"Why do we have so many Chautauqua Lake and watershed organizations?"
This question is often asked by people living around the Lake. There are many levels of government and several organizations responsible for or involved in the management of the Lake and its surrounding basin. This article will focus on the roles of five local organizations the Chautauqua Lake Management Commission (CLMC), Inter-Municipal Committee (IMC), Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy (CWC), Chautauqua Lake Association (CLA), and Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District (District). Each organization has a different focus and differing jurisdictions.
In order to coordinate lake and watershed activities and make priorities for constructive action, the County Legislature created the Chautauqua Lake Management Commission in 2005. The CLMC was given the responsibility to annually recommend and monitor a comprehensive lake management plan. This 11-member advisory body is made up of representatives from 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 Partnership, Conewango Creek Watershed Association, Chautauqua Lake Association and Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy. It also has a chairman appointed by the County Legislature. The CLMC is currently developing a submerged aquatic vegetation plan for the lake, tributary erosion control feasibility projects and dredging feasibility projects.
Several local organizations are responsible for or involved in the management of Chautauqua Lake and its surrounding basin.
The IMC is made up of leaders from towns and villages in the Chautauqua Lake watershed. It is developing model site plan review and erosion control regulations that it hopes will be adopted by municipalities across the watershed to substantially reduce the volume of storm water and incidences of soil erosion.
The CWC is a private, nonprofit charitable organization with a mission to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. A strong advocate for addressing the root causes of poor lake conditions, the CWC focuses on working with landowners to conserve and enhance key shore lands, wetlands, stream corridors and watershed forests important for collecting, storing, filtering and delivering clean waters to the area's waterways. To date, it has led efforts resulting in the conservation of 718 acres of land across Chautauqua County and 2 miles of shoreline around the lake and its outlet. Its Healthy Landscapes for Healthy Waters program assists streamside and lakeshore landowners in getting the technical information and resources they need to arrest bank erosion and enhance their waterfronts to prevent pollution.
The CLA is also a private, nonprofit charitable organization. It is primarily responsible for controlling lake plants with a fleet of mechanical harvesters to keep the lake open for recreation each summer as well as shoreline cleanup and debris removal after storms. According to its brochure, the CLA also "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." The CLA has sponsored Robert Johnson's herbivorous insect research on Chautauqua Lake, which documented the impact of aquatic moths, weevils and caddis flies as a potential lake plant control strategy.
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 nonprofit 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 2 percent waterway protection and enhancement funds.
These organizations are working cooperatively, and each plays a vital role in helping to keep the lake attractive and usable for all.