CHAUTAUQUA?- Improving storm-water management has been a challenge and a goal for Chautauqua Institution for many years. The Institution recognizes that the health and usability of Chautauqua Lake is directly dependent upon all owners of property within the watershed taking proactive action to manage storm water in a manner that does not result in further harm to the lake. Accordingly, Chautauqua Institution has taken a number of actions to address its needs. The Institution invites the public and municipal officials to visit the grounds to observe the improvements that have been constructed. Its operations office is very willing to explain the whys and methods of its Drainage Management Plan.
Under the requirements of the US Clean Water Act, Chautauqua Lake has been listed by New York State as impaired waters. Nutrients are the principal cause of the impairment. Storm water delivers nutrients into the lake either as phosphorus or as nitrogen contained within the chemistry of the storm water or as attachments to sediment that flows along with the storm water. Therefore, either retaining the storm water on the land or filtering it is needed to remove the nutrients and sediment. The Institution's Drainage Management Plan involves taking just such actions.
In the past, actions involved either creating a pond or installing underground containment systems to catch storm water. The water was then slowly released instead of being allowed to rush to the lake. Slowing down the water caused the sediments to drop out and allowed nutrients to be absorbed by plants and land along the course of travel. Next, ''lake saver'' units were installed as storm sewers were reconstructed. The units slowed down the flow in pipes and channeled the water in a circular fashion such that the sediments were spun out and deposited in an accessible portion of the unit which could then later be cleaned out by maintenance staff. Currently, siphoning pipes are being added inside street catch basins in order to allow the water to flow while at the same time settling sediment out of the flow.
A rain garden at University Park at Chautauqua Institution helps manage storm water.
The benefits of these singular actions were proven by Jamestown Community College's Summer Undergraduate Research Institute water quality monitoring analysis. The first wetland created by the Institution evidenced a 50 percent decrease in turbidity of the water flowing through the wetland coupled with a significant reduction in nutrient content. Other monitoring samples evidenced a 71 percent reduction in phosphorus flowing through the wetland.
Two years ago, the Institution decided that a more comprehensive approach was needed. An engineering firm was retained to develop a Storm Sewer Plan. A Drainage Management Plan instead resulted when the engineers looked beyond the local piping needs and took into consideration the needs of Chautauqua Lake. A main goal of the plan is to deal with storm water on site, and, consequently, not discharge it into Chautauqua Lake. Water that cannot be retained where it falls will be directed to newly constructed and managed ponds, wetlands and rain gardens. Only overflows from extra large storm events will discharge to the lake. The wetlands and rain gardens will remove sediment and nutrients from the storm water.
A cost review of the plan's recommendations evidenced that proceeding in this direction would be less costly than would be the situation if storm water treatment plants had to be constructed to remove the sediments and nutrients. The Institution competitively applied for and has been successful in receiving two grants that will allow actions to proceed more quickly than would otherwise be possible. A Green Infrastructure Planning Grant was awarded by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and a Green Innovations Grant Program award was received from the NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation.
The Institution is very serious about working to address Chautauqua Lake's challenges. In 2010, the Institution Board of Trustees adopted a Strategic Plan which in part committed the Institution to ''respond to our environmental responsibilities and provide exemplary leadership through the development and implementation of specific action plans in the areas of storm water management, support of the Chautauqua Lake Management Plan, tree preservation and replacement and preservation and maintenance of landscaped open space.'' The Institution is pleased to take this lead in the area of storm water management and welcomes interaction and participation with other lakeside communities in addressing this important topic. The Institution recognizes that the solution will require everyone's participation and stands ready to collaborate with the greater community to address Chautauqua Lake's needs.
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local not-for-profit 501(c)(3) land trust and watershed education organization whose mission is to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. It is supported primarily by membership donations. For more information on CWC activities or to support the CWC, call 664-2166 or go to our website at www.chautauquawatershed.org.