Keuka Lake Watershed Protection Plan ('96) - Introduction
Keuka Lake and the watershed that feeds it powerfully affect the lives of area residents and visitors. In addition to its scenic beauty, the lake provides high quality drinking water for nearly 20,000 people. Over 2,800 shoreline residences draw water directly from the lake. Keuka's waters invite swimming, boating and fishing. The lake and its watershed are also home to a wide variety of fish, waterfowl and other wildlife. All these users depend on maintaining high water quality throughout the Keuka watershed.
The watershed drains 175 square miles of land in Yates and Steuben county. Over 18,000 people make it their home, and many of them depend directly or indirectly upon it for their livelihood. For example, according to the Finger Lakes Association, the economic impact of tourism and recreation in Yates and Steuben County totals nearly $80 million a year. In just one recent year, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), anglers from near and far made an estimated 135,000 fishing trips on Keuka Lake, pumping over $5 million into the area economy.
The $600 million assessed value of lake shore properties, which represents up to 70% of the tax base of some area towns and villages, is highly dependent on the quality of the lake's water. In fact, studies have shown that up to 20% of the value of shoreline property is directly related to water quality. In addition, clean water is vital to the area's industry and agriculture. These economic benefits alone would justify vigorous efforts to maintain and protect water quality throughout the watershed.
Other values - such as the scenic beauty of the lake or preserving the rich ecology of the watershed - are difficult if not impossible to value in economic terms, yet they may be even more critical to the quality of life enjoyed by everyone who lives in or visits the area. Indeed, membership surveys of the 1,600 member Keuka Lake Association show that water quality is a top priority for area residents.
In the last ten years, a number of private and governmental organizations have come together to develop a program to ensure that in the future, Keuka Lake stays as clean - or cleaner - than it is now. The program is called the Keuka Lake Looking Ahead Project. Its purpose is to assess a wide range of potential sources of pollution and recommend a watershed management plan that the community can use to protect this resource.
The project analyzed the impact of seventeen potential sources of pollution on the lake and watershed. It concluded that, while the overall quality of water in the watershed is very good, there is clear evidence that pollution is having an impact. Fortunately, most potential sources of pollution can be prevented or eliminated through a variety of practical and cost-effective measures. In fact, many of these are already being implemented, producing significant reductions in pollution.
The Keuka Lake Looking Ahead report provides the detailed scientific guidance needed to formulate an effective watershed management plan. This booklet summarizes the report's key findings and recommendations. It is designed to help you and other interested individuals and organizations to participate in developing a broad, community-based program - one that will accommodate economic growth and development while protecting and improving the Keuka Lake watershed for today's users and generations to come.