Lake Worries Raised

Residents Propose Solutions To Ellicott Weed Problem

The outlook of Chautauqua Lake from the end of Denslow Avenue in Ellicott. The frustrations residents have with shoreline weeds were expressed at a special meeting of the town, and recommendations for a short-term solution for the town were discussed. P-J photo by Eric Zavinski

FALCONER — It’s no secret that weeds are visible along many shores of Chautauqua Lake, and with so many residents wanting to express their concerns and share possible solutions, a special meeting of the Ellicott Town Board was called for the subject to be discussed.

Among the more than two dozen residents in attendance, most agreed that their area of the lake was suffering from its worst water quality in years. For some, they said it’s the worst it’s ever been, and many of the residents said they have owned lakefront property for decades.

Various parties were represented at the meeting, including Karen Rine of the Burtis Bay Action Group, Anthony Hopfinger of the Fluvanna Lakeshore Homeowners Group and Lisa Masters, sales manager at the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel in Celoron.

Various discussions took place, ranging from the familiar call for unity among the various agencies who are stakeholders in the lake to a nearly unanimous call for herbicide applications along Ellicott shores, something Town Supervisor Patrick McLaughlin said there was no funds for this year.

Since herbicides were not applied in 2018, Hopfinger represented residents who want to avoid a similar position next year. He said multiple times that his plan doesn’t necessitate a consensus or strategy within the groups represented in the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance, as what he proposed is only a plan to implement a short-term solution for Ellicott, not other lake communities, in 2019.

More than two dozen concerned residents attended the special meeting of the town of Ellicott, so they could share their personal experiences regarding weeds that cover their shores. Both the Burtis Bay Action Group and the Fluvanna Lakeshore Home Owners Group were represented. P-J photo by Eric Zavinski

The first recommendation is for the town to adopt a resolution that states the Ellicott lake acreage condition was unacceptable in 2018, weed harvesting provided by the Chautauqua Lake Association was not enough to address the weed infestation, a pursuit of herbicide applications are needed and those applications should be funded every other year.

Hopfinger continued, outlining a second recommendation, which details that Ellicott should commence a permitting application with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for herbicide treatments that would be applied to 75 acres of Chautauqua Lake along Ellicott shores. He suggested the permit should be applied for now.

The last recommendation was for Ellicott to set a financial goal of obtaining funds for the treatments, costs of which are estimated at $52,000.

Hopfinger also listed potential financial sources: an allocation of $20,000 in the 2019 Ellicott budget for next year’s herbicide application and funding that can hopefully come from state and county government. Hopfinger said that the town could continue a dialogue with State Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, and State Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, to have funds earmarked in the state budget specifically for herbicide use in Ellicott.

McLaughlin applauded Young and Goodell for already working on the behalf of towns and villages in Chautauqua County to raise money to fight poor water quality in the lake. Conversely, McLaughlin panned Gov. Andrew Cuomo for spending “not one iota” on helping out Chautauqua Lake. The board mentioned the lack of state funds to help Chautauqua Lake are likely the result of Republican communities surrounding the lake. McLaughlin pointed to the Finger Lakes and other lakes across the state that are receiving funding, something he expressed dissatisfaction with since, as another state-owned lake, Chautauqua Lake should be receiving funding, too.

Ellicott Town Supervisor Patrick McLaughlin, standing, speaks to a crowd of concerned residents who shared their concerns about a lakefront covered in weeds. Suggestions were made regarding possible solutions to the problem. P-J photo by Eric Zavinski

A sentiment at the special meeting was that if the state wasn’t going to help out, then herbicide applications can’t be ignored locally. Hopfinger and others called on Ellicott to work with Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello and the County Legislature to discuss use of bed tax money or other acquired funds to pay for herbicide applications.

The last funding proposal detailed how Ellicott could study, and potentially adopt, a position that Ellicott lake shore property owners could contribute $1,000 or a per shore line footage dollar figure for herbicide application. Then, the appropriate governing tax authority would subtract the like amount from the respective Ellicott lake shore property owners’ tax bill.

Before these recommendations were given, residents highlighted how much of a problem lake weeds pose. Residents explained how the amount of weeds ruins their opportunities for recreation on the lake. Swimming is often out of the question, wading through the water while fishing and fly fishing usually ends up in recreationalists sinking to their knees in sediment, and weeds often need to be cleaned off boat motors when the vessels are stopped.

“We do want to share our frustrations,” Hopfinger said. “Some of them are painful.”

One resident mentioned a child got a severe eye infection after swimming in the lake. Others reported falling ill and developing allergies when moving to the area. People have developed swimmer’s itch and other rashes after swimming in the water. Dogs have to be prevented from leaping into the water on a hot summer’s day.

As someone new to the area, Masters wanted to know where the disconnect is and why things don’t seem to get better. She expressed support of lake needs alongside David Hart, CEO of Hart Hotels, who was not present but has shared that he wants to improve the water quality of the lake.

Rine criticized how what the county and the partnership has done has not been enough and said she was tired of hearing about the watershed and not the lake itself. Hopfinger added onto that by saying residents have an expectation to be a viable lake and that if it’s not fixed now, town and village budgets, like the one in Ellicott, will shrink due to the degrading economic impact the lake will have.

“We want to help all that we can,” McLaughlin said.

The board concluded by saying that if the lawsuit from Chautauqua Institution against the town of Ellery and the DEC goes forward, there will be no herbicide applications likely in the future. Residents were asked to write to Chautauqua Institution and express their concerns. Residents are also encouraged to write letters and send photo and video evidence of impaired lake shores to Ellicott.

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