JAMESTOWN – A group of organizations dedicated to improving and preserving the long-term health of Chautauqua Lake have signed off on a conservation statement that they say shows there is a general consensus on how to best approach lake issues.
The Statement was drafted by the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy with input from other lake stakeholders and outlines a general understanding of what the goals for the lake should be, as well as both the long-term and short-term solutions should be in order to achieve those goals.
CWC executive director John Jablonski tells WRFA that the statement reinforces the notion that most lake groups have worked together in the past and will continue to work together moving forward.
“Most groups have been working very well together for the past 20 years and have had a lot of consensus building that’s going on through the development of the existing programs that are underway around the lake,” Jablonski says. “Another major point was to make sure that some of the misinformation is clarified out there.”
Jablonski adds the misinformation includes the approach to dealing with invasive plant species, which, despite their name, are actually aquatic plants that have been around long enough to become part of the overall lake ecosystem.
“The two main exotic plants in Chautauqua Lake that can be a problem – Eurasian water milfoil and curly leaf pond weed – they’ve been around here for 50 to 80 years already. They spread in mid 1900s. They are throughout the whole lake. They’re naturalized and are part of the system. That shipped sailed a long time ago so there’s really not a concern about them spreading today because they spread already. They grow where the conditions are suitable for them to grow so it’s a matter of trying to address those conditions that promote the growth of those plants.”
For long-term strategies, the document says the lake must be surrounded with healthy, natural landscapes that filter nutrients and pollutants from the water that flows to the lake. This means permanently protecting streams, woodlands and wetlands, planting buffers along shorelines and streambanks, and reforesting portions of the watershed. It adds that new development in the watershed must be offset by restoration of wetlands and forests. The long-term health of the lake also requires improvements in septic, sewer and storm-water management practices. Selective dredging of the lake to reduce the amount of sediment that provides internal nutrient loading also has been suggested as a potential long-term action.
For more short-term management, the document suggests continuing the process of plant harvesting to reduce nuisance lake vegetation that makes lake navigation and recreation difficult. The harvesting also helps to removes organic matter from the lake that can feed future algae blooms. In addition, it suggests the continued effort of stream bank stabilization, which helps to prevent sediment build-up and nutrient runoff into the lake.
The statement also addresses herbicide using, saying it is not entirely opposed to using chemicals to combat weed growth, but states that it should be on a limited basis and only in isolated areas, not large sections of the lake in order to prevent any adverse effects on the environment and wildlife.
“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 reads. “It is crucial that any short-term solutions used to address excessive plant and algae growth within the lake are not short sighted; they must be well thought out and performed in conjunction with long-term goals. They cannot endanger the fish, birds, amphibians, animals and insects that rely on the lake and must not pose a risk to human use of the lake’s waters.”
The statement comes as Chautauqua County government officials work to establish a consensus on the best course of action needed in order to tackle the weed issues in the lake, which during the summer months have created problems for visitors and boaters, especially in the southern basin of the lake. In addition, a large deposit of aquatic vegetation gathered in an area of Burtis Bay near Celoron this past fall, leading to a large volume of fish dying in that area due to suffocation.
Besides the CWC, other organizations that have signed onto the Lake Statement include the Chautauqua Lake Association, the Chautauqua Fishing Alliance, Chautauqua Institution, Roger Tory Peterson Institute, and the Conewango Creeek Watershed Association – along with others, although the Chautauqua Lake Partnership – the organization primarily involved with expanding herbicide use in the lake, has not given its endorsement.
More details about the statement can be heard this week when we broadcast our interview with Jablonski, who is joined by CWC director emeritus Becky Nystrom. on our Community Matters program (Thursdays at 5 p.m., Fridays at 2 p.m., and Sundays at noon).