu/biological-field-station.
Otsego Lake Association (OLA) board members have been working on a project to help fund the repair on the weather station buoy just beyond Five Mile Point.
“The buoy is just north of Five Mile Point in the middle of the lake. It’s called a Continuing Lake Monitoring Buoy (CLMB),” Debra Creedon, OLA board member, said.
“The CLMB is a computer that is encased and sub-merged that monitors wind direction and speed, air and water temperatures, precipitation and light levels among other things. It gathers important research, which provides high-frequency data for lake and climate research worldwide,” Jim Howarth, co-president of OLA, said.
As summer winds down and autumn approaches, there is perhaps no better time to get out and enjoy the beauty of Otsego County’s pristine lakes and waterways.
For people who own their own boats, this time of year is generally when they begin to taper down their activity after a long summer of many days on the water, but for those who don’t have a boat of their own it is an excellent time to rent one from one of the local boat rental operations. From fast-moving power boats, to spacious pontoon boats, to kayaks and canoes, numerous local rental opportunities exist.
Otsego Lake, the “jewel in the crown” of county lakes, offers several possibilities.
On behalf of the Otsego Lake Association (OLA), we wish to say thank you so much for your wonderful coverage, and article with our logo in the August 18 edition of The Freeman’s Journal, of our Annual Membership Meeting held on August 13. It was greatly appreciated and reporter Gilbert Vincent did an excellent job with the details. The area residents and lakeside property owners are now much more informed about Otsego Lake and what OLA does to protect it — truly a local treasure that we all love.
According to Holly Waterfield, CLM SUNY Oneonta Cooperstown Campus Biological Field Station Main Laboratory the Biological Field Station (BFS) collected samples for toxin analysis around Otsego Lake in the last few days. All sites had detectable levels of the toxin microcystin; some much higher than Monday. Results for each location are below. We provide these results for informational purposes and to aid in decision-making; these results represent a snapshot in time. Bloom conditions are known to change rapidly with weather. We have learned that when there are visible accumulations on the shoreline or the water surface, caution is warranted. A link to DOH guidance is below. The cyanobacteria causing the bloom is called Microcystis aeruginosa.
The much maligned zebra mussels are being blamed for the blue green algae bloom, which is partially true.
But we cannot control the zebra mussels, so we should focus on what we can control that is exacerbating the blooms: runoff of chemical fertilizer and failed septic systems, both of which feed the algae.
We know where the chemical fertilizers are coming from. We know where the failed septic systems are. If we do something about those pollutants, we can reduce the toxic algae blooms.