Lake Protection and Rehabilitation Agency Establishes Main Goals

Members of the Chautauqua Lake Protection and Rehabilitation Agency discuss what priorities should be going forward in setting up a plan to potentially create a tax district to help fund treatment methods to address health concerns of Chautauqua Lake, including weed infestations, algal blooms and excess nutrient loads. P-J photo by Eric Zavinski

MAYVILLE — In its second public meeting of the year, the Chautauqua Lake Protection and Rehabilitation Agency considered past presentations regarding the formation of a tax district to address health concerns of Chautauqua Lake.

Don McCord, Chautauqua County director of planning and community development, shared knowledge of the intricacies of a possible future taxing district for Chautauqua Lake in December, and Schuyler County Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan shared his story about creating a taxing district for Waneta and Lamoka lakes further north with the committee in January.

With this information, the members of the CLPRA were directed by its chairman, Pierre Chagnon, to outline what they believe should be the main priorities concerning the lake. Before actual talks of the formation of a district, the members, including representatives of lakefront municipalities, county government and businesses, discussed what the most pressing issues have been.

“We have to do something about the weed infestation,” said Patrick McLaughlin, Ellicott town supervisor.

The other members in attendance agreed that the most obvious issue detracting from the health of Chautauqua Lake and the enjoyment of residents are the various weed species that primarily build up in the south basin, highlighted at its worst during the Burtis Bay fish kill in November.

Another major priority discussed was the nutrient loads that feed the growth of both native and invasive weed species and algal blooms. Much of the phosphorus and nitrogen that compounds biomass problems in the lake originate from local farms in the watershed, developed lands with no stormwater prevention measures and the internal loading of sediment, nutrients and dead plant mass already in the lake.

“I think you should really look at the bigger picture,” said John Jablonski, executive director of the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, in regard to keeping the watershed’s health in mind as well.

Members were not in full agreement regarding whether a lake district should address every problem in the lake and watershed equally. Questions persist as to whether only lakefront property owners will be additionally taxed or all residents in the watershed will be taxed as well. If either is the case, then that could have an impact on which treatment methods are funded and which organizations will receive collected revenue from a possible district.

The eventual goal of the CLPRA will be to establish a district formation report, as instructed by the county legislature when a resolution passed to form the agency. As discussed last month, the Waneta Lamoka Lake Protection District mainly concerns itself with taxing its lakefront property owners in order to fund rotating years of herbicide treatments on the two bodies of waters.

“I think our job’s going to be a lot bigger,” former county legislator Mark Tarbrake said.

As mentioned by CLPRA members, there are more stakeholders around Chautauqua Lake advocating for different ways to shape up the lake and watershed than there was around Waneta and Lamoka lakes, which means there will have to be more consideration about the different priorities of maintaining lake health and where possible funds could go and who should be taxed and to what extent.

Chagnon said that before monetary and management goals are set, consensus regarding the size of the lake district and who it will include will have to be reached. In December’s presentation by McCord, a tiered system was proposed, which would tax residents who live in different areas of lakefront municipalities differently according to proximity to the shore.

While the task ahead seems daunting for the CLPRA, all of its members seemed to agree that the No. 1 focus should be the short-term health of the lake, specifically ridding it of excess weeds. They also agreed that after rehabilitation, preventive measures will have to follow so that treatments that make the lake healthier won’t be a one-time occurrence.

At following monthly meetings, the CLPRA intends to finalize a set of goals and mission statement and begin work on a management plan for the potential taxing district. After more plans are ironed out, the CLPRA will also host public forums to gather feedback on its ideas.