Introduction .................................................................................. 2
Phosphorous ................................................................................ 3 - 5
Aquatic Vegetation ........................................................................ 6 - 7
Sediment ....................................................................................... 8 - 9
Property Use and Maintenance ..................................................... 10
Additional Concerns ...................................................................... 11 - 12
Melody Lake Lake Management Plan ............................................ 13 - 17
Conclusion ..................................................................................... 18
Sources, References, and Suggested Readings ................................
MELODY LAKE ASSOCIATION MISSION STATEMENT
1. To aid and promote the preservation and protection of Melody Lake and the land around it.
2. To aid in the protection of fish and game in such lake and area.
3. To promote and cultivate social relationships among it's members.
4. To undertake programs and activities calculated to advance the above purposes.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
As lake property owners,
we all have an obligation
to adjust the way we live
to protect Melody Lake,
rather than to adjust Melody Lake
to protect the way we live.
Funding for this project, was made available through a joint effort between the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and the New York State Federation of Lake Associations, Inc. (NYSFOLA). While the details outlined in the State of the Lake Report was due to the efforts of many government agencies, organizations, and committee members of the association, this management plan will be based on the input of Melody Lake Association members that returned the surveys and/or attended the monthly meetings of the association. If any property owner within the watershed has any additional input or suggestions, they should attend the monthly meetings or send the suggestions to the association at:
Melody Lake Association
PO Box 95
Willet, NY 13863
Much of the information contained in this plan is from minutes of previous meeting and other records of the association. Additional information is from books and other publications which are listed at the end of this booklet.
SOURCES OF PHOSPHORUS
There are two major sources that may supply phosphorus to the lake.
External sources are usually transported into the lake through seepage
or runoff from around the lake and watershed. This may include improperly
designed, installed or maintained septic systems, chemicals used around
the property, or fertilizer applied on the lawn. It can also be the
result of nutrient rich soil and sediment carried into the lake during
construction or other times the ground is disturbed. These external
sources are usually easily controllable by adjusting lifestyles and practices
and should therefore become an important part of our lake management plan.
The internal sources are much harder to identify, measure, and control. The bottom of most lakes are covered with silt and sediment which are usually very rich in phosphorus. In shallow water, these sediments may encourage the growth of rooted plants such as milfoil. This phosphorus usually remains stuck or tied up in the sediment, so the levels are not detected through normal water testing. Under most circumstances, this phosphorus will remain bound or absorbed to the sediment. If the lake begins to lose oxygen near the bottom sediments, however, a chemical shift may occur that could release the bound phosphorus back into the water column and make it available for plant growth. This chemical shift could also happen from any disturbance of the bottom sediments, such as wave action. Recent research also shows that the practice of lowering the water levels and exposing these bottom sediments may also release the bound phosphorus back into the water column when the lake refills. When this internal phosphorus loading from the sediments starts, this can easily become the controlling factor in the lake's nuisance plant population.
WHAT HAS BEEN DONE ABOUT IT?
Septic Systems - When the land around Melody Lake was sub-divided and Melody Lake Association was formed, development around the lake was minimal. As this development increased, the Cortland County Health Department started to show an interest in what was happening around the lake. In June, 1970, the health department assigned Environmental Aide Robert Rohrig the responsibility to survey the development of the subdivision. The association was notified that "the department would like to take steps to correct any violations of the approved subdivision specifications with regard to sanitary facilities that may exist at Melody Lake. Accordingly, we are planning a comprehensive sanitary survey of the Melody Lake Subdivision, to be followed by official notification to violators of their responsibility to correct the violation(s)". These inspections continued throughout the summer of 1970.
In September, 1970, in a letter from Kenneth I.E. Macleod, Commissioner
of Public Health, the association was notified that "in so far as this
office is concerned, except where a nuisance complaint is registered by
one of the residents, we are now closing out our routine inspections of
Melody Lake properties". ".....most of the properties, if not
all, were reinspected this summer, and certain violations were noted, including
illegal installations of cess pools, septic fields, and other such violations."
The letter goes on to say that ".....we will be happy to be of service
to you and your association at any time you call upon us for checking out
purity of home wells and the lake waters but we just don't have the man
power to spend on routine inspections any more".
A conventional septic system requires a minimum lot size necessary to maintain the separation distance between the system, and wells, dwellings, property lines, and the lake. Since most lots around the lake are inadequate in size, the Cortland County Health Department requires that all septic systems within the Melody Lake Subdivision be a sealed "hold and haul" system. In a few cases, when the amount and location of land owned is adequate, a conventional system may be allowed. In the past, property owners were allowed to install a grey water system for their sinks, tubs, etc. which could leach in to, or on to the ground. Since the current definition of sewage is "any water-carried human waste and liquid, or water-carried waste from water closets, lavatories, sinks, bathtubs, laundry tubs or devices, floor drains or other sanitary fixtures..." all water leaving a dwelling must now be directed to this sealed tank or septic system. Although some grey water systems were "grandfathered in" and remain around the lake, any new or modified systems are not allowed to use this grey water system.
A permit from the health department is required whenever a septic system is installed, modified, or repaired. This same permit is required any time a building is constructed or enlarged, which will result in a change, or potential change, in the volume or character of the wastewater. This permit process also requires that whenever the new or altered system is completed, no portion shall be covered with soil or placed into operation without a final inspection and approval of the health department. The commissioner has the authority to require the system to be uncovered if it was covered without the authorization of the department. Over the years, some property owners have been successful in installing systems without the oversight or approval of the department. Unfortunately, even when these unapproved systems are brought to the attention of the department, they are reluctant to do much about it.
In the early 1990's, the association suggested a voluntary dye testing of the individual septic systems around the lake. Tracing dye was provided by the Cortland County Health Department and was made available to all property owners along with directions for it's use. Since this was a voluntary program, very few property owners took advantage of it.
CSLAP - Since 1987, Melody Lake Association has participated in the Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP) whereby samples of the water from the lake were collected by volunteers and sent to the NYS Department of Health for analysis. The testing results were then sent to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation where it would be interpreted. The lake association would then be provided with the results of this testing along with a summary of what these results might mean. While this is an important service, for the first several years, the results were not written to be of much value to the average lake property owner. Another problem was that these results were not available until well into the following recreation season.
Recent changes in the program now provide a brief summary that is easily understandable and easily distributed to all interested property owners. Also, due to a change from the State Health Department to a private laboratory for the analysis, the results are supposed to be available much earlier in the year.
Other Testing - Over the years, additional testing has been provided by various government agencies including the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District. The results of these tests were mainly consistent with the results of CSLAP which helped to verify those results. The additional testing also provided results to parameters not provided through CSLAP such as dissolved oxygen. The testing by the US Fish and Wildlife Service also provided the results of a fish survey. These additional tests also provided the opinions and suggestions from more knowledgeable individuals which could help the average lake property owner develop, understand, and utilize this lake management plan.
Newsletter - The Melody Lake Newsletter has always been used to educate property owners from around the lake regarding water quality issues and concerns. Since many of these property owners are more accustomed to municipal wastewater treatment systems, emphasis has been placed on the importance of proper care of a private system. The newsletter is usually sent to all property owners around the first of the year, along with a membership reminder which has resulted in a greater number of members to the association. Unfortunately, because this is sent so early in the year, the prior years' CSLAP testing results are not included in the newsletter.
Geese - Over the last few years, a small number of geese have decided to make Melody Lake their summer home. They do create a problem for a few of the property owners since they seem to prefer the property that is cared for and landscaped the best. Proper actions by these property owners is important when cleaning up after the geese since scientific literature indicates that the droppings from as few as four geese can generate a phosphorus load that is equivalent to that generated by a single, properly operating septic system. All droppings should be collected and disposed of away from the lake. As long as the number of geese remains small, it is not likely that their presence has much of a negative impact on the lake.
SOURCES OF EURASIAN MILFOIL
Eurasian milfoil has been around North America since the 1940's. Many believe that it was introduced through the aquatic nursery or the aquarium industry. It was probably transported from lake to lake through boating or moving water from one lake to another. Fragments can also be transported by waterfowl. Another possible means is through bait buckets being dumped into the lake. It is not known how it was originally introduced into Melody Lake. Since motor boats are not allowed on the lake, and there is no other bodies of water upstream, it was probably introduced by waterfowl or bait buckets. Milfoil is capable of growing up to 20' in length and seems to prefer soft, rich sediment. Since Melody Lake reaches a maximum depth of 17 - 18', and has much of it's bottom covered with silt, our lake is the perfect host for an out of control milfoil population. While milfoil is able to spread through it's roots and seeds, the most significant means of spreading is fragmentation. Any time a stem is broken off by wave action or human disturbance they become additional, healthy plants and increase the population. The main cause of the spread of this invasive plant is most probably fragmentation from improper cutting, without removing all fragments from the lake.
WHAT HAS BEEN DONE ABOUT IT?
Copper Sulfate - Copper Sulfate was applied to the lake by the association from 1964 through 1979. This was done when the development around the lake was light and the nutrient input was minimal. Since copper sulfate acts more as an algaecide than a herbicide, it's application probably had very little impact on the vegetation population. The application was also done before or in the early stages of the non-native vegetation invasion within NYS. Copper sulfate can be toxic to fish when not properly applied. Current law forbids any herbicide application within the waters of NYS without a permit and all application must be made by a commercial applicator certified in the application of aquatic algaecide or herbicide.
Cutting - In 1980 attempts were made to cut the vegetation by dragging anything from chains to bedsprings from behind boats. Not only did this cause fragmentation, it also disturbed the sediment from the bottom of the lake, possibly resulting in increased nutrient levels within the water column. In 1981 the association purchased a small tag-a-long weed cutter. Since this cutter had no means to collect or harvest, attempts were made by members around the lake to remove the cuttings. While many cuttings were harvested, many more were not, which resulted in the increase of the vegetation. The weed cutter was sold in 1988.
Grass Carp - In 1996, the association applied for and received a permit to stock grass carp into the lake. Through an "Adopt a Carp" program, property owners were encouraged to adopt one or more carp at a cost of $10.00 each. In return, they received an adoption certificate with the number of fish adopted. In May, 1997, 175 grass carp were introduced into the lake at no cost to the association. When introduced, the fish were an average of 10 inches in length. Presently, it is not unusual to see schools of grass carp, some as long as 30 inches in length, working the weedbeds around the lake. Unfortunately, Eurasian Milfoil is not one of their most favorite plants, but since it is our most common plant in the lake, they are commonly seen working the milfoil beds.
Actions by Individuals - Over the past several years, certain property owners attempted to control nuisance vegetation with small cutters that are either dragged behind a boat or thrown out from shore with a rope. Since these cutters offer no means to collect or harvest the fragments, research proves that this method only accelerates the problem. In August, 1998, a motion was made and passed that "effective immediately, the association must approve any attempts of aquatic vegetation management by any property owner, with the exception of small amount of hand pulling and removing of plants from swimming areas". Unfortunately, the practice of irresponsible cutting continues by a few property owners.
NYSFOLA - Membership to the New York State Federation of Lakes Association, Inc. has allowed us to participate in programs such as CSLAP which has helped us identify the various species of vegetation. By attending their annual conferences, we have been able to keep current with the research regarding this problem and possible control. Their Scientific Advisory Board also provided Dr. John Peverly, of Cornell University, to be a speaker at one of our monthly meetings. During this meeting, Dr. Peverly conducted a field trip around the lake identifying various species of aquatic vegetation within the lake. It was during this meeting that we were first made aware of the presence of Eurasian Milfoil in Melody Lake.
Newsletter - The Melody Lake Newsletter has also been used as an educational tool used to distribute information regarding the causes and possible solutions to our vegetation problem.
Winter Drawdown -Over the past several years, the late fall and early winter water levels were reduced by opening the drains of the lake. Research indicates that by exposing the roots to the freezing temperatures could cause the plant to die, thereby reducing it's population. Since Eurasian Milfoil grows to depths of 20', we could not expose the roots of the densest areas of milfoil so we may actually be affecting the more desirable, native plants and opening up more areas for milfoil. Research also shows that while initial drawdown may reduce the phosphorus levels, these levels usually return, and possibly increase, when the lake is refilled.
SOURCES OF SEDIMENT
Water moving over the Earth's surface is known as runoff and is estimated
to be responsible for more than 85% of lake and stream water quality problems.
Many times this runoff contains unseen sources of pollution that does not
originate from a single, easily identifiable source. This is known
as a nonpoint source pollution. Examples of a nonpoint source could
be a failing septic system, household chemicals, road salt, or soil runoff
from surrounding properties. In the case of sediment, improper land
use activities around the lake may be the cause. When development increases
around the lake, impervious surfaces increase from larger buildings,
driveways, etc.. Instead of water seeping into the ground, it hits the
hard surfaces and runs off the land faster, carrying sediment and pollutants
Another cause of sediment is when soil is disturbed. Many times during construction around the lake, the ground is disturbed or loosened right up to the shoreline. Any rainfall during this construction period will carry large volumes of sediment directly into the lake. Even after the construction is complete, property owners tend to groom their property right up to the shoreline. This practice will allow the rainfall to run off faster, carrying soil particles along with it. The steeper the slope and the shorter the vegetation at the shoreline, the faster the runoff and the greater the volume of sediment that is carried with it. This total grooming also many times allows erosion from wave action or winter ice to occur. Research shows that if some sort of taller vegetation was left along the shoreline, much of our sediment problems could be reduced or eliminated. While most lakeshore property owners do not want tall trees or brush that may block their view of the lake, even a simple measure such as allowing the lawn within the closest 15 - 20 feet of the lake to grow taller and slow down the runoff could drastically reduce the input. This area of taller or denser vegetation is known as a buffer zone.
WHAT HAS BEEN DONE ABOUT IT?
Gabion Basket - In the mid 1990's gabion baskets were placed upstream in the tributary of the inlet adjacent to the meeting right-of-way (lot 113). The thought was that this would allow the water to pond at the baskets, causing the soil particles to settle to the bottom as the water filters through the baskets before entering the inlet. From the amount of sediment removed each year upstream of the gabions, this has resulted positively to reduce the sediment into this inlet.
Other Actions - Unfortunately, little or nothing else has been done to address this problem around Melody Lake.
WHAT HAS BEEN DONE ABOUT IT?
Deeds - All deeds within the sub-division contain certain setback requirements
property lines, road, and the lake.
By-Laws - Section VI, D, (2) of the by-laws of the association
states that "No multiple dwelling, building above two stories, or other
building shall be erected within ten (10) feet of any side boundary, nor
fifty (50) feet from the lake shore line, nor ten (10) feet from the line
of any road, street, or avenue adjoining the lake...".
Section VI, D,(2) states that "One dwelling, one garage, one utility building and one privy shall be erected on one lot owned by the same owner or owners and all structures shall be of a finished exterior. The dwelling may be a trailer."
Section VI, D,(12) states that "Property owners shall be responsible for the appropriate maintenance of their property."
Section VI, D, (14) states that "All rules and regulations of the State of NY must be obeyed."
Section V, A, of the bylaws of the association calls for an Environmental
Committee with the following responsibilities:
* To determine what the County Health Department's standards are for the disposal of waste matters by property owners.
* To keep property owners informed about such standards.
* To pursue a program of surveillance in order to insure that those standards are followed.
* To communicate with the County Health Department concerning any continuing violations of their standards.
In carrying out these responsibilities, the committee shall make every effort to contact property owners by letter, phone, or personal contact concerning possible violations of the County Health Department standards. After such efforts have been made, the committee shall report the alleged violations to the County Health Department and request that the department take investigative and corrective actions. The Committee will inform the Executive Board, through the President, of any action it takes.
Even though most property owners agreed that this is an important committee,
they were reluctant to volunteer to serve. This committee has been
non existent for the past several years.
On-Site Wastewater Treatment Laws in NYS
The current laws regarding on-site wastewater treatment in NYS were
developed, and continue to be based on the assumption that the most desirable
method of filtering is through the soil. While it is basically true
that a new, approved system will remove most solids and bacteria before
reaching surface water or groundwater, the soil eventually fills in, causing
a breakdown or failure of the system. This breakdown or failure is
most likely the primary cause of the lower water quality conditions within
New York State. New technology and development has resulted
in new treatment methods that are much more desirable, practical, and efficient
than the present approved systems. Problems with the current regulations
* inconsistent or even nonexistent enforcement
* newer technologies or development are not allowed
* there is a lack of any maintenance or inspection responsibilities required by property owners
* once an approved system is installed, no further monitoring is required unless a failure in obvious
Under a recent initiative by the New York State Federation of Lake Associations,
Inc (NYSFOLA), legislation is being proposed to:
* allow new technology and development when designing an onsite wastewater system within NYS
* require that all systems be inspected whenever the transfer of property occurs
* require that all maintenance records become a permanent part of the property records
* any investment in maintenance or improvement will become a tax deduction
* require training requirement and certification of any installers or inspectors of onsite wastewater systems
Legal Action if Necessary
What can be done if all attempts fail when dealing with any property
owner that is causing harm to the lake? There have been some instances
in New York State where the builder or property owner was notified that
their actions were causing harm to the water quality of the lake but continued
their actions anyway. In one case, the courts decided that one suffering
the effects of pollution of one's lake can also argue that the violator
has committed a "trespass", which basically means they have intentionally
put something on your property in violation of your rights, or that the
violator was, at minimum, negligent. On one lake in NYS, a property
owner and their builder were sued by other property owners for both trespass
and negligence when siltation during construction activity caused turbidity
to the lake, seeking recovery of damages.
Legal action should only be used as a last resort. When a property owner is notified that their actions are causing a problem, or worsening an existing problem, and the property owner continues, legal action may be necessary. At many lakes, this could pertain to faulty septic systems, improper weed control or many other activities that could cost all property owners more money in the future.
The following steps have been suggested and should be taken to attempt to lessen and perhaps even eliminate some of the problems and concerns around Melody Lake:
* Invite representatives of companies engaged in the chemical, mechanical, or biological control of Eurasian Watermilfoil and other nuisance aquatic vegetation to the September, 2002 association meeting to inform association members of the various control measures available.
* Ask the Town of Willet permission to have the meeting at the town hall to attempt greater participation.
* Notify all Melody Lake property owners about the meeting and the purpose of the meeting and encourage their participation.
* Offer free newsletter space in the 2003 newsletter to all participating vendors so they may offer information and suggestions regarding their particular type of aquatic vegetation control.
* Make tracing dye available to all property owners.
* Change the time that the newsletter is prepared and sent to property owners to attempt to include the CSLAP testing results from the previous year.
* Continue CSLAP lake testing.
* Expand lake testing to include testing water from tributaries entering the lake.
* Investigate the possibility of expanding lake testing to include dissolved oxygen or other water quality parameters.
* Dedicate the 2003 newsletter primarily to aquatic vegetation, sedimentation, and other water quality concerns.
* Re-establish the Environmental Committee with newly defined responsibilities to address additional environmental concerns.
* Develop a program to inform real estate agents attempting to sell property within the subdivision regarding the issues addressed in this management plan and request the information be shared with all prospective buyers.
* Educate all property owners about the importance of sediment control and require such controls during construction activities.
* Require buffer zones at the shore line of all association owned property.
* Educate all lakeshore property owners of the importance of buffer
strips and encourage their development.
2004 AND BEYOND
* Continue lake testing to monitor condition of Melody Lake as long as it is available and affordable.
* Establish a working relationship with the Cortland County and Chenango County Soil and Water Conservation Service to pursue better sediment control in the inlets of the lake.
* Install any sediment controls that are practical and affordable.
* Encourage all property owners to have their septic systems inspected and then set up a routine maintenance program.
* Educate property owners around the lake of the importance of sanitary and other environmental laws and to attempt to solve the problems without the involvement of legal action.
* Establish a better relationship with the Cortland County Health Department to enforce violations to the sanitary laws when all previous attempts have failed.
* Establish a better relationship with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to enforce the environmental laws when all previous attempts have failed.
* Investigate ways to stop irresponsible weed cutting by individual
property owners through education and then pursue legal action if necessary.
* Work with local and county highway departments, local utilities, and other property owners to require better sediment control when performing construction and maintenance activities within the Melody Lake Watershed.
* Continue to monitor the current research regarding water drawdown and other water quality concerns.
* Provide all property owners with a list of literature, publications, website addresses, etc. regarding the topic of water quality and land use issues to help them make better decisions.
* Investigate possible discounts for property owners from local septic contractors and then encourage all property owners to use these contractors.
* Encourage increased attendance and participation at association meetings.
* Educate members on various means of discouraging geese and the proper disposal of droppings from the geese.
* Discourage the practice of discarding the remaining contents of their bait buckets into the lake.
* Encourage the use of water reduction plumbing fixtures whenever available.
* Discourage discarding waste or compost into the ditches and shoreline around the lake to prevent it from adding nutrients into the water.
* Support of the recent changes being proposed to modernize the current onsite wastewater treatment laws within New York State.
* Encourage better property maintenance from all property owners.
* Include links to water quality websites on the Melody Lake Association website.
* Pursue grants and any other funding sources available to accomplish the goals of this management plan.
As owners of lake shore property, we have the obligation to take a serious look at the way we live and consider the effect that it has on Melody Lake. Melody Lake watershed is generally undeveloped outside of the Melody Lake Subdivision, therefore the quality of the lake is mainly due to the activities we insist upon around the lake.
One of the most important recommendations in this lake management plan is to reestablish the Environmental Committee. This committee will work with property owners to assure that the actions that they are taking meet the requirements of both the Cortland County Health Department and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Any problems or violations will attempt to be corrected without the involvement of these agencies. If however, these efforts fail, these agencies must then be involved. Once this involvement takes place, we must insist that these agencies take all steps necessary to assure compliance.
We would like to emphasize that this is a new beginning for Melody Lake. The recommendations contained in this management plan are only recommendations and will change from time. We thank everyone who voiced their opinions and concerns, and gave their suggestions to keep this project moving.
Our goal is to attempt to please the majority of the property owners
around Melody Lake without lowering the quality of the lake or it's watershed.
Waterworks - New York State Federation of Lake Associations, Inc. (NYSFOLA)
Diet For a Small Lake - New York State Federation of Lake Associations, Inc. and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
your lake & you - North American Lake Management Society
Eurasian Watermilfoil Fact Sheet - Stephen A. LaMere, Adirondack Ecologists
Influence of Factors Associated with Water Level Drawdown on Phosphorus Release from Sediments - R. Lawrence Klotz and Susan A. Linn
Fingerlakes Lanscape: Landscaping for Erosion Control - Cornell Cooperative Extension of Onondaga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties.
What's Phosphorous Got to Do With It? - M. Elizabeth Conners
The Lake Book, A Guide to Reducing Water Pollution at Home - Biology Department, State Universirty College at Oneonta
An Introduction to Lake Restoration and Management - Princeton Hydro, LLC
Managing Lakes and Reservoirs - Terrene Institute
LakeLine - North American Lake Management Society (NALMS)