Clear Lake Waters

South Basin Municipalities Provide Herbicide Results

The Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance workers are harvesting weeds in Chautauqua Lake. Lakewood residents reported weeds that flow into their shores as a result of the cutting. Weed growth has prevented residents from kayaking, sailing and having smooth motorboat rides. P-J photo by Eric Zavinski

Towns and villages had not been unanimous in spraying herbicides to clear weeds out of Chautauqua Lake, but the municipalities that were approved to have spraying done are now reporting clearer waters and more satisfied residents.

Herbicide spraying of 81 acres on Chautauqua Lake occurred in June, after the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation approved the process, in hopes of clearing the lake of Eurasian milfoil and curlyleaf pondweed. Since then, the town of Busti is especially pleased, with Town Supervisor Jesse Robbins, saying 20 people came to the last board meeting for the town thanking the board for funding the spraying of herbicides.

“It’s cleaner than it’s ever been,” Robbins said. “We’re very happy with the outcome so far.”

One resident told the board the water is clearer than it’s been in 25 years. Residents who attended the meeting reported no problems using their boats or swimming as weeds have disappeared.

The town of North Harmony was less clear on the success of herbicide spraying in its territory, with Town Supervisor Frank Stow saying he had heard some second-hand comments about the present healthier quality of the lake. He did not know anyone who has personally checked on the status of the lake in North Harmony.

Ducks swim through the weed-infested waters and aglae coating the surface of waters behind the 2 Crystal Ave. residence in Lakewood where Greg Carr and Jonna Genco live. P-J photo by Eric Zavinski

“I’ve been living on this lake all my life,” said Stow, who expressed his interest in seeing the lake regain its clear waters.

Bly Bay and Sunrise Cove were areas sprayed in North Harmony, a small acreage of the total shoreline of the 17-mile-long Chautauqua Lake. Stow said a group effort will be needed if the lake is to regain its former cleanliness.

Ellery Town Supervisor Arden Johnson represents the third of these south basin communities who had herbicides sprayed along their shores. He said “the spraying is working” and requests more support for his town and other municipalities in the matter.

Not everyone has been pleased with herbicide application. Chautauqua Institution recently filed a lawsuit against the Town of Ellery, the lead agency in spraying the lake, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for allowing herbicide spraying to occur after what they argue was not a comprehensive supplemental environmental impact statement. The institution is worried about algal blooms and long-term health of the lake for residents and wildlife.

Lakewood residents Jonna Genco and Greg Carr of 2 Crystal Ave. invite Chautauqua Institution President Michael Hill and village mayor, Cara Birrittieri, to visit their area of the water to see the thickness of weeds infesting their area of the lake, which was not sprayed with herbicides. Genco, Carr and some fellow neighbors reported not being able to swim, kayak, sail or boat through the grimy waters.

“I think we are the forgotten people on the lake,” Genco said.

These residents are wondering why their board of trustees did not decide to apply herbicides despite some interest. Genco and Carr recently showed Lakewood Trustee Douglas Schutte their shoreline, a visit the pair said made Schutte think herbicide application was needed after all.

“We have had a decent year,” Birrittieri said regarding lake health. “Better than last year for sure, despite the fact that there was nontreatment in Lakewood. The beach was only closed one time early in the season.”

The Village of Celoron and Town of Ellicott were both interested in herbicide spraying but ultimately did not move forward with application due to lack of funding.

“The whole lake is just covered with weeds,” said Scott Schrecengost, Celoron mayor, who expressed 2018 is the worst year for weeds in a long time.

While Schrecengost is concerned with the health of the lake in Celoron and the impact weed-infested waters will have on tourism, particularly with the incoming Chautauqua Harbor Hotel, he said he also wanted to avoid liability and did not want to spend more funds like Ellery will in its upcoming court case.

Along with Ellicott Town Supervisor Patrick McLaughlin, Schrecengost urges the state government to help with herbicide application and overall lake health. The town supervisors mention that Chautauqua Lake is state property and should be attended to on that level, instead of leaving local municipalities and taxpayers to take care of the situation.

“Our tourism’s going to go downhill if they don’t get a handle on it quick,” Schrecengost said. “New York state should be funding the whole thing.”

McLaughlin is interested in seeing how the lawsuit against Ellery and the DEC pans out. He had a lot of interest in spraying herbicides and the decision not to proceed with the application “was strictly a fiscal decision.”

“The state has to step up to the plate here,” McLaughlin said.

He thinks Ellery did the best they could as the lead agency and thinks maybe the county could become the lead agency in the future, as long as whatever group leads lake efforts tries to satisfy the most people possible. McLaughlin would like to see Ellicott get involved in future spraying if financially able.