Cuomo Holds First Of Harmful Algal Blooms Summits

Blue-green algae, which can form harmful algal blooms, is pictured along the Chautauqua Lake shores in Fluvanna in September 2014. P-J file photos by Jimmy McCarthy

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday kicked off the first of four summits supporting the state’s comprehensive effort to protect vulnerable lakes and waterbodies in Upstate New York from harmful algal blooms, or “HABs,” in New Paltz.

Included as part of the governor’s$65 million four-point initiative to “aggressively combat harmful algal blooms” is Chautauqua Lake.

The Hudson Valley Summit is part of the initiative unveiled in the Governor’s 2018 State of the State to aggressively combat these algal blooms. The increasing frequency and duration of harmful algal blooms threaten drinking water quality and the recreational use of lakes essential to upstate tourism.

“Protecting New York’s water quality for future generations is our top priority, and we are working with local communities to address the growing threat of harmful algal blooms,” Cuomo said. “This summit brings together experts from across the country, the state and the Hudson Valley community to develop new and innovative strategies to safeguard our water for future generations.”

As part of the 2018 State of the State, the governor directed the state’s Water Quality Rapid Response Team, co-chaired by Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos and Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker in partnership with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, to convene four regional Harmful Algal Blooms summits. The summits bring together national and state experts, including scientists from Kansas, Ohio, Tennessee and Vermont, as well as SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, SUNY Stony Brook, Cornell University, DEC, DOH, the New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, and local stakeholders.

The Hudson Valley summit will guide the development of four action plans to reduce harmful algal blooms in the following waterbodies: Lake Carmel, and Palmer and Putnam lakes in Putnam County, as well as the Monhagen Reservoir, Orange County. These waterbodies are typical of small lakes that support recreation and provide drinking water. Lessons from these lakes will be applied to other water bodies characterized by surrounding residential development, the prevalence of on-site septic systems, upland agricultural use, and other nutrient inputs–a common set of characteristics across the Hudson Valley.

Twelve lakes vulnerable to HABs and which represent a wide range of conditions and affected uses were prioritized for this comprehensive planning process in the first year of this new initiative. Lessons learned from studying the twelve priority lakes will be applied to waterbodies across the state.

Cuomo’s Harmful Algal Blooms program builds on the State’s $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act investments in clean water infrastructure and water quality protection throughout New York State. The Harmful Algal Blooms initiative will be supported with funds from both the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act and the $300 million Environmental Protection Fund.

Through the governor’s leadership, New York has developed the most comprehensive Harmful Algal Blooms outreach and monitoring programs in the country, led by DEC sampling of ambient waters across the state and DOH sampling at regulated beaches and public water systems.