Groups Call For Unity On Health Of Lake

Ahead of a county-led memorandum of understanding that seeks to guide all of Chautauqua Lake’s stakeholders under one mission — to improve overall lake health — most lake-related groups have signed onto a conservation statement penned by the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy.

Leaders from the CWC, Chautauqua Lake Association, Chautauqua Institution and more said they want the narrative of in-fighting amongst members of the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance to disappear.

“We all work together, and we have worked together for 20 years,” said Paul Stage, CLA president.

He and others referenced one lake stakeholder, the Chautauqua Lake Partnership, that largely advocates for herbicide treatments of areas on Chautauqua Lake, as the main reason such a narrative persists. CLP leaders declined to comment regarding the statement and comments from other lake stakeholders.

The statement specifically focuses on supporting a healthy lake ecosystem with a balance of maintaining human-based interests that stem naturally from a multi-pronged approach that utilizes each organization’s strengths from weed harvesting to stormwater management.

“The management of Chautauqua Lake — and the reduction of nuisance aquatic plants and harmful algae blooms — has topped headlines and sparked many discussions in the past year,” the statement reads. “We feel it is important to state that many local organizations are working together, as we have been for decades, for a healthier lake and a healthier watershed. While some of the focuses and methods of our individual organizations may vary, we believe in the same core principles and work collaboratively toward common goals.”

Groups that signed onto the statement include: the CWC, CLA, Chautauqua Institution, Roger Tory Peterson Institute, Muskies Inc. Chapter 69, Chautauqua Fishing Alliance, the Nature Sanctuary Society of Western New York, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, Conewango Creek Watershed Association and Sherri Mason, Ph.D., sustainability coordinator at Penn State Behrend.

“Improving the health of Chautauqua Lake must rely on a scientific approach to ensure the measures taken will result in a lake ecosystem that benefits people and wildlife for generations to come,” the statement reads.

Necessity of both long-term and short-term solutions are outlined in the statement, along with a call for increased financial support.

“We share a common vision,” said Jennifer Nesbitt, CWC development coordinator. “There are positive things happening on and around the lake to improve the water quality.”

John Jablonski, CWC executive director, said the statement was born from his organization’s conservation committee wanting to promote fact-based lake management.

While he said the statement didn’t deny the need for herbicides as a last resort for macrophyte management, he commented on herbicides and how they could result in unintended consequences due to water and wind drift.

He said that herbicides typically kill off either monocots and dicots, differently structured plants that make up the assorted weed species that fill up some areas of Chautauqua Lake. Jablonski said that if herbicides that kill both are implemented, all types of aquatic plant life could be killed, which could lead to other troublesome species taking their place.

“Nature tends to give you an opposite and equal reaction to something you do,” Jablonski explained. “We’re all after a usable, attractive, clean lake.”

He further said how this problem is complex since the two weed species most often labeled as the troublemakers on the lake — invasive Eurasian milfoil and curly-leaf pondweed — represent both monocots and dicots, which necessitates two herbicides if the intention is to remove both from areas of the lake.

“Drift is a major concern,” said Jablonski, who said that herbicide treatments can be a tool in the overall plan to keep the lake healthy as long as the chemicals are administered responsibly.

He compared lake management as a performance put on by an orchestra, in which each lake group plays its own role. Just because each organization does something different doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate each other, he said.

CLA President Stage also said that he hopes more organizations, businesses and municipalities sign onto the conservation statement to show further unity for lake health and management.

“I hope that this joint statement will ground everyone again in what is truly at stake here — the inherent quality of our entire lake, and not just the quality of select lake uses,” said Twan Leenders, RTPI president.

John Shedd, vice president for campus planning and operations at Chautauqua Institution, said he was happy the statement got pulled together. While he said the commitment to lake management consensus for most lake organizations isn’t new, he said now was right time to communicate teamwork to the public.

“I think everybody’s going to get together and try to go in the same direction,” Shedd said in terms of lake management. “Most of us (are) in full agreement.”

As most lake groups agree to the conservation statement, the CLP continues to push for Department of Environmental Conservation permits to apply herbicides if lakefront municipalities allow for it this April or May.

“People take a look at this (statement) and take on some responsibility themselves,” said Craig Seger, CLA and CWC board member and co-chair of the CWC conservation committee.