July 2023

July 2023

Volume 7, July 2023

AHOY! Greetings

I would like to begin this month by thanking everyone who came to the inaugural A Day At The Lake on June 10th. By all measures, our signature event was a great success! The weather was perfect, we christened a new water quality monitoring boat, over two dozen Vessel Safety Checks were completed, many faces were painted, and a whole bunch of ice cream sandwiches were eaten. I hope you enjoyed the day.

A shout out to Chris Bechtler, our host, for donating the use of Crazy Horse Marina. And a huge thank you to our co-chairs – Nancy Davenport and Cindy Lennon for all their hard work to make the event happen.

Mark your calendars – next year’s A Day At The Lake is June 8, 2024.

Membership Matters

Have you ever asked yourself the question, does my SMLA membership matter? The the past month may have answered that for you. It did for me.

On June 6th, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) issued a Swimming Advisory for the entire Blackwater arm of Smith Mountain Lake. This was the first such advisory in the history of SML and it caused concern and hardship for residents, vacationers, and businesses.

I am proud how quickly SMLA responded to keep the community informed with details and resources about the Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB). We sent you periodic updates through email, posted on social media, issued news releases, provided coverage to the local newspapers and television stations, created an online HAB Resource Center and hosted a Town Hall with lake experts to answer your questions. SMLA became the “go-to” resource for you and the community. It is impressive work for our volunteer organization.

In previous communications, I’ve mentioned we established a Lake Quality Council (LQC) whose primary objective is to protect the water of SML. The LQC is comprised of technical members of the SMLA Board of Directors representing our clean water programs. Their work includes spending time anticipating and identifying the hazards that may impact SML water quality. The HAB outbreak was one of those hazards.

Your generous support allowed us to create the HAB Resource Center, participate in the Virginia water quality conference, and most recently, purchase a new handheld phycocyanin meter. The new tool provides SMLA with the ability to quickly test water samples and get an understanding of what may be impacting our clean lake.

Your membership absolutely matters!

Above is Keri Green, SMLA LQC Chair, using the new phycocyanin meter yesterday on the Ferrum water quality monitoring boat

SMLA 2000

SMLA 2000 is an initiative to increase our membership base to 2,000 individuals, families and business partners by the end of 2023. While that may appear to be an aggressive goal, consider there are over 10,000 lake-front property owners in the three counties surrounding SML. Having 20% of them as SMLA members seems reasonable. But we need your help because we have more, much more, work to do to protect the health of SML.

Increasing our membership will allow SMLA to expand our water monitoring program by:
Purchasing additional monitoring equipment geared to detecting HAB and other water quality issues
Increasing our technical cooperation and testing capabilities with our academic partner, Ferrum College
Providing funding for technical internships
Broadening our scope of technical liaisons
How can you help? Spread the word about the good work we’re doing to protect and preserve SML. Invite family, friends, neighbors and colleagues to become SMLA members. Get your homeowners association involved. Ask them to join you and be a Steward of the Lake!

Harmful Algal Bloom Update

On July 7th, VDH lifted the advisory for the lower portion of the Blackwater arm. This includes the confluence of the Blackwater with Gills Creek at channel marker B-16. However, the swimming advisory remains in the upper Blackwater arm, upstream from Gills Creek. Visit our HAB Resource Center for more information and details.

Click Here for the HAB Resource Center

Water Quality Monitoring Program

Our water quality monitoring program is in full swing. The results of the first three weeks of water quality monitoring are below:

To quote Tom Hardy, Chair of the SMLA Water Quality Monitoring Program, “all readings are consistent with the increased growth of algae that we have observed so far this year, which can lead to reduced water clarity and higher chlorophyll-a readings, and may be stimulated by higher phosphorous content in the water. Still, these readings represent just three weeks of sampling, with three more sampling periods yet to come. Let’s see if these numbers rally in the second half of the sampling season.”

Save Our Streams

The spring monitoring season for 19 streams that flow into SML was completed the first week of June. Fall monitoring is due to begin on September 1st and run until the end of November.

  • Highlights of the spring 2023 Monitoring Report include:
    13 of 19 streams, or 68%, of the streams monitored were satisfactory. This result is comparable to last year and better than the 2022 Virginia statewide average of 54%.
  • Of the three new streams added to the program, two rated as satisfactory and the third is reported as gray area. The addition of these streams closes a gap we had on the Bedford side of the lake near the dam.

Priorities for the summer include:

  • Area Girl Scout stream orientation at Camp Icimani (completed June 21st)
    Stream orientation at annual Nature Expo, sponsored by the Blue Ridge Foothill and Lake Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists, at Booker T. Washington National Monument (completed July 8th)
    Continue orientation and training for new volunteers, moving them towards certification
    Selection of stream monitoring site for Betty’s Creek or Becky’s Creek
    Appointment of a selection committee for the SML Clean Stream Award

Really Want to Make a Difference?

You guessed it, plant a buffer garden. This is one of the best ways lake-front property owners can protect the health of SML. The Mariners Landing/SMLA demonstration buffer garden project has made additional progress this past month. We have completed grading plus riprap, landscape fabric, plants and mulch are now in place. Above is a current photo of the lowest lying area that is being planted with rain garden varieties. Visit our website for more buffer garden information and learn how you can get started.

Click Here for Buffer Garden Information

Annual Volunteer Awards – Call for Nominations

Every year, SMLA presents two community awards at our annual membership meeting. The awards recognize individuals, or groups, who have made significant contributions to the SML community over the past year or an extended time period. Nominations for the Melvin S. Johnston Citizen Volunteer Award and the Spirit of the Lake Award will be accepted until August 31st. Visit our website to review the award descriptions and nomination forms.

Click Here for the Annual Awards

Save the Date
SMLA Annual Membership Meeting
September 29, 2023

HAB Town Hall

On July 6th, SMLA hosted a town hall to bring together subject matter experts from statewide agencies to share information about the current Harmful Algal Bloom situation. The goal was to further educate residents, and all those who enjoy SML, about the HAB situation; address questions; and share solutions that can protect the health of SML. Visit our website for a complete meeting summary including VDH and DEQ presentations and the Q&A session.

Click Here for the Town Hall Meeting