SMLA Annual Membership Meeting Questions and Responses:
In our continuing effort to both educate and advise our members and residents on SMLA’s mission to protect the water of SML and promote safe recreation, the following questions were addressed during the Annual Membership Meeting, as well as those received but unable to answer at the time. Responses are provided by SMLA Board members.
What were the primary SMLA goals for year 2020 and were they achieved, modified, or postponed due to Covid-19?
- A recently revised SMLA strategic plan outlines specific program goals with each project having specific goals, strategies and tactics.
- The “20,000 foot” level goal is to provide benefit to our members and residents. SMLA seeks to promote and fund projects that make a difference to all of us in support of our mission.
- 2020 project goals included: Smart Lake (remotely sensing water monitoring), a method to detect and track algae, summarize two separate studies having like-conclusions on Mussel survivability in SML, identifying opportunities to enhance debris cleanup, reducing the boating accident/incident rate and having zero water recreational fatalities, educating boaters on wake surfing etiquette, among others.
- Our agenda today answered this question. Many Water Safety Council, Save Our Streams, Fishery Habitat, Take Pride in SML, and Youth Education activities were significantly curtailed. Water Quality Monitoring, Buffer Landscaping, Vessel Pumpout, Invasive Species and Debris Removal had either full or limited activities.
Water Safety Council:
What is being done to alleviate the damage being done by wake boats?
- Education & Awareness – social media, classes, signage, personal contact.
Side note: Be aware of large wakes since they can come from a variety of boats and operating procedures.
What are the top two or three suggestions to keep safe on the Lake?
- Life Jackets, Life Jackets, Life Jackets
- “Defensive Boating”. Be aware of the other guy. Control speed for conditions & Watch for unexpected wakes.
- Towed water sports – keep out of confined (narrow) waterways. Stay in open water and well away from structures. Remember that towing a skier or tuber does not alter responsibility to follow navigational rules
How does the WSC promote safety on the Lake?
- Education & Awareness channeled through our members. Continued interfacing with regulatory agencies. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate,
Water Quality Monitoring:
How many water sampling locations are there around the lake?
- There are 89 sampling locations around the lake that are sampled by the SMLA WQM monitors who take water samples and Secchi disk reading for water clarity. Additionally, Ferrum College does bacterial sampling at 14 pairs of locations around the lake and also does depth profiling at another 8 locations.
How much does it cost each year to run the water quality sampling program at Smith Mountain Lake?
- The annual cost of the water quality monitoring program is about $70,000. This is paid for by a combination of sources including AEP, the Bedford and SW Virginia Water companies, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and from membership dues from the SMLA members. The majority of the funds from the program come from AEP.
What should I do if I see a concentration of algae in my cove?
- Please report any algae bloom via the Algae Reporting Tool developed by Ferrum College and SMLA for this exact purpose. It can be found at: https//:bit.ly/SMLAlgae.
- Reporting algae blooms using this tool will allow us to have the needed information to do source tracking and hopefully to be able to stop the source of the item(s) causing the bloom.
I have grass running down to my riprap. I was always told that grass slows water flow into the lake. Are you saying that this actually increases the chance of harmful pollutants getting into the lake water?
- The US Environmental Protection Agency has reported that runoff from lawns, is a primary cause of pollution of our waterways. The extra fertilizer from lawns, pesticides, herbicides and salt are polluting our lake. And the easiest path for these bad actors to access our pristine water is across our grass.
- This problematic flow causes many issues with water quality, the most challenging being the explosive growth of algae. As the algae die and decompose, they consume dissolved oxygen in the water to the detriment of fish and other organisms that need it. Erosion can cause turbidity (cloudiness) in water, reducing the amount of light penetrating the water. This inhibits growth of aquatic plants that fish depend on. Actually, in the summer the situation is exacerbated due to warmer water which leads to less oxygen available in the water.
- An ominous data point with respect to phosphorous levels here at SML is the growth of phosphorous seen in our water monitoring. Since 2012, the phosphorous levels in SML have risen over 100% from 16.6 ppb in 2012 to an alarming 34.4 ppb in 2020 (data from SMLA / Ferrum College water quality monitoring.
What is the status of Buffer Gardening? Are homeowners “getting it”?
- Buffer Gardening is all about educating homeowners about the dangers of herbicides and pesticides using our grass as a runway into our lake. Since beginning our (light) awareness efforts 2 years ago, Buffer garden meetings has increased 4-fold.
- If you take a boat ride up the Roanoke or Blackwater, you will quickly notice that we have a very long way to go in this simple initiative that will do so much to keep our lake clean and safe to use.
How time consuming is a buffer garden? What’s the process for getting a Buffer meeting at my home?
- The Buffer Landscape volunteers who make this an easy process for homeowners are made up of Virginia Master Naturalists and Virginia Master Gardeners. These folks will work with homeowners to develop detailed Buffer Garden plans – free of charge. Our Master Gardeners and Naturalists simply provide recommendations for plantings based on what the homeowner tells us they want. The meetings are held at the homeowner’s shoreline where our Master Gardeners and Naturalists work with the homeowner to develop a plan best suited for the homeowner’s goals. It’s that simple.
- Master Gardeners / Naturalists can also build plans that address erosion issues, deer issues and maintenance issues with their plans.
- Time to install a Buffer Garden is up to the homeowner. A self-planted and managed garden will obviously take longer than one planted and maintained by a landscape company.
Save Our Streams
Do you fine or report property owners whose streams are polluted?
- No, we work with property owners to find the source of any pollution and to develop countermeasures.
Can I monitor a stream that runs along my property line?
- Yes, as soon as you become certified. You will work with a certified trainer on local sites to learn the mechanics of testing protocol and to develop bug identification skills. The process can also be completed online. After you complete your certification, your stream can be placed on the database and you may begin semi-annual testing and reporting.
How can I become certified and join a monitoring team?
What did Ferrum attribute to their claim that SML cannot support propagation of zebra mussels and other invasive mussels?
- While the temperature range in SML was within the range for zebra mussel growth, the focus was on the higher end of the range because it appears that generally Zebra Mussels spawn in the late spring-summer months. During that part of their life cycle the SML temperature (what we see annually) exceeds that optimal temperature. More importantly, calcium does not seem optimal for growth at that time. Our summers are too hot and our calcium levels too low. Despite this, education, awareness and monitoring should be maintained to lessen the likelihood of a Zebra Mussel introduction to SML.