Honeoye Inlet Restoration
Pesticides; fertilizers; increased upstream development. This all leads to increased sediment transport, excessive nutrient loading, soil erosion, and degradation of water quality downstream. All along the way, we get destruction of wildlife habitat – mammals, amphibians, fish and birds are all affected. And then, the dreaded blue-green algae! What to do?!?
We have all heard about these issues. Sometimes it gets overwhelming to take it all in. But sometimes we get to hear about solutions. Practical solutions that use nature’s own methods to protect our precious resources. In January I had the opportunity to hear about a completed project that is making a difference in the Honeoye Lake watershed. I attended a presentation by Megan Webster of the Ontario County Soil and Water Conservation District on a project recently completed at the south end of Honeoye Lake.
At the south end of the lake, the bottom land had been carved up for agriculture. The original natural stream was replaced by a narrow, deeply incised, constructed channel. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, right? So that means the engineered channel was steep and fast flowing, causing significant erosion. And the flow from the inlet was contributing 30% of the sediments and nutrients that were getting into the lake.
The solution was a simple one, really. Remove the straight drainage channel and replace it with a wider, meandering, naturally vegetated stream channel. Now the distance to the lake is considerably longer, which means it is not as steep. This slows down the flow of water, giving the sediment and nutrients a chance to settle and be captured and absorbed before they get to the lake.
This 3,700 foot section of stream channel is doing its job because it allows water to slow down and spread out, and uses nature to filter out sediment and nutrients. This increases opportunities for recreation and improves habitat for fish and other wildlife. In the short time since the completion of the project, monitoring indicates that it is doing just what it is supposed to do. And that’s great news for Honeoye Lake, and all of its residents, human and otherwise.
If you would like to learn more about it, check out the Honeoye Valley Association webpage (hvaweb.org) and see the presentation on the 2017 Symposium Inlet update. Thanks to Dr. Bruce Gilman and FLCC for arranging this presentation as part of their “Speaking of Nature” series of talks at Muller Field Station.
Photos courtesy of Megan Webster