A view of Lake Ronkonkoma at Lake Ronkonkoma County Park....

A view of Lake Ronkonkoma at Lake Ronkonkoma County Park. (July 22, 2010) Credit: Brittany Wait

Lake Ronkonkoma is in trouble. It's an all-too-familiar refrain these days -- local body of water, cherished by its community, in distress. The symptoms are known -- excessive bacteria and blue-green algae, which have led to numerous beach closures over the last few years. The culprits are likely a combination of stormwater and fertilizer runoff, sewage discharges and goose droppings.

Instead of crafting separate strategies, Suffolk County and the three towns that border the lake are taking steps to join forces to save Lake Ronkonkoma. It's a smart development. Brookhaven, Islip and the county have agreed to form the group. Smithtown postponed its decision, but officials say they likely will approve the move at their session on Nov. 5. The town needs to get on board with no further delays.

Similar models of cooperation have been used upstate to protect Lake George and the Finger Lakes and, closer to home, to improve conditions in Northport and Huntington harbors and in the Upper and Lower Yaphank lakes. The advantages are many. The new group is eligible for state grants designed to help inland waterways; Lake Ronkonkoma received that designation several years ago. Together, the four municipalities can work on uniform codes for stormwater runoff or on standards for applying fertilizers and pesticides. They can share expenses to issue requests for proposals or do an education campaign. They can develop a consensus recommendation on what to do with the former Bavarian Inn property. Working cooperatively always beats operating in a vacuum.

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