Special to The Citizen

Owasco Lake needs your help. If you are a regular reader of The Citizen, you know that news concerning the lake’s water quality frequently appears in these pages. Human use of the land around the lake and upstream (its watershed), invasive species and increasingly heavy localized rain storms all have taken a toll on Owasco Lake’s water quality and ecosystem. Increasing numbers of harmful algal blooms (HABs) are especially alarming. Scientists, engineers and policy makers have begun working on both causes and solutions for the lake’s complex problems. The safety of 44,000 people’s drinking water is most crucial. So far, these efforts have not appreciably improved water quality. If we want real improvement for the lake, the whole community needs to get involved. That’s where the Owasco Watershed Lake Association comes in.

OWLA is volunteers. We raise our hands, as regular citizens, on Owasco Lake’s behalf. As a recent letter to the editor at The Citizen from the OWLA President Ann Robson and directors Dana Hall and Bill Foster stated, “For the past 30 years, we have educated, we have sampled, we have treated, and we have advocated for a lake we all love.” Along with our perennial request to the wider community to join OWLA with annual memberships, we do all we can to keep Owasco Lake front and center in people’s awareness and understanding. OWLA isn’t the only way to take care of the lake, but we offer many rewarding options for participation.

Volunteering with OWLA can mean helping out with occasional projects like shoreline cleanup events, rain garden planting and maintenance, helping with free boat rides at TomatoFest, or staffing OWLA’s informational tables at festivals.

If you’re looking for more regular volunteer gigs, OWLA volunteers help with:

• HAB shoreline surveillance from midsummer to midfall.

• Working with landowners and foresters to find, treat and protect hemlocks.

• Tributary sampling.

• Membership or fundraising campaigns.

• Classroom visits to teach our children how we all affect water quality.

• OWLA’s annual Bob Brower Scientific Symposium every March.

Some OWLA volunteers undertake a deeper commitment to the lake’s future by serving on OWLA’s board of directors. They provide leadership and direction for OWLA.

Advocacy work is another option for OWLA volunteers. Teamwork is the best way to make significant positive change. For OWLA, this means volunteers who:

• Partner with other organizations on projects like roadside ditch remediation and willow planting on farms.

• Build relationships with elected officials and other local leaders.

• Write letters and articles, make phone calls, and visit service clubs and other groups on behalf of the lake.

It can be challenging to stir people up about a lake’s troubles. We react best to imminent, fast-moving danger like speeding cars or house fires. We are vigilant about protecting our community against crime; we protect our most vulnerable citizens. Owasco Lake needs our help, but relief will require a lot of time, effort and patience from many people. OWLA is committed to the long haul for the lake and for future generations. We hope you agree! To raise your hand, email OWLA at info@owla.org, find us on Facebook or leave us a message at (315) 704-5510.

Currently, OWLA is looking for volunteers with interest and skills in education and native plants and rain gardens. Can you help?