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Chautauqua Lake Rally Shows Big Turnout

Pictured is the Village Casino, where area residents gathered for the Chautauqua Lake Rally to discuss solutions for the problem of invasive weeds. P-J photos

BEMUS POINT — “We need to break this pattern.”

Jim Wehrfritz, Chautauqua Lake Partnership Vice President, said Saturday to a full house at the Chautauqua Lake Rally at the Village Casino.

This event was hosted by the CLP and featured Chautauqua County Executive George Borello, Dr. Tom Erlandson, CLP biology science adviser; Dr. Douglas Neckers, CLP chemistry science adviser; Brad Bowers, SOLitude Lake Management biologist, lake manager; Frank Nicotra, CLP regulatory adviser, educator, project manager; and Wehrfritz. They discussed the ongoing issue with the invasive weeds in detail, the possible solutions to deal with these weeds, and what has prevented them from utilizing said solutions.

The decades-long debate around the ongoing issue of how to properly deal with the curly leaf pondweed (Potamogeton crispus) and the Eurasion watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) has centered around two primary methods: harvesting and the use of herbicides. For the better part of the last 30 years, harvesting has been primarily the only method used in attempting to contain these nuisance plants will little success. During the stretches of time in which harvesting was the only method of containment from 1994-2001, and 2003-2016, the condition of the lake deteriorated. From 1955-1985, the Chautauqua Lake Association and the state Department of Environmental Conservation successfully used herbicides and harvesting in the lake.

The CLP showed a slide presentation, and current images of Burtis Bay, in Celoron, showed waters being overrun with algae and invasive weeds, virtually unusable by fisherman and boaters. The town of Ellicott and village of Celoron proposed that 277 acres to be treated with herbicide. Only 49, or 18 percent of requested acres permitted. The towns of Ellery, Busti, and North Harmony also requested for herbicide treatments, and about 989 acres were proposed overall, and only 191 were granted. Out of that 191 acres, only 81 acres were treated due to lack of funding. Images and footage of the shoreline for these communities shared similar descriptions to that of Burtis Bay, and the sentiment in the room suggested that the problem had been getting much worse.

Jonna Genco and Greg Carr of 2 Crystal Ave., Lakewood, shared some of their feelings regarding this matter. “We would still love to have Michael Hill, the President of Chautauqua Institution, and our Village Mayor Cara Birrittieri, to come down to our house and see the water from window view. I’d like to see the people that live at the Institution bring out their sailboats to our area and see how far they get.”

As of December 2017, the Chautauqua Institution residents along with 16 Maple Springs residents filed suit against the Ellery, Chautauqua County, and the state DEC regarding the permitting and usage of herbicides, claiming that the herbicides had contaminated Chautauqua Institutions water supply. Suit was dismissed in February of 2018, appealed in March, and then again, dismissed in July 2018. This “pattern” of legal action was primarily what Wehrfritz was referring to.

WHAT IS HARVESTING?

It is a method of weed removal from a lake that is analogous to mowing your lawn. And like mowing a lawn, the leftover debris will remain unless collected in some manner. An unfortunate bi-product of harvesting (without collection) is the inevitable buildup of biomass along the surface floor of the lake. This in turn alters the lake’s ecosystem, leading to the increase of phosphorus in the lake, also refereed to as “internal Loading.”

Collection of any and all cut vegetation will be necessary to prevent these problems from arising, but the CLP said “perpetual cutting and removal is a timely and costly process, as well presenting obstacles to jet and water skiers.”

FRAGMENTATION

The CLP slides referenced that “Fragments of cut plants that are not picked up and removed can move from the treatment area by wind or currents, spreading the plant to other portions of the lake or to downstream water bodies. This can result in enhanced propagation of those plants that spread primarily from fragmentation, such as Milfoil. Harvesters can spread invasive weeds to places not yet colonized and create problems where none previously existed.” Recently, other state communities with lakes have adopted “the use of herbicides has largely superseded harvesting as the most common for ‘whole lake’ control of nuisance plants.” the CLP stated.

“You are much more in danger of the pills you take than of these herbicides,” Neckers said in regards to the environmental concerns herbicides pose to the community and the natural habitat.

Members of SOLitude emphasized that concentration levels dissipate within a matter of days, and are in compliance with state environmental regulations. During dispersement, people will be advised to stay clear of targeted water until the concentration dissipates.

“We can’t do this alone. We want to improve the lake for everyone. That has to include your involvement within your own community. Otherwise, we will not be successful. If you need our help, we are here for that,” Nicotra said.

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