Chautauqua Lake Battle Royale

Ice may be covering Chautauqua Lake and things may seem quiet right now, but there is a “battle royale” going on between the various organizations that work at making the lake a better lake.

First and foremost, it was announced recently that Chautauqua Institution’s lawsuit against the town of Ellery, the DEC and others who have been involved in permitting the use herbicides to control weed growth had been dismissed by a New York Supreme Court decision. There is always the possibility of appeal but, at least for the moment, this legal action has been halted. That doesn’t mean that Chautauqua has changed its opinion when it comes to herbicide treatment on the lake.

At the same time, the ongoing dispute between the Chautauqua Lake Partnership (CLP) and the Chautauqua Lake Association (CLA) over many of the same issues continues. The Chautauqua Lake Watershed Conservancy (CLWC) has generally supported the positions taken by the CLA.

Caught in the middle are an assortment of bystanders including local foundations (who fund many of the activities related to the lake,) and elected officials (politicians) who want to seek common ground and know that infighting and open confrontation are not usually the best way to facilitate problem solving.

Admittedly, there are some serious scientific and substantive differences separating these groups. The Chautauqua Lake Association defends its traditional role of weed cutting and harvesting, but says that it will support limited and properly monitored herbicide treatment. The Chautauqua Lake Partnership believes that cutting weeds can exacerbate the weed problem by spreading weed growth, and that herbicide use is the most effective and practical way to cut down on the weeds that are choking the lake.

Then there are the great “unwashed masses” of the semi-informed like me who live on the lake, are concerned about it, and are looking for solutions to cleaning it up. We wish that there was consensus, common problem solving and active co-ordination relative to the policies that affect the lake. Thus far, the relatively new Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance (CLWMA) has been attempting to pull the various lake groups together, but without much visible success. Efforts are underway at the alliance to develop a better structure to address this. Maybe a governing “center” can be established when it comes to lake policy but, right now, that seems to be over the horizon.

At the same time, in the midst of this rather chaotic political environment around the lake, there was news that, for the first time, County government has acted and created an agency to consider forming a lake district to deal exclusively with lake problems and make its recommendations to the County Legislature. Its purpose is in its name: The Chautauqua Lake Protection and Rehabilitation Agency (CLPRA.) Its members include many of the local elected officials who live around the lake. Maybe it can move things in a more positive direction.

If there is a silver lining to all of this, it is the reality that the ultimate goal of cleaning up Chautauqua Lake and making it a better lake now has more voices than ever.

What is also clear is that a seamless and controversy-free way of getting that done seems, at least in the short term, to have eluded us.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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