Watershed Conservancy Calling For Preservation

From left, Becky Nystrom, former Jamestown Community College biology professor and Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy board member; and John Jablonski, CWC executive director, talk about the state of Chautauqua Lake and how it needs long-term environmental plans that are science-driven in order to ensure the lake is around for generations to come. P-J photo by Eric Zavinski

CHAUTAUQUA — The Turner Winter Series covering the different perspectives regarding the treatment of Chautauqua Lake continued Tuesday as representatives from the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy explained their long-term plans for the lake.

Host Greg Peterson interviewed John Jablonski, CWC executive director, and Becky Nystrom, CWC board member and former Jamestown Community College biology professor of 36 years. They talked about the conservancy’s mission since 1990 as a means to advocate and implement long-term watershed preservation through stormwater management projects, property management reform, conservation easements and educational outreach.

Nystrom said watershed preservation is the healthiest way to treat Chautauqua Lake and the surrounding watershed. Making changes in the watershed leads to long-term results so that the lake remains healthy for future generations.

“People have to understand it’s a long-term process,” Nystrom said regarding the conservancy’s work.

CWC members know the conservancy is not an organization in a bubble. Jablonski and other board members led the creation of a conservation statement that multiple lake stakeholders, some of which treat the lake in different ways, signed onto.

That statement detailed how herbicides could be used in moderation, and Peterson asked Nystrom and Jablonski to expand their feelings on that idea. While both representatives said that herbicides could be used as one tool to manage macrophytes, otherwise known as aquatic weed species, they also expressed disagreements with the specific herbicides proposed to be used on the lake this spring and used in June 2018.

Jablonski highlighted how some studies reveal that Navigate, with the active 2, 4-D ingredient, can lead to adverse health effects for wildlife and pets if they swim in the lake during treatment periods. He said that 2, 4-D is also possibly cancer-causing and that caution must be exercised by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation when decisions are made to implement the chemical that’s intended to kill invasive weed species, including Eurasian milfoil.

Nystrom, whose masters thesis pertained to the impact of Eurasian milfoil on the environment, also took issue with the second proposed herbicide: Aquathol K, with the active endothall ingredient that she said could kill various lake weeds and not just the undesired invasive curly-leaf pondweed.

“Herbicides do have a place under selective, controlled conditions,” Nystrom said. “There are other herbicides that would be more suitable.”

She said she’s worried that if too many weed species are killed, it might turn a “plant-dominated lake” into a “algal-dominated lake.” In her scholarly career, Nystrom has completed studies on cyanobacteria, otherwise known as blue-green algae, which also carries with it unhealthy attributes for recreationalists, pets and wildlife.

Another former biology professor from JCC, Tom Erlandson, is the biology adviser for the Chautauqua Lake Partnership, and two weeks ago, he said that herbicides are the “last resort” the lake now needs.

Jablonski also commented on the subject of drift, whether caused by water currents or wind on the lake. He said it depends on how precisely and effectively herbicides are used to know how much herbicides may drift. No direct evidence was found of drifted herbicides used last year to treat Chautauqua Lake, but legal action led in 2018 by Chautauqua Institution against the Town of Ellery and DEC revealed fears for potential herbicide drift into the community’s in-lake drinking water supply.

“Our decisions matter,” Nystrom said.

Both representatives said the DEC did its due diligence in 2018 by limiting requests for herbicide treatments on Chautauqua Lake to only 191 acres of an initially applied 989 acres. Only 90 acres ended up treated last year due to municipal funding struggles.

Jablonski stated that he’s optimistic about County Executive George Borrello’s process to reach a memorandum of understanding amongst all lake stakeholders, in which Jablonski said he expects every lake group to have to compromise.

“We look forward to the result of that,” Jablonski said.

Follow Eric Zavinski at twitter.com/EZavinski.