This is directed to the local designated stewards and appointed trustees, responsible for the maintenance and well-being of Chautauqua Lake.
We own lakefront property on the northeast corner of Chautauqua Lake (Hartfield Bay). Since our purchase, seven years ago, the floating seaweed condition on the lake has worsened dramatically . As of Aug.16, we were unable to sail through the weeds to open water. This has never happened before.
The weeds now extend about 100 yards from shore and are layered several feet deep. Motorized boats are unable to keep their props weed-free long enough to back away from docks. Swimming and fishing in the slop is impossible. In short, the lake has become unusable.
We have contacted the Chautauqua Lake Association (of which we are members) on numerous occasions for assistance, but to no avail. These are nice people who are seriously under-budgeted, under-staffed, and using ineffective removal equipment.
It is their job to clean the seaweed. They are partially funded by county taxpayer money. This year the CLA stated that their funding has been cut substantially, causing staff shortages and idling weed removal equipment. We have had no seaweed removal at our location for at least two years. No one cut our taxes. Where has the money gone?
This problem causes serious economic consequences for an area that depends heavily on tourists and vacation homeowners. We are embarrassed to invite guests to our home this summer.
The maintenance problem has affected our property values to such an extent that it would be almost impossible to sell lakefront parcels between July 4 and Labor Day. The choking weeds, obnoxious smell, and obvious inability to use the lake would be fatal to obtaining a reasonable value.
We pay a premium for lakefront land and correspondingly high taxes - all based on the premise that the lake is usable. That is no longer the case. Property values should be lowered accordingly in the next tax assessment.
We must attack the lack of progress. Present maintenance techniques are inadequate at best. Equipment in use is inefficient and does a poor job. Better technology is needed perhaps a machine that grinds up the seaweed and returns it to the lake.
Funding is critical. We don't need more studies. We need action to remove the weeds. We want to know what short-term plan is in place for next year (this year looks to be totally out of control) and what long-term plan is in place for the next 10 years.
Here are some considerations and suggestions, though certainly not long-term solutions:
Explore whether ecologically responsible, non-toxic weed-killing sprays are available, keeping in mind that this water goes all the way to New Orleans and that many cities along the way use the water for drinking.
Ban all fertilizer use within 500 feet of Chautauqua Lake and its tributaries, including phosphorous-free fertilizers because the nitrogen in those fertilizers still feeds the weeds.
Stop using weed-cutting machines. All they do is increase the floating volume. Instead redirect those resources to operate barges for removal of accumulation along the shoreline. The greatest problem for property owners is not being able to dispose of the weeds once they're raked onto shore. Many of the shoreline properties lack vehicle access. Thus barge removal would be a big help.
Systematically schedule maintenance so that property owners can depend on the timing and frequency of that assistance.
We speak for our neighbors when we say it's time for action. A long-term plan is needed. Appropriate funding is necessary to save this once-beautiful lake.
If New York can't afford that, then where are our tax dollars going?
Please respond to our Cleveland Heights mailing address, phone, or email. We have no postal arrangement at Chautauqua.
Gerald and Robin Penca are residents of Dewittville and Cleveland Heights, Ohio.