Lawsuits Cost Money That Could Help The Lake

The Court has dismissed the Chautauqua Institution’s (Institution) suit against the Town of Ellery, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and the Chautauqua Lake Partnership (Partnership).

More specifically, in its Dec. 21, 2018 ruling, the Court held that, “After careful review of the moving papers, the relevant case law, and after considering oral argument of counsel, this Court finds as follows: The motions to dismiss brought by respondents New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Town of Ellery and the intervenor-respondent Chautauqua Lake Partnership, Inc. are granted over the opposition of petitioner Chautauqua Institution.”

The Court had previously denied the Institution’s extraordinary efforts to prevent the all-volunteer Partnership from joining the opposition to the Institution’s lawsuit and to disqualify Partnership’s legal counsel from representing the Partnership.

We understand the Institution’s concerns about the safety of its lake-based drinking water supply. However, SEIS-supported and NYSDEC-permitted herbicide use are not the cause of the Institution’s drinking water safety issues. Drinking water issues are due to blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) toxins and illegal herbicide use in the vicinity of their water supply intake, the Institution’s water treatment facility’s incapacity to sufficiently detect and remove the contaminants, lack of backup water supplies and failure to develop a plan to source water from other than the lake.

Unsupported lawsuits, like those filed in December, 2017, by a group of fifteen Maple Springs and Institution residents led by the “Conroe Residence,” which was dismissed in February, 2018, appealed and withdrawn in July, 2018, and that by the Institution (supported by the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy and the Chautauqua Lake Association), which was dismissed on Friday, have done nothing and will do nothing to improve Chautauqua Lake.

The suits, however, have served to redirect scarce funding, over $50,000 to date, from lake improvement to legal fees and have exposed the parochial motivations of well-funded lake organizations with limited vision, entrenched management and large payroll and administrative costs. The Partnership remains an all-volunteer non-profit organization with projects addressing all Chautauqua Lake water quality issues.

We hope the Chautauqua Lake Association will now accept the Partnership’s offer to work together to develop a combination environmental impact-mitigated weed harvesting and NYSDEC-permitted herbicide weed management program for Chautauqua Lake for 2019.

Dr. Jim Cirbus is president of the Chautauqua Lake Partnership. Jim Wehrfritz is vice president of the Chautauqua Lake Partnership.