LAKEWOOD – While Chautauqua County executive George Borrello is asking for unity and consensus between stakeholders when it comes to the management of Chautauqua Lake, one group is still voicing its concern about the proposed use of herbicides by another group and is working to halt that effort.
The Chautauqua Lake Association (CLA) says it has filed objections to a permit applications that would allow for the application of two powerful herbicides to 1,200 acres of Chautauqua Lake this coming summer.
The CLA is the organization that helps manage weeds on the lake by operating a number of harvesters to remove weeds throughout the summer season.
The herbicide application has been filed with the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) by local municipalities on behalf of the Chautauqua Lake Partnership (CLP) – which also pushed for the use of herbicides in 2018 in an effort to combat nuisance weeds and vegitation in the lower basin of the lake. The towns of Busti, Ellery, Ellicott, and North Harmony and the villages of Celoron and Lakewood have signed onto the application.
The 10 objections (printed below) from the CLA range from failure to notify all effected shoreline property owners, to the lack of scientific understanding of lake currents that could spread the chemical herbicides well beyond the areas being targeted for herbicide use. Because the permit calls for the use of both the chemicals Aquathol K and Navigate, the CLA also argues the effective coverage area is actually 2,400 acres under the current permitting request.
“The CLA sent this letter to the DEC because it views the lake as a whole, and these flawed applications would introduce, with inadequate safeguards, potent chemicals throughout the lake,” said CLA Executive Director Douglas Conroe. “This is improper and DEC officials know that. The CLA does not oppose effective and selective herbicide application, but this helter-skelter approach could cause enormous environmental damage.”
The action by the CLA comes less than a week after Borrello delivered his state of the county address and included a call for collaboration and consensus when it comes to the different stakeholders involved with managing Chautauqua Lake. Borrello said it was time for a “cease fire” between some of the groups and also said he would ask them all to sign a memo of understanding in regards to lake management and that any group that wouldn’t sign the memo could miss out on funding that earmarked for addressing lake issues.
There’s no word on when the State DEC will act on the herbicide application request, but it will likely come before June.
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1. Inappropriate herbicide use endangers fish, animals, birds, insects and plants. In February, 10 entities, including the CLA, confirmed their continuing consensus regarding the management of Chautauqua Lake, including plant management. Their Conservation Statement for Chautauqua Lake specifically addressed using herbicides by stating: “Herbicide use can be suitable when it fits within an invasive-species management plan, and when other methods of nuisance plant control are not workable.”
The statement further notes that short-term solutions must not endanger fish, birds, amphibians, animals and insects that rely on the lake, nor should they pose a risk to human use of the lake. The permit applications, as submitted, conflict with the conservation statement’s consensus that the long-term, deeply experienced lake-related entities formed.
The applications also do not fit within any invasive species or lake management plan ever written. And, the applications fail within the DEC’s own Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources Bureau of Habitat Technical Memorandum of March 17, 2016, titled Recommendations Regarding the Use of Aquatic Herbicide In Fish-Bearing Waters of the State, guidance specifically regarding the utilization of herbicides in invasive species colonized lakes.
Further, it has been clearly demonstrated that when fully implemented aquatic plant harvesting can work to control nuisance plant growth in Chautauqua Lake – without resorting to herbicides. Given the CLA’s existing fleet of harvesters, an alternative method to herbicide treatment is available.
2. Affected property owners were not appropriately notified. The notifications mailing list is incomplete, in that not all lakefront property owners situated within the herbicide quarantine area were sent a notification in advance of the 2018 herbicide use, nor were notifications sent to other lake-use-rights property owners who are not immediate lakefront owners. The notification process for this year is thus flawed again and needs to be corrected by the applicants.
3. Failure to comply with county plans. Again this year, the proposed treatments fail to comply with the Chautauqua County 2017 Macrophyte Management Strategy guidance document in regard to (a) treatment locations; (b) treatment timing; (c) use of specifically not-recommended 2,4-D. Although some variance from the guidance document is tolerable, the variances are so egregious that issuance of the permits as requested is inappropriate.
4. Permit application defies DEC regulations. Regarding the utilization of 2,4-D, the DEC’s regulations limit such aquatic use to emergent plants, yet the 2019 herbicide-use permit applications propose use on submerged vegetation. Taking this into consideration, along with the county’s Macrophyte Management Strategy recommendations, the issuance of permits to utilize Navigate in Chautauqua Lake should be denied.
5. Proper testing was not performed in 2018. DEC policy requires use of Environmental Laboratory Approval Program-certified labs for analyzing water samples. ELAP was not followed last year and the 2019 applications do not state that ELAP will be utilized, and therefore the applications should be deemed incomplete. Region 9 must follow departmental rules. The necessary impact conclusions and quarantine-lifting decisions that are part of herbicide application cannot legitimately be made per department policy when non-certified labs are utilized.
6. “Need” for herbicide use based on flawed surveys. The applicants’ treatment-area decisions were apparently made based upon “rake-toss surveys” of the lake. Ample input was provided in 2018 as to the inappropriateness of the applicants’ rake-toss method and the flaws associated with it. Only the commonly accepted Cornell University Modified Army Corps Rake Toss Method data should be allowed for herbicide-based decision making. The applications should thus be deemed incomplete and the applicants should be required to submit other rationale as to how treatment areas were/are determined.
7. Conflict of interest on who applies the herbicide. Having an applicator that profits from the sale of the herbicides decide what quantity of chemicals are to be applied is a clear conflict of interest. This applicator, who profits from supplying and applying the chemicals, also determines quality-control parameters, then profits from the quality-control implementation. The applicator also profits from a favorable quality-assurance outcome, which it alone determines. These are all untenable factors and constitute conflict of interest. Permit conditions need to require that an independent third-party entity be retained by the applicants to perform QA/QC.
8. Bottom cover should be determined by third-party divers, not guesswork. The applications vary from standard policy without justification. We request that any permits continue to follow standard, proven-to-be-appropriate policy: Treatment only to occur within 200 feet from shore or out to 6 feet deep, whichever comes first, unless performed in a specific navigation channel; notification of all lake property owners and at all launch ramps along with required extensive public media announcements; and, treatment to only occur where 50 percent of bottom cover of target species exists. In this case, due to last year’s shortcomings, this should mean cover would be determined by third-party underwater divers or certified rake toss, as opposed to sight guessing that occurred in 2018.
9. Coverage area could reach 2,400 acres, without third-party, scientific evaluation of need or efficacy. Specific impact of the simultaneous introduction of Aquathol K and Navigate upon the ecology in Chautauqua Lake needs to be evaluated through a bona fide study, before introduction of the chemicals on the proposed scale occurs. The proposal to cover 1,200+ acres with both products equates to 2,400+ herbicide acres of treatment. Chautauqua Lake enjoys a diverse ecology, including 24 plant species. These benefit water clarity and absorb nutrients in support of the U.S. Clean Water Act’s Total Maximum Daily Load goals, while they also likely mitigate harmful algal blooms. The plants support a world-renown fishery, which the DEC lists as the No. 1 New York State Inland Fishing Lake and No. 4 overall Fishing Waterbody statewide. Therefore, care must be taken to safeguard these crucial assets. Further dual herbicide treatment must not be permitted until local impacts are better known.
10. Lake current patterns – which could disperse the chemicals over a much wider area – are unknown. Chautauqua Lake has no immediate water-flow pattern data. Given the observed 2018 drift impact, specific chemical drift studies need to be undertaken throughout Chautauqua Lake before any permit for herbicide treatment is issued. After a 2018 herbicide application, the applicants’ own test results documented the presence of *triclopyr miles downstream in the Conewango River in the Town of Carroll