Borrello: Balance Needed On Lake Management

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, speaks during the recently held Chautauqua Lake Symposium organized by County Executive PJ Wendel.

Chautauqua County isn’t the only county where people have concerns about wetlands regulations that take effect in January.

That’s one reason state Sen George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, and Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, support legislation Borrello has already introduced in the state Senate to declare freshwater lakes exempt from wetlands regulations signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

“Chad said it right – the DEC’s job is to enforce the laws and rules that are given essentially by the legislature,” Borrello said during the June 2 symposium. “That’s why I introduced a new bill that would exempt inland freshwater lakes that are navigable waterways from being impacted by these new wetland rules. I think that’s a common sense step. All the things that Chad (Stansiszewski, assistant regional director for the state DEC Region 9.) described to protect the lake are already in place. We can already do the things we need to do in this lake to keep the ecology and the fishery safe. For the long term sustainability we don’t need new rules and regulations. I didn’t support that in the budget and I think that a good balance will be to ensure that our navigable waterways throughout the state, which are economic drivers for some of the poorest, most rural areas in this state (are protected).”

Goodell said the state’s move to change wetlands designations was driven by the realization that maps aren’t the most accurate description of the state’s wetlands. The regulations passed in 2022 removed the requirement that wetlands be shown on a map and created legal definitions of wetlands so that the state could better protect wetlands that needed the state’s additional focus. The law defines marshes, swamps, sloughs, bogs and flats that support aquatic or semi-aquatic vegetation – but it didn’t include lakes in the definition.

“In the entire history of the state and the entire history of our wetlands regulation, Chautauqua Lake has never been shown on any map,” Goodell said. “Even on our worst days we don’t normally refer to it as a swamp. From time to time the legislature steps in to make sure that everyone understands what we’re talking about, and hence Senator Borrello’s bill to make sure that everyone understands that when we talk about lakes it’s different than marshes, swamps, sloughs, bogs and flats. The legislature can clarify that and I’ll be supporting that in the Assembly. To be honest with you, that legislation shouldn’t be necessary, but it’s important to make sure that it’s not necessary, so thank you senator.”

Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, speaks about Chautauqua Lake during the recently held Chautauqua Lake Symposium.

Goodell said it’s noteworthy that Chautauqua Lake is one of two lakes across the state that have a line item appropriation in the state budget, with the Chautauqua Lake Association and Chautauqua Lake Partnership each receiving money. Goodell gave credit to Gov. Kathy Hochul for helping Goodell and Borrello secure that money in the budget when she was serving as lieutenant governor. Borrello, meanwhile, said Chautauqua Lake is known far and wide, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has visited a friend’s home on the shores of Chautauqua Lake. While the region’s state senator said he doesn’t want to see Chautauqua Lake become a wetland, he said it’s important that county residents’ expectations don’t swing too far the other direction either.

“I want to make one thing clear,” Borrello said. “I don’t want the lake to be like a swamp, but it’s also not going to be a swimming pool folks, OK? We need that balance. It is a lake. It’s important. People are here to fish. There are important ecological benefits to all of those things that make the lake what it is, so a balance, a common sense balance is what we need. So I’ve had this discussion with PJ (Wendel, county executive) and discussed this idea of introducing this bill because he has spoken to other county executives around the state, they’re in similar situations with these new wetland rules. They are concerned about their freshwater lakes.”

Goodell and Borrello said they will support clarifying legislation in the state Legislature, but Goodell said it is also important for the room full of lake advocates to continue advocating for the lake’s health in board rooms and public venues for years to come.

“More important is your role, because it is absolutely critical that you remain involved and involved in every aspect of the lake,” Goodell said. “This lake has a direct appropriations in the state budget because of people like you. People like you and your elected officials on every level stand up and say this is important, and we get funding for wetland protection and grants to the Watershed Conservancy, that’s an important component of the lake’s health. It’s because of dedicated people like you who support those organizations and say this is important to us. And as the DEC through the process of upgrading its regulations and evaluating them, they listen to you. Your view is important and you’re involvement is important, so my friends, for your sake and for the sake of future generations, stay involved, stay focused and make sure Chautauqua Lake maximizes its potential for everybody.”


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