Chautauqua Lake's struggle with weeds is hardly a new story.
A submerged aquatic vegetation plan being developed by Chautauqua County's Planning and Economic Development Department could give the lake a fighting chance.
The public can comment on the plan from 5-6:30 p.m. Wednesday during a public hearing at the Ashville BOCES' Hewes Center. The plan will identify where the weeds are the worst, how people use the lake and where weeds conflict with the heaviest uses of Chautauqua Lake.
Area residents have gone above and beyond in the last few years to keep Chautauqua Lake clean. State and county officials have scraped together money the last couple of summers to put as many weed harvesters on the lake as possible. Area Rotary clubs have teamed up to clean weeds from beaches. Cummins has provided additional time for volunteers to help with the Chautauqua Lake Association.
In the end, however, it's the same story every year because there is only one option available right now. Cut and harvest the weeds.
"Some people wonder why we're not able to do anything other than mechanical processing on the lake so far," said Jeff Diers, Chautauqua County watershed coordinator. "It's because of the lengthy process the state imposes upon us."
The land around Chautauqua Lake represents nearly 25 percent of the county's taxable value - but there is more to the lake's economic impact on Chautauqua County. People flock from out of town to spend time on the lake. They spend money in area restaurants. They stay in hotels and pricy lakefront cottages. They come to summertime festivals, buying art and wine, and visit local attractions. Summertime visitors buy boats and supplies from area marinas.
If the lake continues to be choked with weeds, that money will eventually go away. Even worse, the sense of summertime vitality the tourism industry creates will eventually come to an end.
The plan is posted online with this editorial. Those unable to attend Wednesday's meeting can send comments to Jeff Diers, Watershed Coordinator, Chautauqua County Department of Planning & Economic Development, 200 Harrison St., Jamestown, NY 14701. Comments are due by Jan. 12.
Everyone who is involved with tourism and who fishes in, boats on or just gazes over the lake has a stake in this plan. Make your voice heard.