State Releases Chautauqua Lake Algal Bloom Plan

Combatting harmful algal blooms on Chautauqua Lake is going to require years of coordinated efforts and a lot of work, according to a plan released Monday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

The study released Monday is the result of months of planning and includes dozens of short-, intermediate- and long-term actions that can reduce harmful algal blooms on the lake.

Local support and implementation of each plan’s recommended actions are crucial to successfully preventing and combatting HABs,” the plan states. “The New York State Water Quality Rapid Response Team has established a one-stop shop funding portal and stands ready to assist all localities in securing funding and expeditiously implementing priority projects. Communities and watershed organizations are encouraged to review the plan for their lake, particularly the proposed actions, and work with state and local partners to implement those recommendations. Individuals can get involved with local groups and encourage their communities or organizations to take action.”

The primary lake management and water quality goal for Chautauqua Lake is to reduce nutrients making their way into the lake, and much of this work will fall on local residents and organizations with possible state funding help. The state plan calls on the county to reduce phosphorus from the Chautauqua Heights Sewer District, North Chautauqua Lake Sewer District, Chautauqua Utility District and the South and Center Chautauqua Lake wastewater treatment plant; minimize nutrients entering the lake from stormwater runoff from farmland; minimize nutrients entering the lake from septic systems and incorporate stormwater management facilities into developed land to keep nutrients from reaching the lake.

State officials also recommend maintianing forest health and restoring topography that keeps runoff at a minimum; conserve remaining forests and wetlands; and stop expanding urbanized areas and to stop converting farm and forest land into residential, commercial and transportation uses.

While state-recommended actions fall into several level of priority, top-level priority projects are as follows:

SHORT-TERM

PRIORITY 1 ACTIONS

Actions to be taken within the next three years include increasing funding to county agencies to perform a variety of tasks, including adding staff members to provide technical assistance in erosion and sediment control; help the Health Department inspect septic systems, expand data collection and integration with the county’s GIS interface; help homeowners with collective measures for septic systems and evaluate agricultural producers in the watershed to reduce nutrient loadings.

The state also recommends implementing the South and Center Chautauqua Lake Sewer District expansion project; increasing Soil, Water and Conservation District staffing to focus on planning and runoff reduction programs; purchasing additional equipment to harvest, store, transport and dispose of nuisance and undesirable aquatic vegetation and implement a harvesting program according to an approved plan.

The state also wants the county to purchase and use an additional sampling bouy in the south basin of the lake similar to monitoring happening in the north basin by the State University at Fredonia; complete a landscape assessment within the watershed to identify nutrient sources and recommend how to minimize nutrients making their way to the lake.

MID-TERM

PRIORITY 1 PLAN

The state wants the county to continue to create a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan for farms to reduce sediment and nutrient runoff on crop farms; provide public outreach and education to homeowners and lake shore residents about watershed management and nonpoint source pollution, particularly building on the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy’s “Don’t Feed The Weeds!” campaign launched in 2007; develop and implement a tributary and sub-watershed water quality monitoring program to identify sub-watershed sources of nutrients and acquire easements or buy sensitive sites around the lake.

LONG-TERM

PRIORITY 1 PLAN

State officials want to see a long-range effort to acquire and conserve lands in the watershed that will reduce water quality problems; develop a 9E Plan to better inform the dynamics that make up Chautauqua Lake’s water quality; find a tool that local stakeholders and organizations can use to understand in-lake dynamics; conduct additional in-lake monitoring to help determine stresses that lead to harmful algal blooms; complete a feasibility study to use nutrient inactivants in the north basin of the lake to “deactivate” internal phosphorus sources.

Public water systems should pursue studies to evaluate additional water treatment and then work with the state to find ways to pay for such treatments.

“The development of the action plans for the 12 priority lakes is a great first step towards creating successful mitigation plans to reduce the size, duration and toxicity of harmful algal blooms in these systems,” said Dr. Timothy Davis of Bowling Green State University. “I was able to attend three of the four Summits and was pleasantly surprised to see how passionate people are about this topic. Solving this critical water quality problem will take a coordinated effort by academic experts, state agencies, citizen scientists as well as leadership by local and state officials.”

COMMENTS