Ellery, Chautauqua Institution Clash On Herbicide Use

Chautauqua Institution has asked its residents to make their concerns known regarding the potential herbicide treatment of the north basin of Chautauqua Lake this coming season.

An open letter, released by Institution President Michael Hill and Chautauqua Town Supervisor Don Emhart, explains that the town of Ellery has submitted a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation permit to use the new herbicide ProcellaCOR north of Long Point State Park this year. In their statement, Emhart and Hill cite concerns with the use of the herbicide as it may relate to harmful algae blooms and phosphorus, and contradictions with the Memorandum of Agreement on lake maintenance.

“The town of Ellery is the only municipality around Chautauqua Lake that did not sign the agreement and it finds itself again an outlier as the only municipality that has applied for herbicide permits to spray in the north basin of Chautauqua Lake, outside of the geographic limits agreed to in the MOA by all other involved parties,” the letter states. “The MOA’s requirement that applications be limited toward the southern end of the lake was a communal and collaborative attempt to keep herbicides at least some distance away from water intakes.”

While some lake maintenance groups and municipalities have been optimistic about the use of ProcellaCOR, due to its lack of usability restrictions compared to other herbicides, the letter cites Environmental Protection Agency registration documents that mention the possibility of oxygen depletion under certain conditions, and concerns about livestock drinking treated water.

“Herbicides alone cannot fix the problem,” the letter reads. “And, in fact, herbicide use without the tandem use of watershed-based solutions that are designed to reduce and control phosphorous flow into the lake, is believed to contribute to the larger public health and ecology concern of harmful algal blooms.”

Included in the news release is a letter written by John Shedd, Chautauqua Institution vice president of Campus Planning and Operations, to the DEC raising these concerns and asking them to deny the application. That letter was also sent to lake organizations and interested parties, while Chautauqua Institution has asked its residents to voice their concerns to local government officials as well.

Ellery has submitted its application in conjunction with the village of Bemus Point, which has signed on to the MOA.

“Well we sent the application in to the DEC, of course there is a new type of spray out now that changes everything as far as going north of Long Point,” Ellery Town Supervisor Arden Johnson said. “We’re just waiting to hear from DEC whether or not they are going to approve the spray.”

Johnson agreed with the position that ProcellaCOR offers benefits over previous herbicides, in that it does not come with similar water use restrictions. The application submitted does include areas north of Long Point, including Warner and Sunset Bays. Johnson explained that Ellery had chosen not to sign the MOA because it was not satisfied by the language of the document.

“Well the reason we didn’t sign the MOA, our attorney reviewed it and the wording was not correct. We were advised by our attorney not to sign it,” Johnson said.

In its letter, Chautauqua Institution officials explain the role of the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance to distribute county funds for lake maintenance projects. According to that letter, Alliance Interim Executive Director Vince Horrigan has informed the town of Ellery that it will not fund herbicide treatment in the north basin.

In his response, Johnson noted that other parties who have not followed along with the MOA have indeed received funding.

“Sure, we’re always relying on funding. I’m sure that other members around the lake have not abided by the MOA and they are getting money, so it’s entirely up to them,” Johnson said.


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