Canandaigua Lake protection plan gets green light

Julie Sherwood

A document guiding watershed protection focused on a thorough array of factors — landscaping practices, agriculture, development, invasive species and more — has received the green light from all 14 communities represented on the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Council.

The updated version of the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Management Plan, first adopted in 2000, came before all 14 municipal boards during the past year for their review and adoption. The plan addresses five key areas: research, education, restoration and open space protection and regulation.

“It is really nice to see it move forward,” said Canandaigua Lakes Watershed Manager Kevin Olvany. “It is confirmation of what we are seeing with the municipalities and their interest in protecting the watershed.”

Olvany said copies of the plan should be available by mid-April at town and village halls and at local libraries.

The plan draws on past accomplishments and recommends ways communities can use their regulations to manage new and ongoing threats. Areas of focus include: lot size requirements, site plan reviews and regulations regarding septic systems, steep slopes, scenic vistas, floodplains, timber harvesting and stream setbacks.

Bristol Town Supervisor Bob Green, co-chairman of the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Council, said the approval of the plan shows the commitment of area communities to working together. The plan’s approval shows “this is the direction we are taking,” Green said.

Olvany said the plan respects “home rule” in that it provides recommendations while leaving decisions about how to address those recommendations, such as through regulation, up to each individual community.

For example, a study in 2008-09 on boat traffic on the lake showed a need to revamp controls to protect the heavily used northern part of Canandaigua Lake. The idea is not to curtail existing recreation on the lake but to prevent increased boat traffic, said Olvany, who is working with like-minded groups in the Finger Lakes region to promote a water trail for non-motorized vessels such as canoes and kayaks.

Looking ahead, Olvany said he sees efforts increasing to enhance wetland areas, control runoff and stop pollution from septic systems.

A number of activities begun over the past decade or more contribute to the health of the watershed, according to Green and Council Co-chairman Fred Lightfoote, who is also Gorham’s town supervisor. They include monthly lake water samplings (April through November); completion of a land-cover map and boat-traffic study; partnership with the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association on community and school educational projects; stream and road-bank stabilizations; and wetland creation and improvements.

The towns of Gorham and Canandaigua are using open space funds to protect landscapes and to bring in additional grant dollars; the Finger Lakes Land Trust and Nature Conservancy have purchased or obtained easements on numerous key parcels that will help protect significant areas from being developed or impacted; and the council’s Uniform Docks and Moorings Law limits the size of docks and number of boat slips allowed for residential properties and commercial establishments.

The Uniform Docks and Moorings Law is the only way the council has to limit the number of boats on the lake and has been used as a model for other communities, according to the council co-chairs in announcing support for the updated Watershed Management Plan.