As the Upper Saranac Foundation (USF) turns the page on 2023 and looks ahead to a bright 2024 and beyond, let’s take a moment to celebrate our cooperative accomplishments.
Bartlett Carry Dam: After five years of planning, grant writing, and fundraising, work has begun on the Bartlett Carry Dam. The project began when the USF initiated an engineering review after a sinkhole appeared during a high-water incident. The primary goal of this project is to secure the dam’s future, preserve and protect Upper Saranac Lake (USL), and ensure that all safety and regulatory requirements are met. Preparations to date include hiring an engineer, performing tests and analysis, surveying, developing an emergency action plan, engineering assessments, obtaining permits, enhancing site access, and hiring a contractor that has begun work. The dam renovation is scheduled to continue through next summer with an anticipated completion by the fall of 2024.
Water Quality Monitoring: USF, in collaboration with the Adirondack Watershed Institute, continued water quality monitoring and analysis of seven tributaries and the two basins of USL. Data collected is used to identify potential problems such as emerging harmful algal blooms (HABs). This analysis also observes trends in water quality over time that guides management; providing recommendations to protect the watershed against future threats.
In response to this year’s HABs, the USF enacted its Emergency Action Plan of taking water samples for analysis and submitting data to the state departments of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and Health. The USF also sent notification emails to over 1,300 watershed users and notices to USF social media followers. The USF advised lake users to be on the lookout for the blooms and of the potential dangers associated with them.
Environmental Advocacy: The USF provided input to Santa Clara and Harrietstown to guide land use management decisions as well as NYSDEC and Adirondack Park Agency Unit Management Plans for the Fish Creek and Rollins Pond Campgrounds and the Saranac Lake Wild Forest, which includes the Upper Saranac watershed. The USF has actively been engaged with its partners calling for the state to fulfill its legal obligation in conducting a long-overdue carrying capacity study for the Saranac Chain of Lakes.
Funding: In 2023, USF applied for and received over $65,000 in grant funding for watershed protection that was dedicated to AIS removal and lake management projects.
Invasive Species Prevention and Management: USL and Fish Creek Campground AWI Watershed Stewards inspected over 3,000 boats and educated nearly 6,000 visitors about AIS. Watershed Stewards performed 391 boat decontaminations at USF’s Decontamination Station on USL, and intercepted 10 confirmed AIS.
The USF worked cooperatively with volunteers on terrestrial invasive removal projects, native pollinator gardens, and performing early detection surveys to identify new introductions. We continue to work with private boat launches to convey AIS spread prevention outreach measures for launching compliance.
The USF Dive Team concluded another successful season of aquatic invasive species (AIS) hand-harvesting management — the second year operating our own crew. In the past, the USF contracted for this service. Running our own operation reduces expenses and provides a direct management approach, further increasing efficiency.
Since 2004, there has been a steady and significant reduction in the amount of AIS in Upper Saranac Lake. The last two years have marked the lowest amount of milfoil retrieved to date with under 100 pounds found in USL and Lower Fish Creek Pond combined. We also continue to expand our AIS management operation into the headwaters at Follensby Clear, Fish Creek, and Square Ponds, thwarting downstream introductions. Despite the drop off in USL, we continue to stay vigilant. Without annual AIS management, the reduced population would quickly rebound to problematic levels.
The Upper Saranac Foundation appreciates the support we receive to continue our mission of preserving and protecting the natural beauty, environmental quality, and recreational enjoyment of the Upper Saranac watershed. Contributions made to USF are critical for our day-to-day operations.