Protecting a Gem of the Eleven Finger Lakes

Protecting a Gem of the Eleven Finger Lakes

Q & A with Marty DeVinney, President of the Canandaigua LakeWatershed Alliance (CLWA)

What is the mission of the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Alliance?
The group formed over thirty years ago to respond to Canandaigua Lake’s deteriorating water quality. Scientific studies we’ve sponsored identified five major causes: erosion from agricultural operations and residential development, pollution frompesticides, failed septic systems, andmotor boats. Concerned citizens started the Canandaigua Lake PureWaters Association.

Like Freshwater Future, our work helped us grow into a new name. We realized that to preserve the Lake,we needed to be concerned with the entire watershed, not just the shoreline. That’s when the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Alliance was formed. An enhanced water quality monitoring program and professional watershed study developed into a Watershed Management Plan to address causes of degradation. The Plan was adopted by all municipalities in the watershed and, importantly, New York State. The Plan is updated every five years.

Today CLWA is a non-profit, volunteer, community-based organization with individual and corporate members. Our work is to study, educate and promote methods to conserve, improve, and protect the natural resources, water quality and overall environment of the Canandaigua Lake Watershed.

How do you do that?
Basically,we are involved in four efforts:

1) Wemonitor water quality as part of comprehensive programs throughout the watershed.

2) We develop educational programs for young people and adults to increase public awareness of issues that impact the environmental quality of the watershed.

3) We act as a partner and technical resource to local government and non-governmental organizations on water quality, lake level issues and watershed management practices and policies.

4) We promote patterns of development that have a positive impact on the lake and watershed.

That’s an impressive list. How large is your staff?
We are a volunteer organization with active board members. Plus, we’re lucky to be able to partner with highly qualified people at Finger Lakes Community College and municipal agencies such as the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Council and the New York State DEC to promote our goals.

We are also extremely fortunate to engage the services of an effective, experienced environmental consultant, Steve Lewandowski, who grew up in Canandaigua and has worked extensively on Finger Lakes conservation initiatives. No one can vet a 500-page development proposal or respond to an environmental impact statement as quickly and thoroughly as Steve. That helps us move effectively when there is a threat to the Lake.

How do you engage young people?
One of our Board members, Nadia Harvieux, is a terrific science teacher. She grew up on the Lake and recently returned to the area to raise her family. She and a colleague, Sharon Radak, designed a watershed-themed environmental stewardship curriculum that aligns with New York State’s science standards. They provide hands-on workshops to elementary and middle school students in the districts that are part of the Watershed. The classes are a big hit with students and teachers, and we think that they will have a long-termimpact on the health of the lake.When kids see that the Lake is not just a place to fish or swim on a hot day, but part of a complex system that makes this region one of the most beautiful in the world, they get excited about doing their part to keep it healthy.

What do you do to keep membership growing?
The Lake is the source of drinkingwater formore than 60,000 area residents, so people have an incentive to pay attention. They like that we’re a watchdog,willing to fight for the integrity of the Watershed Management Plan. The Lake is central to the area’s economic stability. It is a source of recreation and tourism. People come here to vacation. Some like it somuch they stay to raise their families. Companies relocate to areas where there are rich recreational opportunities. This is a beautiful area.We know that theWatershed is the life blood of our region. That’s why we work so hard to manage it wisely.

Canandaigua LakeWatershed Alliance
P.O. Box 323
Canandaigua, NY 14424



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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.