Our Mission

The mission of the Otsego Lake Association is to educate, advocate, and actively participate in protecting the health, beauty, and well being of Otsego Lake by facilitating the implementation of the Otsego Lake Watershed Management Plan.

Watershed Management Plan (update 2007)

Our Membership

Membership in the Otsego Lake Association is open to any individual concerned with the health of Otsego Lake. Our membership consists of year-round residents, seasonal residents and local businesses.

Become a Member Today

Board of Directors

We are made up of 100% volunteers.

Jim Howarth & David Sanford, Co-Presidents.

Vacant, Vice President.

Martin Tillaupaugh & Gary Kuch, Director for the Village of Cooperstown.

Doug Willies & Peter Regan, Director for the Town of Middlefield.

Mickie Richtsmeier & Robert Nelson, Director for the Town of Springfield.

Paul Lord & Tom Chase, Director for the Town of Otsego.

Wayne Bunn & Debbie Creedon, Director at large.

Brian Hefferon, Student Director.

Other Positions

Wayne Bunn, Secretary.

Betty VanHeusen, Treasurer.

Susan O'Handley, Newsletter Editor.

Vacant, Winter Update

Kiyoko Yokota, Technical Advisor.

Martin Tillaupaugh, Legal Advisor.

Tom Chase, Merchandise Manager.

Timothy Pokorny, Webmaster.


           Otsego Lake is an 8-mile long, mesotrophic glacial lake in Otsego County, encompassed by the Village of Cooperstown and Towns of Middlefield, Otsego, and Springfield. Otsego Lake Association (OLA) is the only conservation organization whose sole mission is protection and preservation of Otsego Lake. OLA is a volunteer organization funded by private donations, primarily through membership campaigns, and collaborates effectively with other local organizations. Its activities include outreach (website and SNS, NYSFOLA award-winning newsletters, winter updates, educational publications and signages, production of OLA goods, welcome letters distributed to real estate agents and new property owners, 4th of July boat parade and August gathering that is open to the public), lake protection (lake clean-up day, invasive species monitoring and eradication, buffer strip maintenance, no-wake-zone buoy management, support for the PRISM boat steward program and the boat wash station) and scientific support (operation and maintenance of continuous lake monitoring buoy and other research projects). OLA has been successful in acquiring grants: a demonstration buffer strip was originally funded by NYSFOLA, and the boat wash station was funded by NYSDEC and OLA. In 2022, OLA donated three sets of lake-themed children’s books, based on the Libraries Love Books program, and expertly curated by a dedicated volunteer, to three local libraries. Recurrent cyanobacterial blooms in mid-summer prompted OLA to create an online portal for information from state agencies and other reliable sources. OLA is currently working with the Otsego Lake Watershed Supervisory Committee and NYSDEC for potential Nine Element Plan development.

           We are primarily concerned with educating the public and the municipalities surrounding the lake about the various issues that affect Otsego Lake. These issues include sediment and nutrient loadings (mud, road salt, phosphorous, wastewater, etc.) being discharged into the lake, non-native invasive plant and animal species (hydrilla, zebra mussels, milfoil, water chestnut, etc.), no-wake zones (boat speeds less than 5 miles per hour within 200 feet of the shoreline), buffer strips along the shoreline (to reduce erosion), and “hydrofracking” for natural gas.

Buffer Strips

A Story of the Buffer Strip

          This is a story of a community effort to build a buffer strip on the shore of Otsego Lake. Why? At a meeting of the Board of Directors we were trying to determine our next step. The wake zone buoys were coming along, the zebra mussel program was also in process. We wanted to deal with run-off but how. We wanted to find a buffer strip planting nearby that we could study then introduce it to the community. Paul Lord knew there was one at Chautauqua Lake but that was far distant for what we wanted to do. What else could we do but build one ourselves, but where. Paul Lord suggested the foot of Pioneer Street. The board agreed that would be the best place. (more)

2005 Lake Front Plants
Buffer Strip Plant List
2005 PowerPoint Presentation

Lake Front Park
Lake Front Buffer Strip photos
Lake Front Flood June/July 2006 photos

Springfield Landing
Springfield photos

Sediment Loading

Fix the Ditch

Find out more.

          The primary focus for 2005 (and for the next several years) was sediment loading. About 10000 tons of mud enter Otsego Lake each year. That is too much! We used aerial photography to call people's attention to the problem. Photography can also be used for study. This form of photography is not easy. One needs run-off due to a thaw or a rainstorm followed by a clear, sunny day to facilitate picture taking. This is not our typical weather pattern. By the time the skies clear, the run-off is greatly reduced or stopped.

Photo credit: Dr. Tom Gergel

Muddying Otsego Lake Waters

          Otsego Lake, 4200 acres in area, drains 46,500 acres of land. Water from this basin enters the lake via 13 streams, many of which on the east shore run only in springtime and when storms occur. The Lake’s volume is 110 billion gallons which is replaced every 2.5 to 3.5 years.

          In a recent year, 20 million pounds of sediment entered the lake via streams. Nearly 19 million pounds of sediment sank to the lake bottom; the balance left the Lake via the Susquehanna River. This sediment “loading” of the Lake contributes to a filling-in process, smothering plant beds and fish spawning sites. Even more importantly, sediment transports phosphorus and fecal coliform bacteria into the lake and deposits them on the lake bottom, where they disrupt the ecology of the entire water body.

          Based on data from the early 1990’s, the top three streams ranked by tons of sediment loading were Shadow Brook, Hayden Creek and Cripple Creek, while the top three ranked by tons per acre of drainage areas feeding the stream were Willow Brook, Shadow Brook and Hayden. We note that sediment loading from Willow Brook dropped markedly after the Village of Cooperstown discontinued "sanding" roads during the winter.

          Rugged land with heavy vegetation contributes little sediment to streams because plants hold the soil and prevent sediment from forming, runoff is slowed by vegetation and the contours of the ground, and the soil is permeable, allowing water and sediment to soak in. Forests are heroes against sediment loading; exposed soil and pavement are villains. Converting forests and fields to roof area, driveways and parking lots creates high-speed water runoff from hard surfaces that carries with it soil, animal waste, dust, pollen, etc. Poor farming practices and careless roadside maintenance allow erosion that compounds the problem.

           There are ways to reduce the problem. Instead of farming and mowing up to the edge of streams, buffer strips of shrubs and trees can be planted to intercept sediment and pollutants. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (547-8337) works with local farmers on such projects. Commercial development can include detention basins, slowing water flow before it reaches streams and allowing sediment to fall out of suspension. Seeding exposed soil around development sites and along roads greatly reduces erosion. Otsego County Soil & Water Conservation District (607-547-8337) performs service in this area.

           If you live within the watershed that feeds Otsego Lake, you have the power to harm or help the lake. Examine your property for existing conditions that contribute to sediment loading. Know what to do and who can assist you to improve those conditions.


SUNY Oneonta Biological Field Station Volunteer Dive Team

          Many OLA members and the Otsego Lake community may not know that a Volunteer Dive Team from the Biological Field Station (BFS) even exists or what they do for Otsego Lake. The team was formed in 1998 when Master Diver Dale Webster made a request to become involved with the BFS’s research projects through diving. Since that time, the team has grown to include about 12 divers who volunteer their time throughout the year including ice dives in the winter to maintain their proficiency. During the early spring and late fall, the team sets out and retrieves some 20 No Wake Zone buoys from around the lake. During the summer months, the team assists the BFS with their on-going research projects and assists the Village of Cooperstown in cleaning out (“pigging”) any zebra mussels inside the Village’s water intake line which runs under Otsego Lake and the Susquehanna River. Additionally, the dive team has recently been busy locating, surveying and identifying underwater cultural resources (wrecks). The dive team also stands by to assist the local fire departments in water rescue emergencies.

          The dive team consists of highly trained, experienced, dedicated, and hardworking members from all walks of life. The dive team has two Dive Masters (Master Divers with dive team leadership training), several Master Divers (requires several diving specialties), and Open Water Divers. The Master Divers all have advance and rescue training and are trained in at least five specialty diving areas. The Master Divers are all ice, deep, and night trained plus their other specialties include a mix of search & recovery diving, drift diving, multilevel diving, altitude diving, dry suit diving, wreck diving, boat diving, buoyancy diving, and equipment specialist. The divers purchase and maintain their own equipment which includes expensive diving vests and air tank, weight belts, wet or dry suit, mask, fins, gloves, and assorted other safety equipment.

          The current active 2014 BFS team members are:

Paul Lord: Master SCUBA Diver Trainer & Dive Master.

Jim Vogler: Open Water SCUBA Instructor. Jim has been diving with us for the last six years and assists Paul Lord with all aspects of BFS diving. He is the first of the BFS volunteer divers to earn a dive leadership certification. Jim works for the biology department at SUNY-Oneonta and he is married to Donna Vogler, a biology professor at SUNY-Oneonta.

Dale Webster: Master SCUBA Diver; 16th year as volunteer diver; Dale's request to become involved with BFS research through diving prompted establishment of the team in 1998. Dale works on campus at SUNY-Oneonta as a carpenter and sells real estate.

Brian Benjamin: Master Diver.

Lee Ferrara: Master SCUBA Diver who is in his 14th year as volunteer diver. Lee is a high school science teacher in Oneonta.

Ed Lentz: Rescue and Ice Diver. Ed has been diving with us for the last eight years and still does ice dives in a wetsuit. Ed is a patent attorney and a past recipient of the OCCA conservationist of the year award.

Bjorn (BJ) Eilertsen: Rescue, Multilevel, and Ice Diver. BJ has been diving with the BFS for the last six years. He owns and manages a construction company.

Amanda Barber: Rescue Diver.

Joseph W. Zarzynski: “Zarr” is a board-certified underwater archaeologist, scientific diver, author, documentary film producer, and former educator. He has been diving with us for the past four years.

Wayne Bunn: Recently retired civil engineer and NYS certified boat operator. Wayne tends for the team.

Timothy Pokorny: He is a NYS certified boat operator. Tim tends for the dive team.

          The dive team was awarded the Otsego Lake Association’s Lake Citizen Award in 2009 which is given each year to an individual or organization that works to protect and preserve Otsego Lake.

          Next time you see the 40-foot BFS barge on the lake with the dive team on board, toot your horn, wave, and thank them for the great job that they do for Otsego Lake. However, please stay at least 100 feet away from the barge since the divers may be underwater performing their work. The “divers in the water” flag is a red square flag with a white diagonal strip.

Wreck Diving Photos

Photo credit: Paul Lord
           Couple of great ice dive videos from the BFS volunteer dive team.

Credit: Pat McCormack

Credit: Pat McCormack

           Video of dive team cleaning out the Village of Cooperstown water intake pipe.

Credit: Alex Sessions

           Videos of dive team retrieving lakefront no-wake buoy.

Credit: Tasha Youngs

Credit: Tasha Youngs

Credit: Tasha Youngs

Credit: Tasha Youngs

Credit: Unknown


No-Wake Buoys

          There are 17 buoys around the lake indicating the 200 foot no-wake zone. OLA partially funds the volunteer dive team for maintenance of these buoys.

Photo credit: Timothy Pokorny

Buoy Fest photos
Photo credit: Timothy Pokorny

Automated Monitoring Buoy

Click here for real-time data.

          During the summer of 2017 you may have noticed a new permanent floating object located in the middle of, and deepest (168 feet) part of the lake, just north of Five Mile Point. This object is the new fully automated research buoy (click here for real-time data) that was installed on July 27th, 2017 by Dr. Kiyoko Yokota, the BFS volunteer dive team and BFS interns. The research buoy will monitor 47 water quality and weather parameters and transmit them every 15 minutes via cell service to a remote server maintained by the buoy manufacturer. The data will then be downloaded and used in the ongoing research on Otsego Lake and to predict future water quality after a major rain or windstorm and to evaluate long term trends in relation with changing climate. The new buoy was funded by a $70,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and will replace the existing research buoy just offshore at Five Mile Point which had to be read manually about every two weeks. Additional funding sources include Otsego Lake Association (OLA); SUNY 4E Grant, SUNY Oneonta & Biological Field Station; U.S. Geological Survey -NYS Water Resource Institute. Click here for a quick overview of the buoy and here for a document containing additional information and data from August 5th, 2017. Additional information about the Yokota lab can be found here.

Photo credit: Kiyoko Yokota

Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP)

BFS, Lake Organizations Announce Otsego Lake HAB Testing Strategy

In addition to the BFS testing, the Otsego Lake Association announced it has joined the Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program, run by the DEC and the New York State Federation of Lake Associations. The partnership will provide Environmental Laboratory Approval Program certified water quality data to prepare a DEC Nine Element Plan for comprehensive lake and watershed management. OLA members Rhonda and Doug Willies participated in the all-day Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP) volunteer training at Lake George in May and successfully completed preliminary Otsego Lake sampling on June 5.

Read the entire article here.

Find out more about CSLAP here.

CSLAP pictures can be viewed here.

Happy to report that OLA’s inaugural 2023 CSLAP season was successfully completed on Tuesday 9/12 with the 8th and final sampling.

In addition to contributing to the NYSFOLA and DEC effort to survey NYS lakes the data collected fulfills part of what UFI specified in the Monitoring QAPP as needed for the CE-QUAL-W2 in lake modeling scheduled to commence in 2024.

An added bonus of the 8 sessions was that Kiyoko was able to join us and collect additional scientific data that will assist in the assessment of water quality in the lake.

Kindest personal regards,

Doug, Rhonda & Kiyoko

Otsego Lake Association Publications

Fix the Ditch
Don't Make Waves
Otsego Smart Steps
"Our Glimmerglass" Newsletter
Rules of the Road - Boater Safety
Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Flyer
Enjoy Otsego Lake Safely Sticker
Events Display Board
Clean Drain Treat Flyer
No-Wake Sign
Construction of Riparian Buffers
Mussel control and control of exotic aquatic plants.

Library Books

OLA has donated the following children's books to the Cherry Valley, Springfield & Cooperstown libraries.

Good Night Lake
The Lake is Calling and I Must Go
Water is Water
Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean
Fishing with Daddy
The Little Book of Camping
Let’s Go Fishing 
One Frozen Lake
Bear Came Along
Pond Circle
Good Morning Loon
Hellow from Renn Lake
Hey, Water!
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth
Kid Scoentist: Marine Biologist in a Dive
Eagle in the Sky

The books can be checked out at the above libraries or requested through the four County library system here. Additionally, the adult book Life and Death of Great Lakes was donated and is available at the Springfield and Cherry Valley libraries.

Invasive Species

          OLA was instrumental in the provision to wash boats before they can be launched at the Cooperstown boat launch. The Town of Springfield no longer permits the launching of boats at Public Landing unless the owner is a resident and can certify that the boat has not been in another body of water for two weeks. We have provided signs at other launch sites explaining mussel control. We have also published a pamphlet on mussel control and control of exotic species of plants. We will continue to support these programs in the future.

          OLA recognized the need for more invasive species prevention methods at our launch sites. In 2013 we contacted Eric Coe who was working as a boat steward on nearby Canadarago Lake to construct 2 nuisance invasive species disposal stations for Cooperstown & Springfield boat launch sites. These stations serve as a location for anglers and boaters to dispose of invasive species that may be attached to their fishing and boating equipment before launching into Otsego Lake. The stations also serve as a reminder to inspect your equipment before leaving a launch area.

Please view the video put together by OLT and CRISP about how to Clean Drain & Treat your boat and equipment before launching on Otsego Lake at Brookwood Point. Video by CRISP Boat Stewards


Photo credit: Eric Coe

Carl B. Good Boat Wash Station

          The boat wash located on Fish Road in Cooperstown was completed during the summer of 2016. It was officially dedicated to Carl B. Good on May 12th, 2017. Carl B. Good was an instrumental part of the boat inspection program, he served on the OLA BoD and several committees to preserve the village and its environment.

WKTV, Channel 2 of Utica put together a nice clip of the dedication. Click on the image below for the video and click here for the news article.

Photo credit: Paul Lord

Community Events (Past & Present)

Annual Gathering
Otsego Lakes Festival
Milford School Earth Day
Springfield Center July 4th Parade
Otsego Lake Boat Parade


Lake Citizen Award
Director's Award
Long Standing Award
Presidental Award

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