The ‘Chautauqua Lake Three-Step’

We have made great progress.

The Chautauqua Lake Association, the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance, the Chautauqua Fishing Association, the Chautauqua Fishing Alliance, Chautauqua County, numerous others, and, yes, even the Chautauqua Institution (institution) all agree with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, lakeside communities, towns and villages and the Chautauqua Lake Partnership (partnership) … herbicides belong in the Chautauqua Lake weed management toolkit.

And now, with completion of the April 2018 Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) regarding the application of herbicides in Chautauqua Lake (SEIS), the second such SEIS required for Chautauqua Lake, herbicide permits once again have been granted, herbicides once again have been applied with excellent results and, as many stakeholders desired, herbicides have been returned to the Chautauqua Lake weed management toolkit.

In support of this outcome, the partnership is moving to join the town of Ellery and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as the third party in defense against the institution’s lawsuit. With the town of Ellery and the DEC, the partnership intends to preserve the recently-completed $250,000, local foundation-funded and partnership volunteer-supported SEIS and the right of lakeside municipalities and communities to use herbicides when and where they are needed and permitted by the DEC.

At the partnership’s Labor Day Weekend Rally, 350 people heard about the shortsighted 30-year Chautauqua Lake lawsuit-environmental study-lawsuit cycle and the resulting one-size-fits-all weed cutting-only approach to invasive weed management which has damaged our lake’s ecosystem, lessened property values and tax revenue and threatened enjoyment of the lake by year-round and seasonal residents, tourists and fishermen. If you like country music you might dance the Texas two-step. Here we practice the Chautauqua Lake Three-Step (step one – lawsuit; step two, SEIS; step three, lawsuit, then repeat), an embarrassing example of how obstruction by a few can block what’s needed by the many to reverse the decline and make our lake the true “Gem of Chautauqua County.” We cannot let financial, parochial, or ideological opposition of the few usurp the rights of the many.

The institution’s June 2018 lawsuit against the town of Ellery and the DEC is the third example of the Chautauqua Lake Three-Step since 1985. Institution grounds house fewer than 250 registered voters, less than 1.5 percent of the over 18,000 voters in just the five towns and four villages surrounding the lake. Through its suit, institution management, most of whom are absent for 10 of 12 months a year, suggests that it knows better than the DEC, that its conclusions are superior to those reached and approved by the DEC through the SEQRA process and that its needs are superior to the those of our elected Town and Village Boards and our communities.

We applaud the institution for finally openly supporting herbicide use, but this support cannot mean that the Institution becomes the judge of when and where herbicides are used in Chautauqua Lake communities near and far, some of which are 13 miles, from the institution’s gated enclave.

We’re truly excited that all now acknowledge that targeted permitted herbicide use is necessary to avoid the acceleration of the Lake toward invasive weed-infested eutrophication, ‘great for the fish’ according to two opponents. Now that herbicide use has been returned to the weed management toolkit, we no longer have to watch helplessly as infestations of invasive non-native Eurasian Water Milfoil and Curly Leaf Pondweed grow up to and onto the water surface out-competing and choking out our native weed species.

The partnership is committed to continuing the efforts it began in November 2016 and to ending the Chautauqua Lake Three-Step cycle. As the partnership moves to join the town of Ellery and the DEC as a third respondent to defend against the Institution’s cycle-continuing lawsuit, it will fight to preserve the $250,000, town of Ellery-led, local foundation-funded and all volunteer partnership-supported SEIS, endorsed by four lakeside towns and two lakeside villages, and the right of lakeside municipalities and communities.

The institution’s approach is neither effective lake stewardship nor the action of an entity seeking to become a valued member of the broader Chautauqua Lake community. Chautauqua Lake residents and users must take control and put what is best for the lake ahead of what the institution has deemed best for itself. The institution cannot be allowed to decide what’s best for all of us, that is 98.5 percent of the lake’s voters occupying 96 percent of the lake’s shoreline.

It is time for Chautauqua Lake and Chautauqua County residents to put an end to the Chautauqua Lake Three-Step. Go to the Chautauqua Lake Partnership website (www.chqlake.org), sign on to get our communications and contribute to support the 2018 SEIS and your community’s right to use all appropriate and effective tools available to improve our lake.

Chautauqua Lake Partnership Officers, Advisors and Directors are: Dr. Jim Cirbus, president; Jim Wehrfritz, vice president; Mike Latone, treasurer; Becca Haines, secretary: Dr. Tom Erlandson, science advisor (biology); Dr. Doug Neckers, science advisor (chemistry); JoDee Johnson, regulatory advisor; Frank Nicotra, regulatory advisor; Paul Johnson, project advisor; R. Craig Butler, Project, advisor (past CLA director and president).

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