Tompkins Co. Soliciting Feedback On Plan For Harmful Algal Blooms

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ENDWELL, NY (WSKG) — Ahead of another summer expected to bring harmful algal blooms, or HABs, back to Cayuga Lake, Tompkins County is accepting feedback on a plan to help limit their prevalence in the Finger Lakes.

Harmful algal blooms can produce toxins that have hindered recreational activities on Cayuga and Owasco Lake in recent years. (Provided by Tompkins County)

The draft plan establishes mitigation measures to address the root of HABs, mostly aimed at reducing or slowing down runoff.

“The recommendations in the state plan for both Cayuga and Owasco Lake were really lacking specificity and so we said ‘okay, we need to dig into this a little bit more,’” said Darby Kiley, a planner with the Tompkins County Office of Planning and Sustainability.

In 2018, New York dedicated $65 million toward developing plans and executing mitigation measures aimed at combating harmful algal blooms across the state. Cayuga and Owasco Lakes have had problems with the cyanobacteria over the last few years. During the warm summer months, HABs can release dangerous toxins making the lake water dangerous for swimming or other recreational activities.

The draft plan focuses on an array of areas that largely focus on limiting the amount of phosphorus running into the lakes. This largely comes with runoff water draining into the lake, particularly from farms.

Recommendations in the plan include establishing a fund to make it easier for farmers to implement best management practices like planting cover crops to address runoff. It also focuses on highway drainage ditches and working with municipalities to build them in a way that would reduce the runoff into the lakes.

“It’s kind of a general push of a bunch of different priorities and I think we kept grasping for what else is out there to implement to really make a difference and it’s just a lot of things that are going to add up over time,” Kiley said.