STILLWATER -- The state is putting $75,000 behind efforts to determine the best ways to deal with stormwater runoff causing water quality problems in Saratoga Lake.
The Regional Economic Development Council awards last week included two grants to the town of Stillwater: a $45,000 Department of State grant to identify sources of excess nutrients and sediment running into the lake and develop solutions, and a $30,000 Department of Environmental Conservation grant to look at ways to reduce and treat stormwater runoff in the lake's watershed.
"We've been applying for anything and everything that could help us deal with water quality issues in the lake," said Stillwater Town Supervisor Ed Kinoski. "We're looking for the best possible means to catch whatever we can coming into the lake, whether it is soil or nutrients."
The lake, which is popular with those who fish and other recreational users, has also seen rapid residential growth in recent decades, with both new construction on the hills overlooking the lake and conversion of what were once seasonal camps into year-round housing.
The 4 1/2-mile-long, 3,800-acre lake is bordered by four municipalities: the towns of Stillwater, Saratoga and Malta, and the city of Saratoga Springs. Its main tributary is the Kayaderosseras Creek, and its watershed includes much of western Saratoga County.
DEC considers the lake "stressed" in some regards. Over recent decades, a DEC analysis shows phosphorous levels in the depths of the lake have risen, and phosphorous is a nutrient associated with soil erosion, according to U.S. government data. There are other signs of trouble for water quality, as well.
Both last summer and in 2016, Stillwater officials had to close Brown's Beach to the public after high fecal bacteria levels were found -- a problem officials have blamed on geese in the area.
While Kinowski said the lake overall has clean water, the state funding can still help with the town's efforts to manage the beach, which is the only public beach on Saratoga Lake. "It can help us with that, because it's constant testing, and it's not cheap," he said. "It will cost over $12,000 this year."
Although sewers were installed around the lake in the 1980s, runoff from snowmelt and storms still flows into the lake, bringing with it soil, debris, and trace chemical contamination.
Kinowski said the town is exploring the use of new-technology catch basins that catch more of the contaminants going into storm drains, and plans to have them installed in a high-end housing development now being planned off Luther Road.
The force and volume of runoff can also be a problem, especially during storms.
Last spring, a 200-foot section of state Route 9P on the east side of the lake had to be closed for several weeks while the state Department of Transportation made emergency repairs, after storm runoff caused a slope failure between the road and the lake. DOT officials said the area sometimes sees heavy storm runoff because the highway is located between a steep hillside and the lake, and they replaced the culvert as well as installing new foundation materials around it.
The state is expected to spend more money repairing Route 9P next year, Kinowski said, and he said other stormwater outfalls need to be addressed.
The town is working on a Waterfront Revitalization Plan that will look at the economic development opportunities all along the Stillwater section of Route 9P, which stretches from north of Snake Hill to the Malta town line, including the now-vacant Panza's restaurant property.