Lake group calls conditions ‘abnormal’
KEUKA PARK—Keuka Lake Association (KLA) President Bill Laffin said Keuka Lake has experienced an abnormal year so far in 2014. Laffin spoke during the KLA’s annual meeting Saturday, July 12 at Keuka College, where he said May’s rainfall events caused the lake to experience far different conditions than it normally would within the year. The president also said the winter ice, the snow melt and heavy precipitation events has caused several different conditions at the lake than what is normally seen.
“To say this has not been an abnormal year would be like putting your head in the sand,” Laffin said. “Between the winter ice and the large melt and the precipitation in May, we have surely had some unique events.”
Laffin said these events had different impacts upon the lake, with the ice causing damage to docks as it began to break apart and move across the lake. He said the May storms also had an impact on Keuka Lake water quality as well.
Laffin also spoke to the lake levels, which experienced a spike in May due to the flash flooding. He said the level is managed by the six gates in Penn Yan, which are managed by the Keuka Lake Outlet Compact (KLOC). Laffin said the spike may have been abnormal, but it is still not the most drastic spike the lake has experienced.
“This is still a long way from hurricane Agnes as far as upper level goes,” Laffin said. “It was actually three inches below the mean high water level. It was not near the 100-year flood level.”
The association listened to a pre-recorded slideshow presentation by Keuka College Professor Dr. Tim Sellers during the meeting, who spoke to the lake quality. He said “the 2013 state of the lake shows relatively good health,” but added the flood events may have led to different conditions.
Sellers said the May flooding events did cause an abnormal spike in the phosphate levels at both the surface and bottom of the lake. He said several of the Finger Lakes experienced this surge in May, causing them to exceed their long-term averages. Sellers said the increased phosphate is not a good situation and “should have pretty severe impacts this year and the following years.” He said the storms could mean more seaweed and blue-green algae within the lake.
Sellers spoke to three conditions within the lake, including nutrient levels, water clarity and algae levels. He said the phosphorous levels are up 1.1 part per billion from 2012 to 6.5 parts per billion. Sellers said while increased phosphorous levels are not a good thing, the overall phosphorous in the lake has been on a downward trend since 1990.
Sellers also spoke to the water quality, which he said is trending upward in the same period of time. He said the clarity allows visibility of up to 7.9 meters below the surface, which is similar to the 2012 levels, but also is 1.8 meters above the long-term average of 6.1 meters. Sellers said this is a good trend to be on for the lake, as it indicates the water is getting more clear over time.
Sellers said the algae levels also averaged 0.67 parts per billion in 2013, which is down from the year prior and far below the long-term average of 2.6 parts per billion. He said algae levels generally are low in the spring and increase throughout the season. Sellers said there is a natural phenomenon in Keuka Lake which causes the algae to from midway down in the lake, which provides food for fish while also producing water clarity. The college professor said blue-green algae levels are also currently very low within Keuka Lake, although the increased phosphate levels from the flooding could lead to more growth.