Driven by the arrival of two significant water quality threats on Lake George over the past year—harmful algal blooms and the hemlock wooly adelgid—more than 50 area businesses and business organizations have joined together to sign a historic compact declaring their “united commitment to protecting the lake that means so much to all of us.”
The Business Compact on the Economic Imperative of Protecting Lake George was spearheaded by the Lake George Association’s Council of Business Advisors and presents data on the lake’s regional economic impacts and the water quality challenges that threaten them.
It also spells out ways in which the business community will work together for lake protection.
The compact can be signed by any business or organization that values the fundamental role the lake plays in the economic health of the region and the regional quality of life, the association said. It can be viewed online and signed at LakeGeorgeAssociation.org/Business-Compact.
The first 58 signatories endorsed the compact within a week of its development.
“This is just the beginning of an unprecedented collaborative effort on the part of the region’s business community to invest in, advocate for, and take direct protective actions to safeguard Lake George’s legendary water quality for the long-term,” said Kathy Flacke Muncil, CEO of the Fort William Henry Corp. and chair of the LGA’s Council of Business Advisors. “If Lake George were to lose its water quality, the economic impacts to our region would be unfathomable. Loss of businesses and jobs. Loss of tax revenue. Loss of property values. We simply cannot and will not stand by and let that happen.”
“Our tourism businesses can spend all the money in the world on marketing and providing a world-class visitor experience for our guests, but without the crystal-clear waters of the Lake our region would suffer immeasurably,” said Tom Guay, general manager of The Sagamore Resort and a Council of Business Advisors member. “It’s time to focus on the single greatest asset this region has.”
The Business Compact cites a 2020 study by the Lake Champlain-Lake George Regional Planning Board that found Lake George generates $2 billion in annual economic activity, supports more than 500 tourism businesses (not to mention the many other businesses that provide products and services to the tourism industry) . It is also responsible for generating nearly $630 million in direct tourism spending.
Also cited is research conducted on Lake Champlain, which found that a three-foot loss in water clarity results in a $12.6 million decrease in summer tourism spending, the loss of hundreds of regional jobs, and a 37 percent depreciation in seasonal home values.
Over the past 30-plus years, data collected by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Darrin Freshwater Institute in Bolton Landing have documented declining water quality levels throughout the lake, punctuated by a steady increase in nutrients such as phosphorous, which have been linked to the formation of harmful algal blooms.
Lake George experienced its first confirmed harmful algal blooms (HABs) over the past year. Although these incidents have been relatively small and short-lived, they have demonstrated that the lake is at risk for the extensive blooms that have devastated lakes and lake-based economies across the country.
The summer of 2020 also saw the first significant infestation in the lake’s watershed of the hemlock wooly adelgid (HWA), an insect that threatens the health of the hemlock trees that make up a vast portion of the region’s forested landscape and provide critical cooling and cleansing for the lake and its tributaries.
The businesses signing the Business Compact have pledged to:
• Advocate for implementation by New York state of the priority actions called for in the state’s HABs Action Plan for Lake George.
• Support scientific monitoring of conditions in Lake George and work with the researchers, advocates, municipal officials, and others who recognize the urgency of actions on both HABs and HWA to protect water quality.
• Support science-guided programs, policies and actions to reduce the risk of future HAB occurrences in the lake and to contain the spread of HWA in forests.
• Evaluate their own businesses’ impacts on the lake, particularly in regard to septic systems and stormwater management, with the aim of making improvements that benefit the Lake and the businesses.
“This demonstration of support for Lake George by our business community is inspiring and absolutely essential for long-term water quality protection,” said LGA President Eric Siy. “Protecting Lake George requires dedicated action by everyone with a stake in the future of our region, and businesses are at the top of that list. We look forward to working with them to turn the Compact into measurable successes.”