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‘Encouraged By It’

CLP Representatives Highlight Herbicides As Last Resort

Representing the Chautauqua Lake Partnership, biology adviser Tom Erlandson, left, and vice president Jim Wehrfritz discuss how they believe herbicides are the necessary last resort to treat Chautauqua Lake for invasive weed species. P-J photo by Eric Zavinski

CHAUTAUQUA — During the fourth 2019 Turner Winter Series lecture covering the health of Chautauqua Lake, members of the Chautauqua Lake Partnership were hosted by Greg Peterson as they discussed how herbicides are a necessary tool to treat the county’s lake.

The organization’s biology adviser Tom Erlandson and vice president Jim Wehrfritz were clear in saying that herbicides couldn’t be the only method of treatment for the Chautauqua Lake’s weed problems. They said that herbicide applications will combine with other lake groups’ practices well.

“There is a time that (herbicides) should be used,” said Erlandson, who has an extensive environmental background, including having taught biology and geology at Jamestown Community College for 27 years.

Erlandson described herbicide treatments as a “last resort” but added that he believes the lake has reached that point. By going through the permit processes and by following the standards of last year’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, he also expressed a belief that herbicides won’t significantly harm native aquatic plants or animal species in the lake this year.

Permit applications are in the works for the villages of Lakewood and Celoron and the towns of Ellery, Ellicott, Busti and North Harmony to treat their waters with herbicides tentatively in April or May if they so choose. Invasive weed species Eurasian milfoil and curly-leaf pondweed, two of the most apparent macrophytes of approximately 30 weed species that grow in Chautauqua Lake, Erlandson said, are the targets for herbicide treatments.

While others with scientific backgrounds, such as John Jablonski, executive director from the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, suggest that due to the nature of the two invasives, other native weed species will die if herbicides are used, Erlandson said that wouldn’t be the case.

Last year, herbicides were used to treat 90 acres of Ellery, Busti and North Harmony waters in June. CLP wants to get a head start on permits and treatments because both invasive species will be killed more efficiently in the early to mid-spring. Wehrfritz said an earlier treatment would be beneficial because fewer residents would be using the lake as compared to how many people used the lake near the beginning of the 2018 summer season.

The pair also expressed their satisfaction with the county’s purchase of a Mobitrac weed harvester machine and the subsequent purchase of a second by the town of Chautauqua. The county vehicle will be stored in Chautauqua as well, but it will be utilized in all municipalities’ lakefront areas as early as this spring to harvest weeds.

Wehrfritz said the typical harvesting method of Chautauqua Lake Association employees using pitchforks isn’t efficient and could lead to some adverse health risks for those employees. He said he hopes to see six Mobitrac machines mobilized around the lake in the future.

Weed harvesting techniques that assist the CLA like the Mobitracs would help remove weed fragments, Wehrfritz said. Erlandson said boats, insects, storms and harvesting in other areas on the lake can lead to remaining fragments that can eventually sink to the bottom and feed more weed growth.

Harmful algal blooms, most often in the form of cyanobacteria, otherwise known as blue-green algae, is another agreed upon problem area of the lake. Work with the Lake Erie Center may lead to sensors being placed in Chautauqua Lake, so analysts would be able to create a contour map of where the most phosphorus lies. Then, the life-feeding nutrient could be taken out in those “hot spots” to help solve the issue of internal nutrient loading. Agricultural runoff is the second largest factor contributing to high levels of phosphorus in the lake.

Wehrfritz also presented some background on why he initially got involved in Chautauqua Lake issues. After a 35-year career with ExxonMobil, Wehrfritz and his wife settled into a Bemus Bay residence in 2015. That same year, they noticed a smell emanating from rotting lakeshore weeds wafting to their house 300 feet away from shore.

Originally, he had talked with neighbors and discovered it wasn’t a unique problem to the summer of 2015. Bemus Bay property owners eventually joined with others to merge with the inactive Chautauqua Lake Partnership to become a volunteer-run nonprofit. Before then, the CLP’s last major activity had been herbicide treatments organized in the early 2000s.

Looking into the future, Wehrfritz and Erlandson are excited about the memorandum of understanding County Executive George Borrello is spearheading to get all lake groups to sign onto a collaborative strategy to manage weeds in Chautauqua Lake.

“We’re very encouraged by it,” Wehrfritz said. “We’re real hopeful that (the MOU) results in something everyone can agree with.”

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