Chautauqua Watershed Notes: 2019 CWC Initiatives

Stream erosion prevention will continue to be a key initiative in 2019 for the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy.

Once again, the start of a brand new year has come upon us. It is a time when many of us make new resolutions or recommit to previous goals with renewed energy. For 29 years, the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy has been a leader in Chautauqua County with education and conservation efforts that both prevent and cost-effectively manage lake and watershed problems. For 2019, the CWC is committed to continuing in that leadership role with an ambitious agenda of preventive and restorative activities to help keep the waters of the Chautauqua region healthy!

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy’s mission is to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. Since its founding in 1990, CWC has established 29 nature preserves and protected four other environmentally-sensitive sites throughout the county, conserving more than 1,000 acres of land county-wide and two miles of shoreline on Chautauqua Lake and its outlet!

The CWC is the only locally-based organization conserving important natural sites in Chautauqua County. The CWC uses its conservation and watershed education approach as a prevention strategy, getting out in front of pervasive environmental problems to control and stop them before they contribute to land, stream and lake deterioration and the vastly increased remediation costs that result. In doing so, the CWC champions cost-effective, long-term and permanent solutions to ecological health through conservation.

The main lake problems that CWC is working to address are uncontrolled nutrients and sediments. Uncontrolled nutrients and sediments flowing from landscapes trigger both excessive plant growth and serious and harmful algae blooms in our lakes. Given lakes with similar geo-physical and chemical characteristics, watershed land cover and use determine water pollution loading and ultimately determine the quality of the water, its fisheries and its attractiveness for recreational uses.

Simply put, the larger the percentage of intact forests and wetlands in a watershed and the smaller the percentage of crop land, pasture and developed land with impervious surfaces, the higher the water quality and the better the conditions are in your lake. Chautauqua Lake demonstrates this with the parts of the lake most impacted by urban runoff experiencing the most troublesome excessive plant and algae growth.

What are the best actions to reduce nutrient and sediment loading that feed algae and plant growth? While there is no “silver bullet” to solve these problems, there are many steps we can take that will lead to controlling lake conditions. These actions fall into 4 broad categories: 1) conserve and restore as much as of our lake watershed as forest lands and wetlands as possible, 2) establish effective vegetative buffers between lawns, pasture, crop fields and waterways to intercept nutrients and sediment, 3) control soil erosion and 4) reduce storm water and pollutant runoff by capturing and infiltrating rainwater.

In 2019, the CWC will work towards solutions to these issues with the following programs:

*The Chautauqua Lake Starve the Algae! Save the Lake! Program – CWC will provide educational and technical assistance activities to engage, persuade and assist landowners to refrain from fertilizing the lake and adopt lake-friendly landscaping practices as well as engage local governments to adopt and enforce effective erosion control and storm water pollution control programs.

*The Tributary Conservation and Enhancement Program – CWC is partnering with the Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District to use State funding to work with farmers to voluntarily remove cattle from streams and to move crop fields away from stream banks. This program will include acquiring permanent stream buffer conservation easements, creating stream buffers, undertaking stormwater management projects and undertaking erosion control and stream corridor restoration projects.

*The Clear Waters Land Conservation Program – CWC will work to strategically conserve and enhance those lands most important for collecting, storing, filtering and delivering clean waters for our drinking water supplies, streams and lakes. These include: 1) conserving, developing and stewarding in perpetuity 77 acres of sensitive forest and wetlands on Upper Cassadaga Lake with 1,100 feet of wetland shoreline; 2) conserving 40 to 200 acres of the Prendergast Creek stream corridor (including the stabilization of the creek banks to control erosion) and conserving and restoring 3,500 to 8,500 feet of Prendergast Creek; 3) conserving 33 acres of the Goose Creek forest floodplain corridor; 4) conserving 49 acres of the Cheney Creek forest corridor; and 5) conserving climate-resilient escarpment area landscapes, including gorges, glens, wetlands, streams and forests which feed area lakes and streams.

*Gateways to Nature Program – CWC will continue to make improvements at selected CWC preserves to make them more attractive, accessible and enjoyable for public recreational use.

A healthy lake requires a healthy watershed. We at the CWC hope that everyone will be a part of and support our efforts so that the Chautauqua region will remain an attractive, healthy and enjoyable place for all of those who live in, work in and visit the Chautauqua region now and in the future! Happy New Year to all!

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local, donor-supported not-for-profit non-governmental organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information or to support the CWC, call 716-664-2166 or visit or