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Lake Meetings On Tap

Topics For Discussion Include Watershed Designation, Research And HABs

Several meetings will be held in the coming weeks on various aspects of the health and maintenance of Chautauqua Lake. Submitted photo

Thousands of tourists will begin returning to the county in the coming days – and they’ll have several opportunities to learn more about what’s being done to improve Chautauqua Lake.

Jim Wehrfritz, a longtime lake advocate who has expressed concerns about how new state wetlands regulations could affect the lake, will host his second public meeting on the topic with identical presentations from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Sunday at the Lawson Center in Bemus Point and again from noon to 1:30 p.m. Monday at the Bemus Point Golf Club and Tap House.

Wehrfritz said during a public meeting held recently at the Lawson Center in Bemus Point that it’s estimated that 1,000,000 additional acres of new wetlands will be added state-wide with onerous restrictions on development and use. He is worried about the broad and inclusive nature of the proposed regulations.

In 2022, according to the DEC, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law historic revisions to New York’s Freshwater Wetlands Act. New York’s original Freshwater Wetlands Act was enacted in 1975 to regulate activities near larger wetlands, greater than 12.4 acres, and smaller wetlands considered to be of unusual local importance. The new wetlands law eliminates the use of the old, inaccurate wetland maps and clarifies that all wetland areas greater than 12.4 acres are subject to Article 24 regulations. Freshwater wetlands are lands and submerged lands – commonly called marshes, swamps, sloughs, bogs, and flats – that support aquatic or semi-aquatic vegetation.

While state DEC officials have said the wetlands regulations changes won’t bring drastic changes to Chautauqua Lake anytime soon, Wehrfritz said during his recent meeting in Bemus Point he is waiting for more information from the DEC to confirm what the agency has told the region’s elected officials is true. Until then, he is continuing to analyze the regulations and is keeping those interested abreast through emails and public meetings.

The Chautauqua Lake Partnership will host a meeting at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 25, at the Village Casino to focus on its efforts to campaign for an exemption for Chautauqua Lake from the state’s upcoming freshwater wetlands regulations.

Chautauqua County will host a symposium focused on Chautauqua Lake at 9 a.m. Sunday, June 2, at the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel in Celoron. This symposium aims to foster collaboration and discussion among stakeholders and experts concerning the health and future of Chautauqua Lake. With a focus on sharing vital data, insights, and actionable solutions, the event seeks to harness collective efforts for the betterment of the lake and its surrounding communities.

County Executive PJ Wendel will provide introductory comments and act as the master of ceremony at the event, introducing each speaker.

“I extend a warm welcome to all members of our community to join us in listening to the science and uniting our strengths for the betterment of Chautauqua Lake,” said Wendel. “Together, through Strength in Unity, we can advance Chautauqua Lake and ensure its vitality for generations to come.”

Featured presenters include, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, North Carolina State University (NC State), SUNY Oneonta, The Jefferson Project, United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). This diverse lineup of esteemed institutions and organizations will provide valuable perspectives and expertise on various aspects of Chautauqua Lake’s ecology, management, and preservation.

Attendees are encouraged to participate actively in the symposium. Questions can be submitted on note cards and will be directed to the speakers during designated Q&A sessions, facilitating meaningful dialogue and exchange of ideas. Light refreshments will also be provided. Lake stakeholders will have vendor booths set up as well.

For those unable to attend in person, the program will be livestreamed on Chautauqua County’s YouTube page. A recording will also be posted following the conclusion of the symposium.

June also brings with it the 2024 Chautauqua Lake Conference at Chautauqua Institution. That event from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 22, will include updates from local Chautauqua Lake organizations, SUNY Fredonia researchers, researchers from SUNY Oneonta and North Carolina State University, the Jefferson Project and local lake organizations.

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