The Ausable River Association (AsRA) and Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI) released their 2019 Water Quality Report for Mirror Lake. The report shows that Mirror Lake continues to be negatively affected by road salt. The lack of mixing in the spring, first documented in 2017 by AsRA’s science team, remains a problem for the lake. During February and March of 2019, the highest chloride concentrations ever documented for the lake were observed.
As detailed in the report, the lack of spring mixing limits habitat availability for cold-water species, such as lake trout, increases internal phosphorus loading, and makes the lake more susceptible to harmful algal blooms. The report’s primary author, Dr. Brendan Wiltse, notes “last year we published these findings in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, providing clear evidence of what we have been telling the community for the past four years.”
Wiltse goes on to state, “The report summarizes monitoring in 2019. So far in 2020 we’ve seen below average salt concentrations in the lake. This is likely a result of efforts by the state, town, village, and several businesses, combined with a mild winter.” The report notes that the commitment by the town and village to the protection of Mirror Lake, and their efforts to reduce their use of road salt is commendable. The Village of Lake Placid’s new stormwater redesign is expected to help the lake return to its natural turnover by reducing concentrated salt runoff from entering the lake. Although, the long-term protection of Mirror Lake will still require everyone in Lake Placid to achieve further salt reduction goals.
The Village of Lake Placid and Town of North Elba are working with the Ausable River Association to measure their salt use, part of a larger effort funded by the Lake Champlain Basin Program and New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission to identify exactly how much salt is entering Mirror Lake and the Chubb River. Village of Lake Placid Mayor, Craig Randall, says “Mirror Lake is the crown jewel of this village and a recreational resource enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. The Ausable River watershed, into which Mirror Lake flows, provides some of the best trout fishing habitat in the Adirondack Park. A significant reduction of inflows of storm water and road salt as well as other contaminants will help to preserve Mirror Lake and the Ausable River watershed for future generations – and showcase technologies used to accomplish this in a highly developed setting.” The Town of North Elba has been using a Live Edge plow on Mirror Lake for several years an effort to reduce the amount of sand/salt mix they use. Supervisor Jay Rand says, “We sincerely appreciate the efforts of the Ausable River Association for all of their expertise and work in guiding our hand in preserving our precious resource of Mirror Lake for generations to come.”
The report includes data from the weather station installed by the Ausable River Association near the lake in November 2018. The weather station records air temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction, maximum wind speed, maximum wind direction, precipitation, solar radiation, UV index, and water temperature every 5-minutes. Over time, this will give scientists a better understanding of how climate change is impacting Mirror Lake. A 117–year ice record for the lake shows a significant decline in the duration of ice cover, 22 days fewer today than in the early-1900s.
Ausable River Association launched the Ausable Sustainable Salt Initiative last year, a collaborative partnership to leverage science, technology, best practices, and community engagement to reduce road salt use in the Ausable River watershed. Work through the initiative includes encouraging creation of the NYS DOT salt reduction pilot program, convening a 2019 SALT Summit in Lake Placid, and securing $175,000 in grant funding. These grant funds are part of a $600,000 five-year fundraising effort to turn-around the effects of road salt pollution and restore Mirror Lake. Wiltse said, “now’s the time for the community to invest in the equipment, best practices, monitoring, and training that will reduce road salt use to sustainable levels, keep the public safe, and save Mirror Lake”.
A full copy of the report can be found at www.ausableriver.org.