Consensus Needed To Secure Lake’s Future

During my term as County Executive, I proposed the formation of a Chautauqua Lake District for the purpose of generating dedicated funding for Chautauqua lake. It was clear to me back in 2017 that relaying on funding from donations, local foundations, 2% occupancy (bed) tax, and limited New York state funding would fall short of what was needed to adequately fund the lake organizations’ recommended projects and programs funded by the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance.

At the time I proposed the Lake District, I knew the biggest obstacle would be a new tax which would be a hard sell for those of us who already pay higher taxes due to the assessed value of our properties bordering on Chautauqua Lake. However, I was optimistic that the work of CLA, CLP, and the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy was on the road to building a consensus on what was needed to properly maintain Chautauqua Lake. Furthermore, I thought that a Memorandum of Agreement, and a follow-on Memorandum of Understanding led by the county executives would drive the formulation of a consensus.

During late 2019 until late 2020 that I was the interim executive director of the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance available funding was only enough to fund approximately half of the projects that were requested by the various lake organizations. This was including the very generous support from our local foundations who maintained their incredible support for our work. If only we had dedicated funding to implement extended CLA seasonal operations, adequate herbicide applications, more stream bank remediations, additional watershed storm water retention, property owner education and explore dredging solutions then we could begin to make real progress in macrophyte and algae bloom issues. Possibly we could even hire a professional lake manager to find the best possible mix of programs and projects.

For real progress to move forward we must find a consensus on the mix of programs and projects to manage our lake and watershed. This will require board and executive leadership of lake organizations to open their minds to multiple solutions rather than arguing over their individual core agendas. The involvement of Chautauqua Institution and the Jefferson Project is a welcomed addition to find science-based solutions to support our work. But it will take dedicated funding to implement the solutions. However, as long as a consensus on lake projects and programs eludes us, we will continue to be stuck in the weeds.

Vince Horrigan is a former Chautauqua County legislator and a former Chautauqua County executive.


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