Let’s Not Lose Sight Of The Lake

This is simply to provide additional information as follow-up to the January 18-19 edition’s lead article concerning Chautauqua Lake.

Near the end of the article the writer refers to a 2015 guidance bulletin from the central office of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). It recommended that management responses be developed to address both new and established invasive species. The types of responses were not identified by the writer. Given the topic of the article one could reasonably conclude that the 2019 herbicide program might have been an appropriate response, especially since it was permitted by the regional office. Both recent reports on the 2019 treatment exhibited concerns that need to be addressed regarding future herbicide use.

In 2016 the DEC issued further “Recommendations Regarding the Use of Aquatic Herbicide in Fish-Bearing Waters of the State.” While acknowledging the use of herbicides, this document recommends controls on herbicides and in general does not recommend their wide-spread use. In fact, the Division of Fish, Wildlife & Marine Resources “is generally reluctant to encourage or promote the use of chemical herbicides.” Several guidance recommendations are provided including: “Herbicide treatments should not occur when the targeted aquatic vegetation is in water so deep that it does not interfere with human activities…”; and “if a waterbody has been infested with an invasive species for a long period of time, the overall risks to the aquatic ecology of large scale treatment programs must be taken into account, particularly if it seems unlikely that the treatment program will result in the eradication of the invasive species, or if eradicating the species might result in other, undesirable changes.” Both Eurasian watermilfoil and Curly leaf pondweed have been present in Chautauqua Lake for many decades.

The DEC’s central office recognizes that neither Eurasian watermilfoil nor curly leaf pondweed will ever be fully eradicated from Chautauqua Lake. The Racine-Johnson report details undesirable changes that can be expected to occur to Chautauqua Lake if the two species were to be eradicated. The report also notes the positive affect that the presence of Eurasian watermilfoil has in buffering the presence of the algal blooms that have become so troubling to lake users.

The Chautauqua Lake Association agrees that it is appropriate to utilize herbicides in a targeted manner when lake conditions require such. The condition of Burtis Bay in 2018 would have been one such instance.

Moving forward the discussion needs to be about what the blend of plant control responses should be to best serve both human need and lake ecological need. As we discuss meeting human need, we should not lose sight of the fact that it is the lake’s ecology that kept settlers here, has brought industry and commercial business and will retain residents and businesses into the future.

Douglas Conroe is executive director Chautauqua Lake Association Inc.