CWC Invests In Permanent Actions To Address Lake Challenges

To date, CWC has conserved one mile of forested stream bank buffer lands on Goose Creek to protect its water quality feeding Chautauqua Lake. CWC photo

The scenic and bountiful waterways, forests and fields of the Chautauqua region are what make it a special place to live and visit. Healthy waterways are an essential component of the region’s economy and quality of life. Chautauqua Lake’s current problems and controversies stem from historical and continuing lake-damaging land use practices in its watershed.

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy was established in 1990 with the mission to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams and watersheds of this region. The CWC has taken a preventive approach to protecting and enhancing Chautauqua Lake. To date, working with willing landowners, it has conserved over 1,000 acres of forests, wetlands and fields county-wide. CWC’s conservation programs are based on the scientific principle that healthy, natural landscapes provide clean water for healthy lakes, streams and groundwaters. CWC’s approaches to conservation and lake management that it has advocated for have not changed over the last 28 years. What has changed is that other organizations and agencies have come to implement more and more of the policies and actions CWC has championed all along. CWC has long advocated for watershed land conservation as an essential tool for lake water quality protection. Public water suppliers around the globe are implementing watershed forest, stream corridor and wetland protection to deliver pure water and minimize water treatment costs.

Research shows that urbanization of watersheds leads to more flooding and property damage, declining water quality and detrimental changes to aquatic communities of stream life and gamefish. Trout waters turn into carp waters. Muskellunge can no longer reproduce. The spawning areas of gamefish are smothered in mud. Lakes become filled with invasive plants like milfoil that thrive on degraded, excessively-sedimented fertile lake bottoms. Over-fertilized lakes fill with harmful algae blooms. Herbicides are a stop-gap measure. Installing best management practices as part of development can reduce, but cannot stem, the decline in water quality associated with the urbanization of watersheds.

What do the lake doctors at CWC advocate for Chautauqua and other lakes? CWC is pursuing the conservation and restoration of naturally-vegetated buffers along our lake tributaries and lake shorelines to intercept nutrients before they reach our waters and fertilize our lakes. CWC is pursuing the acquisition of conservation easements and full acquisition of buffer areas to stop incompatible land uses from polluting our streams and causing soil erosion, fueling excessive plant and algae growth in our lakes. We are working with landowners to stop maintaining lawns, cropland and pasture along the banks of our precious tributary streams and lakes–and to acquire the legal ownership of these waterfront sites to ensure that these incompatible uses cannot be restarted in 10, 20, 50 years or anytime in the future. How important is this? CWC has been acquiring such sites for conservation for 23 years. Last year, New York State added a land acquisition public drinking water source protection grant program to its Water Quality Improvement Program. And now, in 2018, the State Department of Agriculture and Markets is rolling out a waterfront buffer conservation easement purchase program for Soil & Water Conservation Districts to implement with landowners statewide. The State of New York is now strongly supporting these efforts which the CWC has been working to implement since its inception. The CWC is working collaboratively with the Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District, Chautauqua County, Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Cassadaga Lakes Association and other partners to develop and implement stream corridor conservation projects to permanently move cattle and crop cultivation away from streams and to permanently protect and enhance tributary streams, wetlands and forests. CWC is continuing to assist lakefront and streamside owners with landscaping technical assistance in these efforts. CWC is presently developing and implementing projects on several Chautauqua Lake tributaries (Goose, Prendergast, Cheney, Dutch Hollow, etc.) and Cassadaga Lake with its partners. These projects will reduce future loading of sediments, nutrients and other pollutants to these waterways, addressing harmful algae blooms and excessive plant growth over the long haul in these lakes. We encourage streamside, lakeshore and wetland owners to consider implementing permanent conservation projects on their properties. We hope that you will choose to invest your charitable giving in these preventive and restorative initiatives. Please follow CWC on Facebook and contact the CWC for more information on conservation and giving.

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, call 664-2166 or visit or