DEC discusses Bear Lake improvements

STOCKTON – Nestled in a wooded area in the town of Stockton is a lake many hold dear.

The Department of Environmental Conservation met with residents Thursday night in Stockton Fire Hall to discuss how to improve Bear Lake.

Several documents along with an in-depth power point were presented to anyone who had questions or concerns about the lake and the draft plan put together by DEC.

Phosphorus is a fertilizer, which helps lakes keep plant life healthy, and sustain the life line of the lake itself; however, if a body of water has too much of this fertilizer, it can be damaging.

Bear Lake is not meeting the Clean Water Act, has a heavy buildup of phosphorus, and is considered a danger to fish and birds that rely on the water for survival.

“Some phosphorus is good and a required building block in a lake,” said Steve Gladding, environmental engineer.

Bear Lake would need to reduce about 79 percent of its phosphorus to be improved.

Where is this phosphorus coming from?

Agricultural lands – the fertilizer coming from the crops washes into the lake.

Forest and Wetlands

Septic Systems

Groundwater

When algae dies it rests on the bottom of the lake, sucking the oxygen out of the lake while decaying. It then causes harm to fish and other wildlife living at the bottom of the lake, as well as digging up the dormant phosphorus to the surface of the lake.

“This is our biggest concern at the DEC,” said Susan VanPatten, environmental program specialist. “Too much phosphorus causes algae growth, which is harmful to fish, swimmers, boaters, and causes problems with drinking water.”

Since Bear Lake is a Class A lake it can be turned into drinking water, but it is not being used as such at this time.

The concept of sewering the lake was mentioned as a way to take out some of the phosphorus.

“Septic systems fail over time and don’t last forever,” Gladding said. “Septic can’t take extra loads, need to be pumped out every two years, and can’t be too close to groundwater.”

DEC recommended a few ways to voluntarily provide load reduction to help Bear Lake function in the long run. Sewering costs about $3 million and requires funding and local action to support making this happen. Agriculture reduction can help keep phosphorus from coming off the fields and into the lake. Land conservation can prevent new loads.

Many were concerned the data being presented by the DEC was too old and not trustworthy. The DEC mentioned data from 2006 and 2012 to create models for the plan.

President of Bear Lake Association Anne Deming had plenty to say about the draft plan.

“We know we have very few residents along the lake,” she said. “If all your assumptions are wrong, how can you make a clear plan about the lake? Bear Lake doesn’t have invasive weeds and a lot of algae. I don’t trust the data.”

Gladding and VanPatten told the residents they would appreciate their local knowledge about the lake and would take it all into consideration when finalizing the draft. Comments can be made to DEC written or emailed until Aug. 22 unless expanded due to new concerns about the data. Send comments to Steve Gladding, NYSDEC Division of Water, 625 Broadway, Albany NY 12205 or email steven.gladding@dec.ny.gov.

“We want the best report possible. We need the most accurate information. What you do next is your choice,” VanPatten said. “Many lakes are worse off and the state doesn’t give them this opportunity. Someone passionate about the lake and wanting to preserve if for generations has this great source of information to look at. I believe most of you are passionate about the lake you live on.”

Bear Lake Association member Bernie Klaien noted the lack of updated information scares him, and it hurts the association who is making all these drastic changes to the lake, which are not being acknowledged in the plan.

“It is not our obligation to correct this plan,” Deming said. “I offered my help and no one asked me. There are huge errors in this plan, which make us lose confidence in it.”

There is a concern growing about a lake property owner who wants to log his land. DEC addressed this by recommending they speak to their regional environmental officer about what to do. They also mentioned a property owner has the right to log his own land.

Comments on this article may be sent ot jwillis@observertoday.com