Keuka Lake Watershed Protection Plan ('96) - Watershed Management Plan
For the first time, a comprehensive "State of the Watershed" report has been prepared, based on three decades of scientific research. The plan includes inventories of sources of pollution and their impact on the lake. The Keuka Lake Looking Ahead report provides information that citizens, businesses, elected officials and community planners can use to protect the integrity of the watershed. It is an enormous step forward in providing the necessary documentation and rationale for a formal watershed management plan. This publication provides a concise summary of the Keuka Lake Looking Ahead report.
Like the Looking Ahead report itself, this publication is intended to be a guide, not a prescription, for understanding and protecting water quality. Effective watershed management requires a concerted, cooperative effort by the entire community - homeowners, business, farmers, developers, foresters, environmentalists, and local officials. All members of the watershed community share in the benefits of high quality water, a resource which is critical to a community's health, aesthetic appeal and economic well-being.
At the start of the watershed planning effort, thirty-six organizations (local, county, state, federal, non-profit) signed an agreement to cooperate and participate in the project. The agreement included the following goals, values and interests, and principles:
The goals of the Keuka Lake Watershed project are to:
- Promote a cooperative and comprehensive approach to enhancing the quality of life in the Keuka Lake watershed.
- Protect and enhance the quality of Keuka Lake.
- Encourage and improve management practices in the Keuka Lake watershed.
- Facilitate broad-based community involvement and support to protect and enhance water quality in the watershed.
- Provide an educational program to increase awareness of water quality issues and foster responsible use of watershed resources.
Values and Interests
There are many legitimate interests in watershed lands and waters. These include:
- The highest and best use of Keuka Lake is as a pure source of public drinking water. Currently, about 20,000 persons rely on the lake for their water. Drinking water generates about three-quarters of a million dollars in annual revenues for Penn Yan and Hammondsport. The cost of developing an alternative source has never been assessed.
- The lake is used for recreation by residents and attracts thousands of visitors, generating an estimated recreational value of over ten million dollars. There is no doubt that Keuka Lake is a major economic "engine" for the region. When multiplier factors are applied to the recreation and tourism dollars, the lake's value is staggering.
- About one hundred businesses operate wholly or partially in the Keuka Lake watershed.
- Over 400 farms, comprising more than 34,000 acres, depend on the continued fertility of watershed lands and the cleanliness of its waters for their success.
- Eighteen thousand people reside in the Keuka Lake watershed, and many others own seasonal vacation homes. Much of the $600 million assessed value of lake shore properties - and the property taxes derived from them - depend on the lake's water quality.
- All water in the landscape is interconnected. The water cycle not only runs past but through us. Indeed, water is essential to life.
- Water does not respect property lines or political boundaries. We cannot pollute water in one place and expect it to remain pure in another. By the same token, no single entity regulates or manages Keuka Lake and its watershed; the responsibility is shared by many governments, agencies, organizations and individuals. However, "shared responsibility" does not mean that no one is responsible; rather, it demonstrates the need for cooperation. The Keuka Watershed Improvement Cooperative represents a focus for intermunicipal cooperation to protect and enhance the purity of Keuka Lake.
- Actions which may seem reasonable from an individual point of view are not always responsible group behavior. Understanding the connections between actions and impacts will help people to act in a more "water-friendly" way. Regulations are best accepted by citizens who understand the reasoning behind the laws. Voluntary compliance is the most effective means of caring for the watershed's resources. Accordingly, good stewardship requires active programs of public education.
- Prevention of pollution is almost always less expensive and more effective than the treatment of problems.
- By most standards, Keuka Lake remains relatively clean and healthy. Those water quality problems which do exist should be regarded as early-warning signs.
- People have a right to live in a healthy environment and to use natural resources within the sustaining limits of the environment's health and integrity.
- The economic well-being of human communities in the Keuka Lake watershed is interdependent with the health and integrity of the environment. For example, decisions about the location, density, and type of land use affect the environment, economy, and quality of life for all residents of the Keuka Lake watershed. By themselves, few individual land use decisions create profound changes, but the cumulative effects of incremental decisions can drastically alter the watershed.
- Local governments have primary responsibility for land use planning and management decisions under the provisions of "home rule." Maintenance and improvement of the watershed's integrity should be a guiding principle for local decision-making. Within the watershed, consistent enforcement of uniform regulations best protects water quality.
- Past development within the watershed, especially near Keuka Lake and along its upland tributaries, has contributed to the degradation of water resources. These events should be regarded as warnings that preventive and corrective measures are needed to protect the future of the watershed. We should seek to re-affirm our ties to the watershed by encouraging development activities which are well-planned, visually pleasing, biologically sound and preserve the watershed's integrity.
- Practical, cost-effective measures are available to prevent the degradation of the watershed. The Keuka Lake Looking Ahead report provides the best available data to guide a common sense watershed management plan. It provides a blue-print for understanding and protecting this resource into the future.