Herbicide Use On Lake Again Debated

ELLERY — The debate over whether to use herbicides on Chautauqua Lake was renewed during a meeting this week.

The Ellery Town Board on Thursday heard comments from local residents on a proposed plan to use chemicals to combat ongoing weed growth. It was evident early at the two-hour meeting inside the Fluvanna Fire Department who was in favor of herbicide use and those against the plan.

Those against chemical use on Chautauqua Lake raised concerns over the effect herbicides use might have on drinking water, fishery habitats and the unknown of what will happen when the sea weeds are eliminated.

Many members of the Chautauqua Lake Association in attendance spoke in opposition of using herbicides. Those in favor noted the smell coming from the lake as the result of the weeds and the process it currently takes to remove them. Doug Conroe, executive director of the Chautauqua Lake Association (CLA), spoke on behalf of the CLA and asked for an extension of the public comment period. Current and former members also spoke on behalf of themselves. Many community members, including a biologists and lifetime residents of the lake questioned the use of herbicides and also asked for an extension of the public comment period.

As the lead agency, the town of Ellery was required to create a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement as required by law. The statement is meant to inform the public of all pros and cons associated with its proposed plan, in this case using herbicides on the lake.

Boards that have passed resolutions supporting Ellery’s plan includes the Chautauqua Lake Partnership and the towns of Ellicott, North Harmony and Busti.

Jim Cirbus, CLP board president, believed the precautions that would be taken wouldn’t harm local communities and would be in the best interest to eliminate weeds.

Cirbus also said May would be the best time to go forward with the plan. He said if herbicides are used, a 24-hour quarantine will be enforced so no one comes in contact with the chemicals.

PJ Wendel, chairman of the County Legislature, asked that everyone come together and seek a compromise. He admitted that the issue has been controversial, but asked that everyone hear both sides.

“We have to work together,” Wendel said. “This is not going to happen without cooperation. I like to think that now in the legislature that’s been our big flagship. We work together on issues.”

Wendel also noted that the County Legislature approved a resolution unanimously for a bond of $16.8 million in order to bridge the Southern Chautauqua Sewer District around the lake.

Many who spoke asked for a 30-day extension for the public comment period, noting that the impact statement was long and difficult to read.

State Assemblyman Andy Goodell, who was in attendance, told The Post-Journal he thinks further analysis is needed before a final decision is made.

“We’ve heard a lot of thoughtful comments from a number of people on both sides of the issue,” Goodell said. “I think the challenge that we always wrestle with is giving a right balance between those who want a productive fishery and recognize the importance of having healthy weed growth or the fish food chain with those who want to use the lake for other recreational purposes.”