This article was featured in the 2023 Winter Newsletter by Aaron McKeon-CNY RPDB
Oneida Lake is the largest lake entirely within New York State, with a surface area of nearly 80 square miles and a watershed larger than the state of Rhode Island. The lake has been continuously monitored by Cornell’s Biological Field Station since 1956, for fish, and since 1975 for other components of the ecosystem, and a plan for the watershed was developed by a large group of stakeholders and local leaders in 2005. Since then, there have been numerous studies of the lake and its tributaries, but no formal planning has occurred at the watershed scale.
The Oneida Lake Watershed Nine Element (9E) Plan, which kicked off in summer 2022, will build on past planning, state-of-the-art digital modeling, and community input to develop a strategy to address water quality concerns including invasive species in and around Oneida Lake. Working in partnership with Madison County, the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board, and the Cornell Biological Field Station, the 9E Watershed Advisory Committee (WAC) will identify a set of goals for the lake – particularly, a balanced approach to managing nutrient inputs from the watershed, such as from agricultural fertilizers and failing septic systems. In addition to harmful algal blooms and climate change, Oneida Lake faces an ongoing and ever-evolving threat in the form of aquatic invasive species.
Invasive species have played and will continue to play, an influential role in the Oneida Lake ecosystem. Given its location on the New York-Erie Barge Canal, organisms can access the lake from the Great Lakes to the west and from the Hudson-Mohawk river system to the east. White perch, zebra mussels, and water chestnut – species that were documented decades ago – have affected the structure of the lake ecosystem. Newer arrivals, such as quagga mussels (in 2005), round goby (in 2014), and spiny waterfleas (in 2019), have brought new challenges and changes to the lake’s water quality.
A virtual public meeting for the 9E plan was held on January 24th. You can find a recording of this meeting on the Oneida Lake Watershed Management Plan website. If you have comments or questions on this process email email@example.com.