With all of the letters lately in The Post-Journal about the quality of the water in Lake Chautauqua, I felt compelled to write, both as a supervisor and a property owner.
The first thing I always hear is about all of the invasive species in the lake's watershed. In my opinion the number one invasive species in the watershed is man. He has built structures right up to the edge of the lake and put lovely impervious well-fertilized lawns around them.
These lovely homes on one third of the lake have septic systems that leach even more phosphates into the lake, causing weed growth. What once were small fishing camps have grown to be 4,000-square-foot homes with multiple occupants year round.
As the Baby Boomer generation ages, we are starting to see more of these homes being occupied year round. This now takes what was once a seasonal problem and makes it three times worse. The continuation of sewer systems around the rest of the lake may be the only viable solution to the weed problem in the lake.
Yet when an initiative was made in the spring of 2009 to bring sewer to the lakeside residents of the town of North Harmony, it was defeated before it was even known how much it would cost them. These are the same people who complain about the conditions of the lake. I'm sure these people are the same people who complain to others in their hometowns, making the tourists a leary to come here. What is their property worth on a mud flat instead of a lovely lake?
The town of Chautauqua, in conjunction with the North Lake Sewer District, has done a preliminary study regarding continuing the public sewer lines around the lake. The study looked at adding sewer lines in the area of the lake from Galloway Road at the north end of the lake to the town of Chautauqua line in Dewittville. This expansion would utilize the North Lake Treatment plant in Mayville to treat the sewage.
The price tag for this expansion would be about $16 million. Finding alternate funding for this project is the next major hurdle in the process, because the cost of the expansion would be too great for the individual homeowners to bear. The money that is needed is not as readily available now as it was when the rest of the lake's sewer system was installed.
It is my opinion that this is much too important to just give up on and walk away. If the whole project had been completed in the 1970s, would the lake be cleaner today? I would think so, and at a fraction of the cost of today's expansion.
At this point in time, this sewer project is a minimum of 10 years away unless funding is found soon. This leaves us with the best we can do now to deal with the condition of the lake- which is donating to the Chautauqua Lake Association and Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy to keep their work going in the right direction. This lake is far too important to the economy of our area to just let slide into a slimy mess.
Please stop using phosphates in your detergents and for fertilizing your lawns and gardens. It's our lake and how we manage ourselves, the largest invasive species in the watershed, does make a difference.
Don Emhardt is serving his second term as Town of Chautauqua supervisor after having served one term as councilman.