Best Practices to Protect Conesus Lake

What is a Best Practice?: A best practice is a technique or method that, through experience and research, has proven to reliably lead to a desired result, and achieves results superior to those achieved by other means. A commitment to using the best practices is a commitment to using all the knowledge and technology at one’s disposal to ensure success.

How are these relevant to us? : Every day our actions within the watershed of Conesus Lake have a significant impact on the overall health of the lake, either positively or negatively. We continue to strive to define and promulgate best practices pertaining to our actions: in the watershed, near the lakeside, and on the water, that will ensure we act in a manner that provides the highest certainty that we are contributing to the health, benefit and improvement of our lake. As each of us, and each of our visitors participate in varying activities from boating, to yardwork, to managing pets; each of us will need to understand the relevant best practices and apply them to our individual lives IF we are committed to protecting the lake.

Identification of the Issues

The Conesus Lake Watershed, spread across six towns (Conesus, Geneseo, Groveland, Livonia, Sparta, and Springwater) in the center of Livingston County, New York, is a precious resource.

But the Conesus Lake watershed is in distress.

In 2000, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) put Conesus Lake on its Priority Waterbodies List, as reported in the State’s 305(b) report. The DEC identified the lake as impaired for boating and bathing purposes, stressed relative to fishing and aesthetics, and threatened as a water supply.

In 2002, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency placed Conesus Lake on its Section 303(d) list in a category of “needs verification.” A 2004 draft update to this list names Conesus Lake as a water body on which additional controls are needed to bring water quality into compliance with defined standards and criteria.

The May 2002 publication of the State of Conesus Lake: “Watershed Characterization Report” described existing conditions in the watershed, identified the specific pollutants that threaten water resources, and further identified specific geographic areas and land uses that contribute those pollutants.

The following problems were identified in the “Watershed Characterization Report” as being critical to the degraded health of Conesus Lake:

  • Weed Growth (invasive species)
  • Algae (phosphorous loading from non-point sources)
  • Pathogens (animal waste)
  • Pesticides (residential and agricultural application)
  • Increasing Salts (deicing chemicals and impervious surfaces)
  • Erosion (construction, agriculture, and road maintenance)

The Watershed Community Responds

The process of reacting to the threat imposed on the Conesus Lake Watershed had actually begun in the 1990s when concerned citizens, local government representatives, the CLA, and academic researchers responded to the need to protect and restore the watershed.

The community responded to the work begun with the “Watershed Characterization Report“. Based on a formal development process that included public scoping sessions, technical consultation, work groups and committees, and extensive local input, the Livingston County Board of Supervisors in March 2003 formally adopted the Conesus Lake Watershed Management Plan.

The stated purpose of the Watershed Management Plan is “to design a management plan that preserves, restores and enhances the health, beauty, and rural character of Conesus Lake and its watershed.”

The Watershed Management Plan contains 34 individual recommendations in four critical areas:

  • Controls on loading from external (non-point) sources of pollution
  • Water supply and wastewater improvements
  • In-lake measures to improve water quality, recreational use, aesthetic quality, and ecosystem functioning
  • Monitoring and assessment

The approved Watershed Management Plan is a dynamic document that will undoubtedly change as initial issues are resolved and new issues are identified.

It is also a prioritized guide to the timely implementation of targeted actions to address specific challenges.

And the Plan is a document designed to encourage all components of the watershed communities to focus their efforts “outside the box” as they cooperate to restore the Conesus Lake Watershed.

What Can I Do?

How can you help protect, preserve and restore the Conesus Lake watershed?

The Livingston County Planning Department has posted a set of “best management practices” that we all can follow. These practices, developed from multiple sources, will be included in an information-packed booklet entitled “Conesus Lake Watershed: Is It Worth Protecting?” The booklet, published by the Conesus Lake Watershed Council, will be sent to all residents living in the watershed in the spring of 2005.

Web Links Referenced in this Article

Conesus Lake Watershed Management Plan