As the Stream Monitoring season comes to a close, we thought it high time we discuss the program with those who know it best - VOLUNTEERS!
Interview with Kelly Coughlin
Kelly, what do you do as the Stream Monitoring Program Coordinator?
I help to coordinate volunteers from our Stream Monitoring Program "stream teams" to sample six streams in the Seneca Lake watershed: Big Stream, Catharine Creek, Glen Eldrige Creek, Keuka Outlet, Kashong Creek and Reeder Creek. Currently we are sampling four times per year, with a goal to collect in both dry weather and high water conditions. We collect samples to look at the concentrations of bacteria and nutrients from stream runoff sources such as manure applied to farm fields, wastewater treatment and residential septic systems to see how these sources may be impacting lake water quality. We test for temperature, phosphorus, nitrate/nitrite, E. coli bacteria, and total suspended solids (for water clarity). Sample results are available for all to see on the Community Science Institute's website at communityscience.org, look under "Seneca Lake Region." The results go back to 2014 when the program first began.
Do you feel a sense of accomplishment with your volunteer work and how do you feel your volunteer work helps Seneca Lake and the community?
It is very satisfying to participate in a volunteer effort like this, where with each passing year we are adding more data and adding to our knowledge of the water quality of Seneca Lake and its tributary streams and how water quality may be changing. People are becoming more aware of how our actions and decisions as a community can affect water quality and potentially improve it - for example, learning about the importance of maintaining wastewater systems, both at the municipal and residential level, to control bacteria and nutrient runoff into our lake.
There are many volunteer opportunities in our community – what motivated you to volunteer for SPW and this program in particular? What do you think other people should know about volunteering for this organization? Would you recommend others consider volunteering?
I would definitely recommend people get involved in a community project they care about - there is always an opportunity to find a fit for your particular skills, strengths, and interests with an organization that is looking for help! In my case, my interest and background in public health and water quality made volunteering with the stream team a good fit.
Is there anything else you would like to share with me? Is there any question I should have asked you, but did not?
Seneca Lake Pure Waters has undergone a lot of change in recent years, with many volunteers and members working hard to develop new approaches and priorities. It's exciting to see the changes and how Pure Waters can develop an important role in educating residents about their watershed and how to take care of it as well.
Interview with Mary Rose
There are many volunteer opportunities in our community – what motivated you to volunteer for Seneca Pure Waters and this program in particular?
My name is Mary Rose, and I’ve been sampling the water of Big Stream for Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association since the stream program began in 2014. The members of my family have been members of SLPWA since its inception; I consider myself a lifetime member even in the years when my dues are late.
Mary Rose, what do you do as a “Stream Team” volunteer and Big Stream leader?
I’m the leader of a team ranging from 3 to 9 active samplers, and as leader what I really do is make the calls or send the text messages that rally whoever is available to come out to the 4 stream sites to collect 3 bottles of water at each location.
We collect these samples, which are delivered to Community Sciences Laboratory (CSI) in Ithaca for analysis, to monitor the presence of nutrients and pollutants. We are mainly looking at phosphorus, nitrogen, and bacteria — e.Coli specifically. The data extracted shows us what is feeding Seneca Lake, and when; samples also give us readings that indicate the steady influence of output from the Dundee sewer plant. Heavy rains from storm events wash soil laden with fertilizer and animal excrement from agricultural properties adjacent to the stream and also from tributaries that flow into the stream.
For a period of years we were tasked with collecting samples from six sites along Big Stream, and occasionally were able to collect six times a year. I look on those early days as our pioneer period. There’s something self-affirming for being out at dawn in November and February in the sleet with your hands in a wild, zero-degree stream. During that period we divided our team in to two teams, one for 3 “lower” and one for 3 “upper” locations. It was interesting in those early years to sample from the northern-most significant, and the southern-most significant headwaters of Big Stream. Those sites being respectively under the bridge at Gibson Road, and at Carly Brace Road.
What do you think other people should know about this program and organization? Would you recommend others consider volunteering?
Everyone on our teams is a leader, each person capable of directing their own collection site if necessary. There have been days when I wasn’t available to even make the rally phone calls, and the team delivered 100% of samples.
I think it was 2019 that we found redundancy amid site location, and so we cut back to four sites; budget constraints further reduced our sampling events to four a year.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
The data output from CSI is readily available from the database website. I wish everyone held the curiosity to go visit, and the patience to maneuver through the data. The storm-event data should at least open eyes, if not outright shock the viewer.
Perhaps I’ve become a stream-output fanatic since taking on this welcome position of citizen scientist. I do not pass any water running down-hill without equal appreciation and concern.
Please check out our volunteer opportunities at www.senecalake.org/volunteer
Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association
Virtual Annual Meeting
October 13, 6:00pm
Don’t miss this one! Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association invites our watershed residents to an important event. At 6:00pm on Wednesday, October 13th, Pure Waters will host the Association Annual Meeting to review the Pure Waters' program accomplishments, Association financials, and a recap of strategic plans. The meeting will once again utilize the Zoom format that proved to be extremely popular last year.
Each Association member in good standing 30 days leading up to the Annual Meeting has voting rights to elect the Board of Directors, class of 2023. This vote will take place during our Annual Meeting on October 13.
Special additional topics that will also be included in the Virtual Annual Meeting. This includes an update on HABs, lake level information and results of Lake Water Quality Testing. You will hear the launch of Pure Waters Sediment and Nutrient Reduction Program (SNRP).
In addition to our Virtual Annual Meeting, we will also be conducting our second annual Virtual Silent Auction from October 8th to 15th. By participating in our Annual Silent Auction, you will be supporting the continuation of Pure Waters programs and projects, and our mission to preserve, protect, and promote Seneca Lake water quality. Plus, you'll take home some great items that were generously donated to Pure Waters from many local businesses! Many thanks to local businesses for donating goods and services to this very special fundraising event. Mark the Silent Auction dates on your calendar and more information to follow.
You must register for our Annual Meeting!
After a great deal of debate, the Pure Waters’ Board of Directors has made the tough decision to cancel our Annual Dinner for this year. As you might expect, the Covid Delta variant was at the center of our decision. At first, we thought having proof of vaccination might be sufficient to guard against the Delta variant. However, the Board concluded the risk was too great to proceed, and determined we should not risk the health of our loyal members.
The Annual Dinner is always one of our most popular events and also one of our biggest fundraisers. However, like last year, we will work diligently to make up for this significant revenue loss. We will find creative ways to fund and support our well- respected water quality monitoring programs, including HAB Bloom, Stream, Lake Assessment (CSLAP), and Invasive Species Management (PRISM) as well as our educational Lake Friendly Living program. You can donate any time at www.senecalake.org/donate or contact our Association Director, Kaitlin Fello (firstname.lastname@example.org ), if you would like to help us in our funding efforts.
In addition, we would like everyone to know our Virtual Annual Meeting will take place on October 13, 2021, from 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. Please save the date and join us while we discuss our year in review and our plans for the future. The Virtual Annual Meeting will be preceded again this year by our Virtual Silent Auction. Be ready to start the bidding on your favorite item on Friday, October 8, through Friday, October 15. We hope you will join us for some fundraising fun and bid on your favorite special packages that week! If you are interested in donating to this year’s silent auction, please email Kaitlin at email@example.com.
Precipitation values for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 17, 18, 19…
By 12:00am on 8/19, discharge peaked from Keuka Outlet at Dresden at 3290 cubic feet per second(cfs). Discharge rates continued above 2000cfs until approximately 10:00am that same morning.
Manhole 360 (DEC)/ 135 Seneca Street.
Seneca Pure Waters recently had a meeting with the representatives from the D.E.C. Regional 8 office. Although the New York Sewage Right to Know alert originally reported a spillage of over 34 million gallons, D.E.C. officials indicated that the volume was miscalculated, and subsequent alerts were corrected. In reality, approximately 177,000 gallons of sewage spilled into the Keuka Outlet, and towards Seneca Lake.
The NYS Alerts also revealed the location of the incident: 135 Seneca Street, Penn Yan. This property sits directly adjacent to The Birkett Mills.
The Olney Place Flood Image
Mean Discharge, Seneca River
Mean Discharge Graph
Keuka Lake Levels
135 Seneca Street, Location of Sewage Pollution Event
Birkett Mills Map
Listen in to learn about the start of the HAB season in the Finger lakes, and the many volunteer opportunities and skills needed to continue the work of Pure Waters - on Finger Lakes News Radio with Pure Waters' VP of Operations, Frank DiOrio.
2021 August- Radio Recording Frank DiOrio.mp3
note: The 2021 Annual Dinner has been cancelled since this radio show has aired.
On Tuesday, July 20th, Seneca Lake’s lake-level climbed to a recent high of 446.68 feet above sea level, almost five inches above the Summer upper target of 446.3 feet. Since then, the lake level has fallen to the Gordon Hansen Seneca Lake Rule Curve target range of 446 +/- .3 feet.
The Seneca Lake Rule Curve, developed in the mid-70s by Gordon Hansen of the Navy’s Underwater System Center at Dresden, defines the lake’s highest and lowest tolerable levels. Rule curves establish a target range for the water level, helping to prevent severe flooding or severe drought conditions, and ensuring a stable, reliable water supply throughout low water summer months and protecting damage to delicate natural resources during high water months.
For reference, the Rule Curve for Seneca Lake predicts minor flood damage at about 447.8 feet, and major flood damage at 448.5 feet. The 100-year flood level for Seneca Lake is 449.9 feet, which has not been reached since the first Seneca Lake level record in October 1 of 1956. After the Dundee/Lodi storms in 2018, the lake rose about 12 inches in 12 hours topping out at 447 feet. Seneca Lake levels have reached to 447+ feet eight times since USGS began recording lake level data.
Each finger lake has a Rule Curve to guide its water level management, but there is only voluntary coordination among the lakes to manage both lake level and water discharge from each lake. Water can flow into Seneca Lake faster than it can flow out, since the downstream area is relatively flat and the outflow is regulated; therefore, the lake level rises after a rapid snow melt or big rain event.
The outflow of Keuka Lake, which drains directly into Seneca via the Keuka Outlet, is controlled by the Keuka Lake Outlet Compact (KLOC)—an intermunicipal organization representing the eight municipalities around Keuka Lake. Its primary purpose is to regulate Keuka Lake level using six outlet gates located at the Main Street bridge in Penn Yan, NY.
To minimize the risk of downstream flooding, the "Reservoir Regulation Manual-Keuka Lake Outlet" (developed by the Army Corps of Engineers), limits the discharge rate to 1,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). To achieve this maximum discharge rate, the Keuka Lake level must be at least 716.03 feet with all six gates open. On July 17th and 18th, the Keuka Outlet gage at Dresden, NY recorded two consecutive hours of more than 1,000 cfs (1,020 cfs to 1,300 cfs) which is due to both Keuka Lake outflow and precipitation in the Keuka Lake Outlet subwatershed. Although the Keuka Outlet was flowing high on these dates, there were no reports of significant damage due to the controlled outflow from Keuka Lake (Both residents and businesses on the west side of Seneca Lake near Himrod saw property damage during and after the recent rainfall event. Most reported damage was due to small stream spillover).
Visit the Pure Waters’ lake level webpage to see daily updates on Seneca Lake level (https://senecalake.org/Lake-Level) and to learn more about lake level management.
Education & Community Outreach
The Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association is now looking for volunteers for a growing program that aims to engage and educate watershed residents on the health of the lake, and find ways to partner with like-minded organizations to create new outreach opportunities. As an education and community outreach volunteer, you could expect to:
Plan and execute educational webinars, workshops, and forums for the public to attend and learn.
Partner with other local organizations to bring a variety of experts and educational opportunities to watershed residents.
Seek new outreach possibilities to expand Seneca Pure Waters’ brand recognition and the understanding of Lake health issues and best practices.
Serving as an Education and Outreach volunteer would be a natural fit for anyone who feels passionate about educating all ages on preserving and protecting Seneca Lake. This group of volunteers would meet once monthly, with some efforts needed outside of regular meetings.
Lake Friendly Living Committee
Pure Waters Lake Friendly Living Program seeks volunteers to help promote and educate residents about home practices that can have a positive impact on our lake. As a Lake Friendly Program volunteer, your role can cover a variety of promotion and education needs including:
Introduce the program to your community through meetings with your social, religious and professional groups. Pure Waters will provide you with information and materials.
Organize a workshop on “how to’s” related to landscape techniques such as planting rain gardens, buffers and native greenery, installing a rain barrel or permeable surfaces, or any other Lake Friendly Living technique that you find on our LFL webpage – www.senecalake.org/lakefriendlyliving .
Committee meetings occur once a month and can be attended in person or via phone. Let us know what you are interested in doing and we will help make it fun and easy to do! Thank you!
Pure Waters is looking for volunteers to serve on the Membership Committee. This committee plays a critical role in the recruitment and retention of our membership base. The role of the Membership Committee is to:
Promote the benefits of Pure Waters membership.
Identify strategies to increase membership.
Work to retain current members.
Identify strategies to enhance the value of a Pure Waters membership.
Recommend dues structures and member benefits.
Serving on the Membership Committee would be a natural fit for anyone who feels passionate about preserving and protecting Seneca Lake. Committee meetings occur once a month and can be attended in person or via phone.
Pure Waters is looking for volunteers to serve on the Events Committee. This committee plays a critical role in developing and coordinating key public events across the watershed. As an example, both educational and fun events at wineries and craft beer locations are planned by the committee. The primary role of committee team members includes:
Event coordination and venue selection
Event advertising and promotion
Event calendar development
Annual Meeting/Silent auction planning and coordination
Serving on the Events Committee would be a natural fit for anyone who feels passionate about preserving and protecting Seneca Lake through fun and educational events. Committee meetings occur once a month and can be attended in person or via phone.
Due to frequent and unpredictable rainfall events, a section of farmland in the Seneca Lake Watershed had been experiencing persistent erosion and flooding issues. Although the farmland had been treated well with good management practices including strip crops, cover cropping, and reduced tillage practices, it still experienced significant flooding and erosion issues.
After a watershed analysis was completed of the area, a decision was made for the Yates County Soil and Water Conservation District to install two stormwater retention basins (officially referred to as Water and Sediment Control Outlet Basins). Stormwater basins have been constructed for many years around the watershed and are a proven, useful land management practice. The basins take the peak flow of water, store it, and slowly release it which reduces downslope flooding and erosion.
The basins are strategically placed in the landscape to allow for the most water storage capacity. For this project in Yates County, approximately 2,700 feet of 6-inch plastic drain tile and 600 feet of 4-inch plastic drain tile was used to outlet the water from the basins to a downslope, stable area. The basins were constructed in the middle of the farmland so extra sloping work was completed to keep the loss of farmland to a minimum. Over 1,300 cubic yards of soil were moved. After construction, only 0.3 acres of farmland were lost for the basins and the farm has seeded those areas to a wildflower mix for beneficial insects.
This project was made possible through funding by the Finger-Lakes Lake Ontario Watershed Protection Alliance.
By Tom Eskildsen, Senior District Technician, Yates County Soil and Water Conservation District
July Radio show with Pure Waters HABs Director, Bill Roege as he talks through the upcoming HAB season, and the surprising results of last year on Seneca Lake.
2021 July - Radio Recording Bill Roege.mp3
Consider these lake friendly living tips as you celebrate this Independence Day!
Keep up with Pure Waters:
P.O. Box 247
Geneva, NY 14456