ASHVILLE - A submerged aquatic vegetation plan for Chautauqua Lake is one step closer to completion.
The Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Economic Development held a public opinion meeting Wednesday for the draft scoping document prepared in accordance with the SEQR act for the Chautauqua Lake SAV management plan. While the department received plenty of comments on the draft, it was a trio of conservationists whose comments truly stood out.
Perhaps it was by design, or perhaps it was merely happenstance, but Rebecca Nystrom, Jane Conroe and Ruth Lundin not only each questioned the scoping document, they also sat right next to each other.
"My first comment is to underscore the importance of making the distinction between submerged aquatic vegetation and nuisance aquatic vegetation," said Lundin, executive director of the Jamestown Audubon Society. "As noted on page 11 of the draft scope, 'In general, most SAV are an important and necessary component of a water body's ecosystem.' This is only one of two places in the draft where an SAV is described in a positive light. This cannot help but have an impact of placing a negative connotation on the public's perception of the acronym 'SAV,' which are very necessary plants. So I must underscore the importance of making the distinction with a different description between the generic term SAV and such vegetation which has become superabundant, or a nuisance. I would strongly recommend changing the wording to say, 'The purpose of the project is to create an SAV management plant which identifies control methods which can efficiently and effectively be implemented to control nuisance aquatic vegetation.' I would like this distinction to be made throughout the document."
Conroe, vice president of the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, directed her comments toward the longevity of the draft scoping document.
"This comment comes from the proposed actions (portion of the document)," said Conroe. "I believe that the proposed actions are not stated in this scoping document, and the specifics of its methodology are not stated either. It just often refers to 'the SAV plan will-' That's not enough information to comment on the scoping document. For us to have appropriate comments on the scoping document, those (specifics) need to be stated.
"A main portion of this plan is based on mapping plant areas, human use areas and determining which control action is appropriate for those zones," continued Conroe. "That premise makes this plan very time constrained, because if it is being done to look at plant communities - and it says right in the document 'current' plant communities - then, you must define 'current.' If we make a plan that is current, by my definition, that means right now. But we want to use this document (henceforth). So it must be made clear, what plant communities are you looking at, and what is current. Because the conditions in which those plants grow are far too changing to have the plant communities identified as 'they are here, and they are here now.' There's a chance they might not be there next year."
Finally, Nystrom, a biology professor at JCC, commented on how the SAV management plan could potentially harm already threatened plant species.
"I, like Jane, have some concerns that the document is not (specific) enough," said Nystrom. "I am drawn to the places where data will be gathered on plant and animal populations around the lake. Page 24 talks about how there will be a complete understanding of the location of existing animal species that are threatened or endangered. We do have some (plants and animals) in the area that are threatened, as well as very rare organisms in the area, but how will this be accomplished? In the plant impact section, it speaks ... about the bathymetric systems, which will be valuable, but bathymetric analysis will not tell you what species are there. In the last study - I don't know when our last macrophyte study has been accomplished, so how will you know? Populations do change a little bit, and what was true in 2007 may not be true now. My concern is that I would like to see more specific information about the process of (identifying threatened plant and animal species.) Overall, I'd like the document to be more specific."
Overall, the meeting had a good turnout. Regional government executives and legislators were in attendance, as well as concerned citizens. Nearly every town which borders the lake was represented, which is exactly what Diers had hoped for going into the meeting.
The purpose of the meeting, according to Jeff Diers, Chautauqua County watershed coordinator, was to gain public input about the current draft scoping document. Public input is not only a requirement for SEQR, but it also provides the department with the opportunity to hear what residents think about the controversial topic of managing lake weeds.
"Before the plan is completed, we are seeking public comment on the draft scope of the SAV management plan during its development," Diers continued. "This will aid us in making sure we have a well-written document that can immediately be implemented."
Jennifer Dougherty, representative of Phillips Lytle, LLP, made record of every comment and is tasked with reviewing them and possibly changing the scoping document accordingly.
For more information on the current draft scoping document for the lake SAV management plan, visit www.planningchautauqua.com.