Pontoosuc Lake - Spring 2024 Report


Spring 2024


Management of our lake this past year has, as usual, seen some successes and some setbacks.   There are many elements to our efforts responding to the multiple threats.  A brief overview is summarized below. This report only touches on the highlights, a more detailed report will be available on the Town and City websites later in the spring.


A key element of our lake management is the cooperation and shared burden of multiple partners.   Lake management costs and activities continue to be shared jointly by the City of Pittsfield and the Town of Lanesborough in a beneficial cooperative arrangement.  State Agencies play a major role and contribute significantly, as do the volunteers supporting many organizations.


Control of Rooted Macrophytes (lakeweeds)

When Pontoosuc Lake was created (expanded by the dam) there were of course multiple native aquatic plants in the lake which did not compromise lake access or inhibit use of the lake.  Non-native invasive plant species were introduced by human activity and they became a problem 50 years ago necessitating action.   Lakeweed control has evolved through; do nothing, aggressive and lightly-regulated herbicide application, harvesting, more-controlled controlled herbicide use, do nothing, restricted herbicide use, and today??.  


Today (2024) we are planning to continue the limited use of herbicides to keep the lake useable for recreational users (swimmers, paddlers, waders, fishermen, boaters, water-skiers, and whatever else).  This is the major cost element in Pontoosuc lake management.  Herbicide application is contracted by Lanesborough, other expenses are financed by Pittsfield, and we “settle up” with any necessary transfer of funds at the end of the fiscal year. Progress is being made, continued application of resources and management accounting for the many competing interests is key to success.


 Zebra Mussels

This highly undesirable mussel species which is native to eastern Europe has been a threat to our lake for several years, and protective measures (boat ramp monitoring/education, access regulations, etc.) are in place.   Zebra mussels are thumbnail in size, are very prolific, have very sharp shell edges, and make swimming in infested areas difficult for adults and impossible for children.  Laurel Lake has been infested, and our local focus has been on preventing the spread from there to our lakes.  This year there is concern that they may have been introduced into Onota Lake, and this increases the concern for Pontoosuc infestation.  A team of folks from LOPA (Lake Onota Preservation Association), the City of Pittsfield, and various State environmental agencies is working the problem diligently and hopefully they will be successful.  Action needs to be taken which will protect all our area lakes from this threat.  They are not(hopefully) in Pontoosuc yet!!


Cyanobacteria (aka blue-green algae)

Cyanobacteria is an organism which has undoubtedly been present in all lakes in our area for a long time, normally at levels which are no cause for concern.  However, the presence of ample nutrients and warm temperature can cause a “bloom”which might produce toxins at levels which can be dangerous.  There is an ongoing program conducted by LAPA West (Lakes and Pond Associations of Western Mass) to monitor this problem.  At this point the program is restricted to identifying whether there is a problem, and we will issue a notification if needed warning lake users of dangers and restrictions.  With the increased probability of blooms endangering lake users in time periods of high use, we may need to explore and invest in remedial actions to keep our lake usable for recreational users through the summer recreational season.  



From back in the days when Pontoosuc lakewater was the source of power for the downstream textile mills the lake has been drawn down seasonally.  Initially, the schedule was dependent on the need to power the mills.  In the last 50 years drawdowns have continued for a variety of reasons; 1. Protection of the dam structure,  2. Protection of downstream properties from spring flooding during snowmelt, 3. Protection of shoreline properties from ice sheet forces in the winter, and 4. An additional tool in the macrophyte control program.  

Recent studies and data have heightened concerns about risk to the dam structure from exposure to winter conditions, and with the advent of global warming and more extreme weather conditions the risk is even greater.  So the office of dam safety in the DCR has taken the leadership in getting appropriate drawdowns permitted.  Hopefully they will be successful, and the lake will also benefit from the other results of drawdowns.  


Thank you to the citizens of Lanesborough for supporting the maintenance and preservation of Pontoosuc Lake.   


Lee Hauge, Lanesborough Harbormaster and 

President, Friends of Pontoosuc Lake