Here are several items of interest regarding our wonderful lake:
Lake Drawdown: This year’s Onota Lake drawdown was disappointing! The drawdown commenced on October 15 and ceased on November 30, achieving only a cumulative 1.5 ft drop below spillway level at the dam. The weather and mandated outflow restrictions apparently worked against the City’s ability to achieve the permitted 2.0 ft drawdown within the allowed 45-day period. After cessation of the drawdown, the City’s is permitted to balance inflow and outflow to maintain a stable water level until refill commences, and refill should be completed by April 1. The weather, however, did not cooperate, while the City continued to adhere to the drawdown outflow restrictions. Almost immediately after cessation of the drawdown, the lake began to refill. The water level is now being maintained at approximately 0.5 ft below spillway level.
LOPA Volunteer Monitoring Report: 2021 was a very good year! LOPA partners with the City of Pittsfield to monitor the aquatic plant population, the health of the recreational fishery, water quality, and cyanobacteria. The results of those efforts are summarized each year in our Volunteer Monitoring report. Twenty years of these reports can be found at the LOPA website, and 2021 report is now available. The highlights for Onota Lake in 2021 are:
- Beneficial native aquatic plants are making an impressive
- The lake has a diverse, healthy fish assemblage
- Water quality remains
- Cyanobacteria did not pose any serious health
The 2021 report can be downloaded at the home page of the LOPA website.
Burbank Park Boat Wash Station: Excellent news on the Zebra Mussel front! Pittsfield’s Community Preservation Committee (CPC) determined in December that the City/LOPA proposal for a hot water boat wash station at Burbank Park is eligible for Community Preservation Act Funding in 2023. Previously, the Parks Commission had supported the proposal, and the Conservation Commission wrote a letter of support. The next step is for LOPA to work with the City to develop a full (CPC) proposal for funding this crucial initiative for keeping Zebra mussels out of Onota Lake. The full proposal is due in mid-February, and will be posted at the LOPA website. Boat washing can also help prevent transfer of the invasive Asian clam (recently documented in Onota Lake) to other waters.
ProcellaCor Update: Beneficial native plants need protection from invasive weeds! The City in 2021 contracted with Solitude Lake Management to treat 260 acres of Onota Lake with ProcellaCOR, a new systemic herbicide manufactured by SEPRO, which targets the milfoil that has been choking Onota Lake for thirty years. The treatment results through midsummer 2022 were excellent: no milfoil at all was found following treatment in 2021 and only isolated strands around the lake were found in July 2022. Furthermore, an August survey revealed a vigorous rebound of the native aquatic plant population. Last summer, Onota Lake seemed healthier than it had been in quite a while. LOPA volunteers and City-contracted divers worked to contain the spread of milfoil with hand-pulling, but these efforts ultimately proved unsuccessful at satisfactorily controlling milfoil’s spread. By late August the nasty weed was launching a worrisome counterattack, as large patches of Eurasian milfoil began showing up in the north basin of the lake. A September survey revealed a worsening situation, and who knows what we will find when the ice melts in the spring. The 2021 ProcellaCOR treatment did come with some guarantees from SEPRO that will cover the cost of 2023 retreatment in parts of the lake where milfoil regrowth is dense. The City intends a rigorous survey of milfoil regrowth in the spring to figure out the most appropriate retreatment areas, and there is still one year left on the SEPRO guarantee. Stay tuned!
Greenagers Event: A great day for kids on the lake! Last July, LOPA volunteers partnered with the Greenagers Project Connection summer program to host a group of W.E.B. Du Bois Middle School students, plus Housatonic Valley Association staff and several college-age interns, for a day on Onota Lake.
Thankfully, the weather cooperated. The kids learned a bit about how LOPA goes about monitoring aquatic vegetation and water quality. As a bonus, they found the eagles’ nest and spotted two juvenile eagles flying about. The Greenagers event was a fine example of LOPA’s education and outreach mission, and just a darn nice way to cultivate the next generation of lake preservationists.
I hope you have renewed your LOPA membership by now. But if not, you can do so now by visiting www.onotalake.com. I also hope you will visit our website to stay abreast of future LOPA announcements. Thank you for supporting the preservation of our lake!
Mike Riordan, LOPA President