Lake Herbicide Treatment Is Necessary

On behalf of the Chautauqua Lake Partnership Board of Directors, I congratulate the members and Board of the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy (CWC) for making the decision to use herbicides to control the various invasive plant species on their Ball Creek Nature Park at Stow. As written in The Post-Journal on June 3, 2018, the Conservancy has determined it is necessary to include herbicides as part of their ecological restoration project. That decision is similar to the one made several years ago by the Audubon Community Nature Center (ACNC) when they began to use aquatic herbicides to control European Water Chestnut in Big Pond on their Nature Center property. In both cases — CWC and ACNC — non-chemical methods were tried before it became clear herbicides were necessary. The CWC article lists several control methods that fell short of success and the ACNC made continual extensive efforts to pull the water chestnuts.

For nearly two years now, the Chautauqua Lake Partnership (CLP) has been engaged in a major effort to return to the long established and historically successful practice of applying herbicides to manage two species of aquatic invasive plants in Chautauqua Lake, specifically Curly Leaf Pondweed and Eurasian Water Milfoil. We achieved initial success last summer when the DEC granted the permit to apply herbicides to 30 acres in Bemus Bay. This year the DEC has issued permits to treat 191 acres in several areas of the lake. That herbicide treatment is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, June 11 and 12.

In including herbicides as part of their management program, the CWC’s stated goal is to restore “a healthy, functioning ecosystem at our Ball Creek Nature Park in North Harmony.” Their article reports that their Nature Park “has become choked with invasive plant species,” and goes on to state that those species are responsible for, among other things, “loss of biodiversity.” While their statement refers to a terrestrial ecosystem, a similar situation has been documented within the aquatic ecosystem of Chautauqua Lake. The article then says, “After more than a year of research and deliberation on how to address this issue, we found that our only viable solution would be to use herbicides.” As stated above, this finding was reached after attempting various non-chemical methods of weed control. An identical conclusion has been reached by the Chautauqua Lake Partnership about Chautauqua Lake after 25 years of weed harvesting alone failed to manage the problem. The CLP has devoted 18 months and $250,000 in support of the Town of Ellery as Lead Agency to meet NYSDEC and Environmental Quality Review Act requirements before the Towns of Ellery, Ellicott, Busti and North Harmony and the Village of Celoron received the permits to use herbicides.

The CLP’s efforts to return herbicides to the Chautauqua Lake weed management toolkit has met with limited but vocal local opposition, including some from the CWC. Even so, we applaud them for their recognition that there are times when herbicide use is necessary and we agree with their conclusion that, “The end result will be a net gain from an ecological perspective…” We believe the CWC conclusion is equally true for Chautauqua Lake.

Tom Erlandson is Chautauqua Lake Partnership biology advisor and board member. He is a Frewsburg resident.