MARIETTA, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Central New York is home to breathtaking scenery and beautiful lakes, but for one of the Finger Lakes, it’s beauty is being slowly taken away by weeds infesting the area.

“I was living on the lake at the time [20-30 years ago], and the lake was crystal clear,” Tim Creamer, president of the Otisco Lake Preservation Association, said. 

That was about 20 years ago, and since then weeds have slowly crept into Otisco Lake making it harder for people to enjoy its beauty.

“[The weeds] get into boats,” Creamer said. “People who drive boats understand that when you drive and your boat isn’t running very well, you have to put it in reverse and blow the weeds out of your propeller, and then you can go on.”

The weeds started to appear in Otisco Lake in the early 2000s when it was found that zebra mussels, an invasive species, were in the lake. Zebra mussels can make lakes cleaner, which on one hand is great, but the zebra mussels also allow more sunlight to penetrate the lake and reach the soil, which leads to weeds growing.

Creamer said, “This year the issue is low lake level because we haven’t had a whole lot of rain, and the lake levels are a bit low even according to the OCWA (Onondaga County Water Authority) site who actively monitors the level of the lake.”

Creamer says the weeds are more concentrated at the north end of the lake, and in some cases, the lake is becoming unusable.

“If you look at areas like the narrows, where it’s relatively shallow and there is heavy weed growth and also a heavy weed burden by just natural motion of the lake, you can see that getting more shallow and more unusable,” Creamer said.

The Otisco Lake Preservation Association has used a harvester to kill some of the weeds, neighbors have even gotten creative building their own contraptions to mitigate the weeds in front of their properties.

“A guy who lives just north of me has developed this razor cutter that he basically throws out and drags in, and there’s no weeds in front of his place,” Creamer said. “He throws it out and drags it in and takes the weeds off and throws it out.”

Because Otisco Lake is the drinking water source for hundreds of thousands of Central New Yorkers, the lake association can’t use chemicals to kill the weeds. The DEC wants the natural weeds there for the fish population, and it doesn’t really affect the water quality, so the Onondaga County Water Authority is reluctant to step in.

However, the water authority is starting to realize that the weeds on Otisco Lake are becoming a real problem. 

Creamer said, “But certainly, I think you do get to the point where the weeds are dense enough, and I think OCWA is starting to understand this a little bit more, that the quality of the water is dependent on the circulation among the weeds. If you get such a dense overgrowth that the water doesn’t circulate, you’re not going to have as high of quality of water as you’d like.”

Right now, the weeds on Otisco Lake are nothing more than a nuisance, but over time it could become a much bigger problem and leave the parts of the lake unusable.

Creamer says residents on the lake have to understand that this is their problem, and it won’t go away unless they do something. 

“We brought the zebra mussels to this lake by boat traffic, they didn’t come by streams or rainfall, we brought them in,” Creamer said. “So, the more we can take the finger and point it at ourselves and say, ‘Okay, what can I do to prevent this from becoming much worse? What can I do in front of my lake?’ Then people in public works are going to be more amenable to helping you.”

It’s an unfortunate situation, but if weeds in our lakes are the most of our worries, then we are in a pretty good spot compared to other regions of the United States when it comes to their water. 

“We are so fortunate to have the freshwater that we have in this area,” Creamer said. “Even as close as northern Pennsylvania, Ohio, my friend in San Diego, my sister out in Portland, Flint, Michigan, there’s water issues in each area, and we’re so fortunate to have the water sources that we have.”

Below are some pictures of the beautiful sunsets and scenery Otisco Lake provides: