Herbicide Funding Floods In For Lake

From left, Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance Vice Chairman Ted McCague, Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello and Alliance Chairman Pierre Chagnon smile after various positive developments at Thursday's alliance meeting. P-J photo by Eric Zavinski

STOW — Nearly 100 percent of permitted acres for herbicide treatments on Chautauqua Lake are going to be funded after all.

All town supervisors and village mayors are also authorized to sign contracts with SOLitude Lake Management to get as much acreage treated with Aquathol K and Navigate as possible.

Following a meeting of the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance, the town of Ellery became the last municipality later Thursday evening to commit itself to treatments that will begin Wednesday.

In total, Chautauqua Lake Partnership President Jim Cirbus shared that nearly 400 acres of Chautauqua Lake will now be treated — a far cry from the less than half of that number that was expected from town officials and other lake stakeholders earlier this week.

The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, Lenna Foundation, Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation, Chautauqua County and Chautauqua Harbor Hotel all contributed extra funds — totaling more than an extra $100,000 — to help levy the approximately $330,000 needed to treat the lake this spring.

“I think it’s fantastic we’re doing this,” Cirbus said.

Funds have now been secured for 395 acres of treatments permitted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on May 1. Cirbus said that equals about 77 percent of the total possible acres, approximately 513, that could be treated.

This means that the villages of Lakewood and Celoron and towns of Ellicott and Ellery will be receiving 100 percent of possible treatments this year. Only North Harmony will not receive treatments for all of its permitted acreage, but North Harmony Town Supervisor Robert Yates said the town’s “hot spots” will be treated in the 53 acres funded.

Lake alliance members shared smiles and applause over the successful funding announced in a meeting that had other positive developments in store as well.

Cleanup of Burtis Bay was said to be progressing well. Chagnon said Chautauqua Lake Association workers have been cleaning shores on multiple passes to secure as much deteriorated material as possible. He said CLA should be done with its portion of the cleanup in a day or two.

Yates also stepped in, furthering the collaboration that already began with Celoron, Ellicott, CLA, county government, DEC and Jamestown Board of Public Utilities working together. He offered to take all of the collected plant-based material and store it in his compost area in order for the biomass to not become a smelly eyesore for months to come while it dries enough to be reused for fertilizer.

Chagnon also announced the “first real action the county is taking from the Memorandum of Agreement (for the Chautauqua Lake Weed Management Consensus Strategy).” To conduct third-party testing of lake waters this summer, New Jersey-based Princeton Hydro will ensure herbicides are only killing invasive Eurasian watermilfoil and curly-leaf pondweed and not native plants.

Borrello called these developments an “unprecedented amount of cooperation.” He pinpointed Burtis Bay cleanup as a symbolic show of strength lake alliance members have together.

“I thought I was going to break down and cry,” Ellicott Town Supervisor Patrick McLaughlin said when he heard news of the successful funding push for herbicides Thursday.

McLaughlin has worked with Burtis Bay residents in attempts to clean up the territory following a massive fish kill that had blighted the area in November 2018. Many stakeholders have since joined the town in efforts to clean the lake. Burtis Bay resident Peggy Newell said she had hope that “something like this will never happen again.”

The DEC’s plan for Burtis Bay is to treat it in thirds through 2021. To assist this plan and ensure the full permitted third of the bay is treated this month, the Busti Town Board decided Monday to gift its $10,000 Sheldon Foundation grant to the village of Celoron, which needed approximately $31,000 for all of its treatments.

The Chautauqua Harbor Hotel helped close the gap for Celoron funding while various foundations assisted with allocations for the other municipalities. David Hart, president and CEO of Hart Hotels, expressed how his decision to give back was forged out of self-interest for Celoron’s Harbor Hotel and the potential customers throughout the area who would want to see cleaner shores. Waters around the hotel are slated to be treated this month between May 15 and 22 along with the rest of the 395 permitted acres.

“I’m new to the cause here, and it’s an important cause,” Hart said. “We recognize the severity of the problem.”

Hart said an “advanced agent” — herbicides, in this case — are needed to secure a healthy lake in some areas. He said a healthy lake will help clear the path for a successful business. The Harbor Hotel will experience its first full summer season this year.

In other news, Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy board member Mary Laumer, Chautauqua Lake Partnership Treasurer Mike LaTone and Yates were elected to the lake alliance’s board. Board member Linda Barber had resigned earlier this year, and terms expired Thursday for board members Jay Bailey and Ellery Town Councilman Dave Wesp.

Follow Eric Zavinski at twitter.com/EZavinski