''Why do we have so many Chautauqua Lake and watershed organizations?''
This question is often asked by people living around this lake.
There are many levels of government and several organizations responsible or involved in the management of Chautauqua Lake and its surrounding basin. Each organization has a different focus and differing jurisdictions. This article will focus on the roles of four local organizations - Chautauqua Lake Association (CLA), Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy (CWC), Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District (District) and Chautauqua Lake Management Commission (CLMC).
Several local organizations are responsible for and/or are involved in the management of Chautauqua Lake and its surrounding basin.
The CLA is a private, not-for-profit charitable organization which was formed in 1953. The CLA's mission is to provide effective and efficient lake maintenance services for the benefit of all Chautauqua Lake users. Historically, its activities have focused from the Chautauqua Lake shoreline into the lake - doing plant management in Chautauqua Lake with the use of a fleet of mechanical harvesters and for shore cleanup and debris removal after storms. According to its brochure, the CLA ''promotes and facilitates the ongoing scientific study of Chautauqua Lake and its surrounding ecosystem, participates in and cooperates with local, state, and federal lake management programs, associations, and regulatory agencies, and educates the community about Chautauqua Lake's ecosystem and environmental lake management practices.'' It has sponsored Robert Johnson's herbivorous insect research on Chautauqua Lake, documenting the impact of aquatic moths, weevils and caddis flies as a potential plant control strategy.
The CWC, founded in 1990, is also a private, not-for-profit charitable organization. It is a land trust watershed education and pollution prevention organization whose mission is to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams and watersheds of the Chautauqua region (countywide). It has led efforts to conserve the Cheney Farm and Stow Farm lakeshores, the Goose Creek and Prendergast Creek wetlands on Chautauqua Lake, 150 acres on Cassadaga Creek, 18 acres on Cassadaga Lakes, 80 acres on the Chautauqua Lake Outlet, and 112 acres in the Lake Erie watershed. In total, it has facilitated the conservation of 685 acres countywide. It has published The 'Shed Sheet watershed education newsletter for 18 years and led the ''Don't Feed the Weeds'' campaign to reduce the use of products containing phosphorus. A strong advocate for addressing the root causes of poor lake conditions, the CWC focuses its activities on working with landowners to implement best land use practices and to voluntarily conserve and enhance key shore lands, wetlands, stream corridors and watershed forests important to collecting, storing, filtering and delivering clean waters to our lakes and streams.
The District is a local governmental subdivision established under state law to carry out a program for the conservation, use and development of soil, water and related resources. The federal Natural Resources Conservation Service provides a district conservationist and shares in providing technical assistance primarily to the agricultural community and local governments to develop and implement conservation projects. The District also hosts the County Water Quality Task Force, an advisory coordinating committee made up of county, state and non-profit organization representatives to advise on water quality management. A subcommittee of this group is tasked with evaluating and ranking projects to make recommendations to the County Legislature on the allocation of county's 2 percent waterway protection and enhancement funds.
In 2005, the County Legislature created the CLMC as described by this legislation: ''WHEREAS, several lake groups, associations, and local governments have made extensive efforts in the past to address Chautauqua Lake's problems, but it would be advantageous to have a single County commission annually recommend and monitor a comprehensive lake management plan, therefore be it RESOLVED, that there is hereby established a Chautauqua Lake Management Commission ...'' This 11-member advisory body is currently made up of a representative appointed by the Chautauqua County Conference of Mayors and Chautauqua County Supervisors Association (joint appointment), Chautauqua County Farm Bureau, Chautauqua County Federation of Sportsmen, Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, Chautauqua County Water Quality Task Force, Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District, Chautauqua Lake Association, Chautauqua Lake Partnership, Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, and Conewango Creek Watershed Association, and a chairman appointed by the County Legislature. This organization has brought together representatives from these groups to cooperate to successfully develop a Chautauqua Lake Watershed Management Plan and tributary studies and erosion control projects and is proceeding to undertake the development of a submerged aquatic vegetation plan for the lake.
At present, these four groups are working cooperatively. The CLMC is fostering lake and watershed research, planning and management with important stakeholder groups at the table, while the District, CLA and CWC, local governments and landowners are responsible for delivering watershed and lake education, watershed conservation and pollution prevention projects ''on the ground,'' according to the plan and their specific missions.
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy has its Wells Bay Lakeshore Forest Challenge underway through Jan. 27. For every $2 it raises for this project, an anonymous donor will provide a $1 match. CWC needs to raise only $13,000 more to meet its $30,000 challenge goal (for which this donor will match with $15,000) and complete this project. For more information, please call 664-2166 or go to www.chautauquawatershed.org.