Keuka Lake Book
One of the main reasons why we love the Keuka Lake watershed is the multiple ways we can make use of its vast resources. Swimming, boating, fishing, hunting, hiking or just enjoying the spectacular views can ease the many stresses of a hectic life. Certain responsibilities go along with many of these activities to maintain our safety and the ecological integrity of our watershed.
Swimming in Keuka Lake is perhaps one of the most common and pleasurable summer activities. On a typical summer day the beaches are crowded with people enjoying one of western New York's greatest resources: Keuka Lake. Swimming can be dangerous, however, if the proper precautions aren't taken. People swimming in areas without lifeguards are taking a risk. If you do swim without the presence of a lifeguard always know the weather conditions and your own physical limitations. Children should always wear life jackets when they are in the water or on a boat. The lake bottom drops off quickly, and summer storms can turn a calm lake into an un-swimmable lake in a short time.
One concern while swimming is the quality of the water. High bacteria counts in the water close beaches each year. One source of bacteria and the nutrients bacteria thrive on are the ducks and geese that reside on and visit Keuka Lake. Although it is great fun to feed them, concentrations of these animal result in concentration of their wastes. In addition, feeding waterfowl can interrupt normal migration patterns; cause waterfowl to concentrate in large numbers, increasing disease; and cause avian botulism from mold on rotting bread. So please, to protect our health and their's, don't feed the waterfowl!
Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs
Many of us enjoy the pleasures of a backyard swimming pool or a relaxing hot tub. Both require substantial doses of chemicals, especially chlorine, to keep the water bacteria-free. When draining either a pool or hot tub, take care to prevent chlorine from contaminating storm drains, nearby streams or the lake. Chlorine volatilizes fairly rapidly, so allow the pool water to sit for a few days before draining. Wherever possible, drain the pool onto the lawn to allow the soil to filter the water. It is illegal and dangerous for aquatic organisms to drain your tub or pool directly into the lake.
Recreational boating provides relaxation and enjoyment for hundreds of residents each year. Certain precautions must be taken to maintain safety on the lake. The waters of Keuka Lake are crowded during the summer with boaters, water and jet skiers, swimmers and fisherman. There is a resident fleet of four thousand motorboats on Keuka Lake, and large numbers of boats enter through public boat launches, marinas and the yacht club. All these activities require boaters to be alert and operate at safe speeds. The maximum speed during the day is 45 m.p.h. and at night it is 25 m.p.h.. Also, the speed limit is 5 m.p.h. within 200 feet of shore. For the safety of the operators and others enjoying the lake, it is required that all boat operators ages 10-18 require adult supervision or a boater training course certificate. This law includes jet ski and wave runner operators. Speeding, reckless boating and Boating While Intoxicated laws are enforced by the Yates and Steuben County Sheriff's Departments which patrol the lake. Also, strong winds can make the lake dangerous for small watercraft. Listen to the radio for boating reports and small craft warnings.
Boating is an important local industry, but it does contribute to some of the lake's environmental problems. Boat owners can play a major role in improving water quality in the lake by minimizing their impacts. The first step is to understand the potential impact of boating activities.
Boat wakes contribute to shoreline erosion. While this loss of land is a problem for shorefront property owners, it also affects boaters. Eroded sediments increase nutrient introduction and cut off light to underwater life, especially plants. The clarity of the water decreases and fish populations are affected. All this creates problems for the lake ecosystem.
The extent of shoreline erosion caused by boat wakes depends on the wake's energy. A wake's energy depends on four factors: distance from the shore, hull size, boat speed, and water depth. To minimize shoreline erosion, observe the five m.p.h. speed limit within 200 feet which will minimize the wake impacting the shore.
In no wake zones, a boat speed only a few miles per hour above the typical five miles per hour creates a wake with great erosive force. The impact of a boat's wake on shorelines can be greatly reduced if the boat is slowed down before entering the no wake zone. Speed limits are designed to protect both the boater and the aquatic environment.
Boaters can also help prevent lake damage by buying a boat that is compatible with the lake. Choose a boat that fits the size and depth of the lake. This applies to both length and horsepower. Avoid boats with V-shaped hulls. These boats create large wakes and chop up vegetation. Try to buy an engine with good fuel-burning efficiency. Make sure the engine and boat complement each other. Be sure the engine meets current air emission controls to prevent smelly clouds of exhaust. To aid in this, use the correct gasoline and oil mixtures. Use no-lead or low-lead gasoline and handle gasoline carefully to avoid spills. Have your engine tuned up regularly and fix engine leaks to avoid contaminating the lake. Leftover oil and gas in a boat is called bilge waste. Small amounts of bilge waste, because of its toxic nature, can cause significant damage to the lake if it is not properly stored and disposed. Many times this damage will not be immediately tangible, but the cumulative effects will cause lasting negative impacts.
While boating, drive at safe and use fuel efficient speeds. Operate the boat away from shallow areas since motors can churn up bottom vegetation and habitat, scare nesting birds off their nests, and resuspend phosphorus rich sediments, creating ecological problems. Stay away from birds, animals and their nests. Following or chasing animals in a boat may separate parents from their young, or frighten the animals from their natural habitat. It's also illegal!
Dispose of all wastes generated on your boat in the proper manner. Keep a trash bag handy and make sure nothing is thrown into the lake. Don't leave cut fishing line or plastic materials in the water. It is required by law to dispose of boat sewage and wastewater by keeping it in a sealed holding tank and pumping it out at a marina or dumping station. Remember to take home all trash.
Many people may not be aware that noise can also be an environmental problem. While boating, try enjoying the natural quiet of being on the lake. Avoid playing loud radios especially since sound travels easier over water. Also minimize using a motor boat during the morning and evening hours when people are enjoying the quiet. Consider other, quieter alternatives such as canoeing, sailing and rowing during these times.
Maintenance of a boat can also harm the lake. Boats are normally serviced once a year for repairs, painting, and general maintenance. Many of the cleaning, dissolving, and painting agents used for maintenance are toxic to aquatic life. A few simple precautions can prevent these chemicals from unduly harming the lake.
Copper and tributyltin (TBT) bottom paints, used to prevent fouling, cause particular environmental damage and are not necessary in fresh water. Bottom paints are a necessary evil, but their impact can be lessened if you control the amount that enters the lake. When scraping the boat bottom, catch the scrapings with a drop cloth and discard the wastes. If you don't have a drop cloth, sweep up the scrapings and throw them in the trash.
Boaters should also have a concern about zebra mussels. Zebra mussels have been found in Keuka Lake and are now a concern for lake residents. Boaters can help protect their boats from damage caused by zebra mussels and prevent the spread of zebra mussels to other bodies of water. The following suggestions may help to control zebra mussel damage to boats.
- Flush out the motor by letting it run at a high speed for about 10 minutes at least twice a week in the summer and at least once a week in the spring and fall.
- Tip outboard motors out of the water when not in use so that the water can drain out. Raising the motor also keeps mussels from attaching to it. Remove any mussels that might be attached to the motor, particularly near the cooling water intakes and propellers.
- Pull out filter screens and check intakes regularly.
- Watch your temperature gauge. If the temperature is increasing, check the cooling water intakes for zebra mussels.
Check the outside of your boat often and scrape off zebra mussels regularly. If the hull of your boat seems to have a grainy texture, zebra mussel larvae or veligers, have attached themselves to the boat. If you can, wash them off.
For your own copy of the New York State Health Advisory titled "Chemicals in Sportfish and Game," write to:
NY State Dept. of Health Bureau of Toxic Substance Assessment
2 University Place
Albany NY 12203-3399