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Small But Significant

Ball Creek Water Quality Project Moves Ahead

Recent native tree and shrub plantings at CWC’s Ball Creek Preserve will help improve the water quality in both Ball Creek and Chautauqua Lake. Photo by Jeremy Woolson

Late last fall, the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, along with the Chautauqua Watershed Management Alliance, concluded work on CWC’s Ball Creek Preserve for a wide-ranging water quality improvement project. This project was primarily funded through the New York State Water Quality Improvement Program with matching funds provided by Chautauqua County.

Ball Creek is a small but significant preserve located on Old Bridge Road near Hogan’s Hut in Stow. At only six acres, Ball Creek is by no means vast in area, but it is located in a critical area along the banks of Ball Creek just 200 yards from Chautauqua Lake. When CWC acquired the site, a wide selection of invasive plant species was present, and along the banks of the creek was a major area of stream bank erosion that was dumping sediment into Chautauqua Lake. By 2011, the six dominant invasive species on the site had become pervasive and presented a significant management challenge. In 2016, CWC took step to address the site’s invasive species and stream bank erosion issues.

To help stabilize the stream banks, large stone blocks were added along the exposed banks, anchoring back into the banks and extending over a 250-foot run. These same large stone blocks were used to create a riffle area to reduce stream velocity and sediment loading before dropping down towards the lake. Dogwood and willow were then planted along the margin of the stabilized banks. These trees and shrubs help to reduce the amount of nutrients flowing into Ball Creek, which empties into Chautauqua Lake just south of Stow. This is the shallowest basin of the lake, making it very vulnerable to issues related to sediment and nutrient loading from stream flows. The stream bank stabilization was completed in 2017.

In preparation for invasive species treatments, the town of North Harmony assisted in the project by mowing the site to reduce the volume of invasive vegetation. One of the invasive species was Mugwort, which releases materials into the soil that inhibit the growth of other plants. Once the invasive areas of Mugwort, Common Reed and Knotweed were dealt with, a no-till seeding machine was utilized to plant seeds for a variety of native species of herbaceous plants. After seeding, the next step was to plant a small but important plot of trees within this area next to the waterway, also known as a riparian zone. The tree planting in the riparian zone included 50 trees divided among five native species: Red Maple, Silver Maple, White Oak, Swamp White Oak and Pin Oak. These were planted by a wetland restoration contractor and by volunteers and staff from both CWC and CLWMA. This work was completed in late 2019.

The ecological health of the Ball Creek Preserve location was greatly enhanced by this extensive effort. The major change in character created by stabilizing the stream bank against erosion, seeding native grasses and plants and restoring the riparian forest area will reduce the amount of sediment entering the lake. Significantly reduced invasive species on the site lowers the likelihood of invasives spreading from this site to other sites on the lake. Reintroduction of a selection of tree species that are native and well suited to the location along the banks to restore the riparian forest will add even more to the site’s capacity for water filtration, habitat enhancement and sediment retention.

Continuing efforts like this one throughout Chautauqua County and around Chautauqua Lake will all incrementally add up to enhanced water quality and more days of safe aquatic fun in the sun. Sustaining these efforts are our grant partners, donors and volunteers, most of whom are just people who would like to see fewer challenges to their enjoyment of the lake. Conserving or improving the systems that help to reduce nutrients and sediments flowing into the lakes and streams of the County is what CWC does every day — sometimes through water quality projects like this one and sometimes just by setting aside a riparian forest or a wetland so it can continue to have a positive effect on our regional water quality.

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local not-for-profit 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, call 664-2166 or visit chautauquawatershed.org or facebook.com/chautauquawatershed.

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