By Tarki Heath
If you live in Preble, you know that we have some of the most unique freshwater systems in the world. These kettle lakes are home to a variety of plants and animals, including humans.
We enjoy the water, but humans also exert the greatest stress on these freshwater systems. Many of us are aware of the need for good stewardship and as non-scientist citizens we want to be part of ensuring our lakes remain healthy. Citizen science is one way we can help, and in NY, we have been collecting data for over three decades through the Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP).
This program is a collaborative effort between the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NY DEC) and the New York State Federation of Lake Associations, Inc. (NYSFOLA). CSLAP was initiated in 1986 to provide water quality data to the residents and the state. CSLAP lake volunteers are trained by professional staff to collect water samples, perform field tests, and provide standardized observations about lake conditions. DEC and NYSFOLA provide the volunteers with the equipment and supplies to conduct bi-weekly sampling from late May through the end of September.
According to the Director of NYSFOLA, Nancy Mueller, “Over 260 lake associations and 1,600 volunteers have participated in the program since its inception. At the end of each sampling season, DEC provides a report for each lake summarizing the season’s water quality result, comparing it to prior years, and identifying potential management strategies.” The CSLAP Sampling Protocols must be carefully followed, and sampling should be conducted for at least five consecutive years. NYFOLA reports that over 25,000 samples have been collected since the program began.
This information is available to assist stewards to make sound decisions around their water bodies by identifying water quality issues that can also be used to engage and educate lake residents, local officials, lake mangers, and all those in the watershed.
All of our kettle lakes in the Cortland-Onondaga Federation of Kettle Lake Associations (COFOKLA) take part in CSLAP. Those lakes include Little York Lake, Tully Lake, Song and Crooked Lakes. Because of the availability of data through this monitoring system, we and the state, have information needed to assist in making public health and safety decisions especially with regard to Harmful Algal Blooms. This data also provides us the opportunity to see trends as they develop. This analysis is more important during this time of rapid climate change and increasing infestations from invasive species.
Data from CSLAP has been used to support lake and watershed planning, local zoning or other municipal laws or practices, aquatic invasive species programs, development of sewer districts, grant programs and opportunities and educational efforts.
CSLAP is on line to start in June again this year. This is being accomplished through the extraordinary coordination efforts of the NYS DEC, Upstate Freshwater Institute, NYSFOLA, and the overwhelming support of those dedicated volunteers who have expressed the desire to continue sampling in compliance with CDC and NYPause guidelines. These volunteers work hard to help us continue good stewardship for our lakes. If you want to learn more about the program, go to https://nysfola.org/what-is-cslap/