Uncertainty Remains With Lake Herbicide Treatment

Next to the Chautauqua Lake Ferry being in dry dock for repairs, the biggest news on the lake is probably the completion of a second year of herbicide treatment led by the Chautauqua Lake Partnership. (The coverage given by this newspaper is indicative of the public’s interest in the issue.)

Though greatly reduced in scope by DEC permit, the herbicide treatment nevertheless was expanded into new areas of the Lake in North Harmony and in the Sunset Bay Area of the Town of Ellery. (It was vetoed in the Village of Lakewood.) It will be interesting to see how that effort is accepted from the point-of-view of the property owners along the shore. If the weed growth is reduced and yet fishing continues to be strong, it could lead to even more lakeshore areas being included next year.

Prior to this treatment, lakeshore properties owners in the Towns affected were notified of what was happening, even if there was going to be no herbicide applied in front of their homes. A map was also included showing the areas that would be treated. The notice also included the time restrictions for swimming and fishing after herbicide was applied. Most restrictions were for only 24 hours which I thought was quite reasonable, though one landowner I spoke with wasn’t pleased with the one-month moratorium on irrigation.

I hope that the Partnership follows up with another letter later in the summer letting us know what the results were, if there were any complaints, what the reports are from fishing and boating interests and what was learned from post-treatment testing. This is a learning experience for everyone living around the Lake, and the more information — the better.

One matter that is not resolved is the financing for herbicide treatment. The County has not directly contributed. From my understanding, funding for the Partnership has come from some of the Towns, from private contributions and from foundations. It is true that the County benefits from high property valuations along the lakeshore. Yet, that does not necessarily translate into votes for the Lake.

There are a lot of voters who think that expenditures on the Lake should be paid only by people who live on the Lake. There are exceptions: the County spends money on the Sheriff’s lake patrol and has provided funds at times for weed clean up. But, there is a built-in political resistance to expanding government support from legislators who do not live on or near the Lake, and that is reinforced by objections from some environmentalists who are opposed to herbicide treatment as a matter of policy.

Like every issue which costs money — it will come down to negotiation and compromise. Maybe the Partnership will get some money already targeted for waterways and lakes through the county bed tax, but my bet is that they probably won’t get it through the general county tax levy. Maybe the Towns could offer a separate voluntary payment in their tax bills directed only for the Lake.

In any event, we should give the Partnership credit for initiating this effort in weed control. Chautauqua Lake is a heavily used body of water with tremendous human impacts. It needs to be managed by humans in the best way possible. That is why we need to remain committed to getting sewers built around the Lake to reduce the amount of phosphorous being injected by humans into the lake through failing and inadequate septic systems.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.