Mix Of Weed Harvesting, Herbicides Can Restore Balance To Chautauqua Lake
Chautauqua Lake has a steadily-worsening invasive weed problem resulting from an unsuccessful 25-year “no herbicide” experiment. That can change now that the Town of Ellery, with support of the Chautauqua Lake Partnership, has completed a new Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) and herbicides have been returned to the Chautauqua Lake weed management toolkit. With this, an optimal combination of regulated herbicide and environmental impact-mitigated weed harvesting could restore a healthy balance to the Chautauqua Lake ecosystem.
Permit applications for herbicide treatment of 989 acres of 13,000-acre Chautauqua Lake, approximately 25 percent of littoral zone/weed bed acreage, adjacent to eleven Chautauqua Lake shoreline communities, were submitted to the DEC on March 16, 2018. A notice of the applications and associated water use restrictions was distributed to over 2000 property owners of record on Chautauqua Lake and downstream watercourses. Only 10 objections were received by the DEC, less than one-half percent of those contacted.
Permits were issued by the New York State (NYS) Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on June 8, 2018. Unfortunately, permits were issued for only 191 of 989 acres, less than 20 percent of the proposed acreage. Acreage reductions were extreme and did not consider the comprehensive data, scientific analysis and mitigations provided in the 2018 SEIS nor common practices permitted in lakes in other parts of New York state.
Approximately 500 acres proposed for treatment were eliminated by DEC for “fish spawning/nursery” concerns even though 95 percent of musky spawning is carried out by the DEC in the taxpayer-funded Prendergast Point Hatchery, less than 25 percent of DEC-mapped primary spawning areas were included in proposed treatment areas and almost 2,800 acres of weed beds/fish habitat would have remained untreated.
Approximately 250 acres proposed for treatment were eliminated by DEC in areas greater than 200 feet from shore or less than 6-foot water depth, whichever is less, for weeded fish habitat. This reduction ignored the 3,300 untreated acres of the lake after “fish spawning/nursery” acreage was eliminated, failed to account for water depth and presumably was developed based on an arbitrary backwards interpretation of an herbicide label restriction. That label restriction, with treatment up to 200 feet from shore or up to 6-foot water depth, whichever is greater is much more appropriate, accounting for water depth variation and the growth of eurasian water milfoil in up to 15 feet of water.
These limitations are inconsistent with the recently-completed SEIS, arbitrary and unnecessary.
Herbicide treatment of 81 acres was completed Monday, June 11, 2018. 10 acres of permitted area were eliminated by the DEC offshore Midway Park and Sunset Bay on the day of treatment. As a result, 8 percent of SEIS and permit-proposed acreage was actually treated due primarily to SEIS-inconsistent and arbitrary permit limitations (81 percent) and, to a lesser extent, lack of funding (11 percent).
The first set of water use restrictions, on swimming, fishing, livestock watering and animal consumption, were lifted 24 hours after treatment on Tuesday night, June 12. Potable, domestic and irrigation water use restrictions will continue until water sampling indicates they can be removed. Additional information on water use restrictions can be found on the Town of Ellery, North Harmony and Busti websites.
Lastly, we disagree with those who say Chautauqua Lake invasive weeds, particularly eurasian water milfoil, are being effectively managed with weed harvesting and weevils. The preponderance of invasive weeds shown by a 200-point survey in Bemus Bay in the spring of 2017, by detailed surveys in eight other lake locations in October 2017 and in many locations all over the lake early in 2018, even after a long winter, tells a very different story obvious to all who frequent the lakeshore or use the lake. Ask yourself why herbivore-related stories are told only about Burtis Bay in 2002 and Bemus Bay in 2017, areas where herbicides were applied. Why have herbivores not controlled EWM in areas untreated with herbicides? Chautauqua Lake has a steadily-worsening invasive weed problem resulting from an unsuccessful 25-year “no herbicide” experiment. That can change now that the Town of Ellery, with support of the CLP, has completed a new SEIS and herbicides have been returned to the Chautauqua Lake weed management toolkit. With this, an optimal combination of regulated herbicide and environmental impact-mitigated weed harvesting could restore a healthy balance to the Chautauqua Lake ecosystem.
Jim Wehrfritz is the Chautauqua Lake Partnership’s vice president. Dr. Jim Cirbus is the Chautauqua Lake Partnership’s president and Mike Latone is the partnership’s treasurer.