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Chautauqua Alliance, Lake Organizations Continue Lake Maintenance

Attached photo of Mobitrac (at left) operated by the Town of Chautauqua and “skimmer” vessel (at right) operated by the Chautauqua Lake Association working in coordination for near-shore cleanup on Chautauqua Lake in 2021. (Photo credit: Chautauqua Lake & Watershed Management Alliance) Submitted photo

Despite the summer season coming to a close, the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance and other various lake organizations are continuing their maintenance of the lake. Alliance Executive Director Randall Perry said activities range from weed maintenance to research efforts and several long-term projects.

Perry said the alliance, the state and partner organizations are also continuing to monitoring the algae and weeds in the lake.

“Certainly algae are a very common and active population of organisms in the lake, as they are in many lakes,” he said. “This time of year, with the warm weather and typically later in the season, the August-September timeframe can be a pretty active time for algae. One thing that the state does is it tracks algae conditions on multiple lakes around the state.”

Perry said the south basin of Chautauqua Lake has seen some increase in algal blooms, but that is typical for this time of year.

“We’re working on a lot of longer-term projects that are seeking to help with the algae situation in terms of limiting nutrients flowing into the lake,” he said. “There are some pretty major scientific initiatives that are underway this year to try not only to track and document algae dynamics in the lake through lake sampling and lake monitoring but also tracking conditions of the lake itself, the flow of water through the lake changes and water quality parameters, not just at the surface but at depth as well.”

Perry said one such initiative is the Jefferson Project, which has been partnering with Chautauqua Institution to better understand the dynamics of algae in hopes of better predictions, prevention, management, and reduction of algae. The Jefferson Project is a collaborative scientific initiative that began in Lake George in partnership with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, IBM, and the Fund for Lake George, now known as the Lake George Association. The project focus on using monitoring platforms that float in the body of water they monitor and provide information on various topics regarding the lake.

“These platforms are called vertical profilers,” Perry said. “They also pair those platforms that continuously monitor these lake conditions, and they’ll also do samplings. They’ll collect water samples for things like phytoplankton, zooplankton – which are those organisms that live in the water – and also for water quality parameters, phosphorus in the water, pH temperature, dissolved oxygen and all these really important lake characteristics. With those data that they’re collecting, they’ll feed the data into these very sophisticated computer models to help better understand the physical, chemical, and biological conditions of our body of water.”

He said the project in Lake George began in 2013 but was brought to Chautauqua Lake in 2020 in partnership with Chautauqua Institution.

“They had a very successful first season and it ran from about August until November of last year,” Perry said. “What they fathered for data, they did a very similar approach. We had two vertical profilers deployed on the lake – one in the north basin and one in the south basin with teams from the Jefferson Project went out and took biweekly … water samples.”

He said the Jefferson project has begun building first-generation models with the data they collected and learned a lot about the status of the lake. He said they also learned a lot about algal blooms and lake flow during the study.

“What they found was really eye-opening in terms of how complicated those flow regimes can be with current – not necessarily just going from north to south, but at times, having reversals in certain layers of the water that can actually bring water from the south up to the north in certain conditions,” he said. “(They were trying to) figure out not just physical conditions, but what are the algae doing? So they were tracking blooms, tracking the types of algae that are growing at different times of the season, and tracking toxins that might be produced by certain types of algae.”

Perry said knowing the rates at which algae is blooming is incredibly important as preventing or mitigating the impacts of the blooms would be highly difficult without that information.

He said the project has recently begun its second season and will have an extended season this year. Perry said they will again utilize water sampling and the vertical profilers.

“Again with that overall goal of first you have to understand the lake better, and you have to understand what the algae are doing currently,” he said. “Then, you can really start to put the pieces together to figure out what are some of the other drivers for certain algae conditions.”

As for weed management, Perry said both the Town of Chautauqua and the Chautauqua Lake Association collaborated in a nearshore and shoreline clean-up effort using Mobi tracs and workers to clean up various areas.

“That’s been going on through the summer and then kind of moving into the late season,” he said. “Kind of post-Labor Day – to call that the postseason – we’ve been able to also extend the mechanical cleanup programs. They’re still ongoing. They’re working on getting a majority of the lakeshore areas clean one more time in terms of mostly shoreline and nearshore clean up, removing a lot of debris, a lot of floating and accumulated debris.”

Likewise, the Chautauqua Lake Partnership, working with various municipalities performed a herbicide management program that targeted curly-leaf pondweed in the spring, he said.

Perry said in terms of overall lake quality, “it is really very site-specific.”

“It’s a big lake,” he said. “Quality conditions are going to vary a lot from place to place, but overall I think especially through much of the season we’ve heard pretty good things from most areas about lake conditions, both plant conditions in water, water clarity, and water quality. But we’re certainly always looking for ways to improve.”

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