Chautauqua Lake experienced both heavy extended algae blooms and dense plant growth this past summer, making it difficult, unpleasant or impossible to use the lake in some neighborhoods in late summer. Last week, the probable causes of these nuisance conditions - excessive nutrients and weather conditions - were summarized. Today, we note actions that can be taken to address these conditions.
So what can we do? For 21 years, the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy has advocated for effective preventive actions to control and reduce the amount of nutrients and sediments released in our watersheds and reaching our streams and lakes. The CWC itself, and by partnering with other agencies, has conserved nearly two miles of important Chautauqua Lake and Outlet shore lands and wetlands that act as vital water pollution filters to the lake and as floodwater storage areas. In addition, CWC's education and technical assistance programs, such as its ''Don't Feed the Weeds'' program and The 'Shed Sheet newsletter have informed thousands of shore land property owners of the actions they can take to avoid fertilizing the plants in the lake and restore the natural filtration functions of their properties. Its Chautauqua Watersheds Conservation Stewardship Program employs conservationists to make instructional presentations to neighborhood associations and community groups, as well as providing one-on-one technical assistance with lakeshore and streamside landscaping. The CWC is actively targeting and conserving those lands county-wide that host the most important functions of collecting, storing, filtering and delivering clean waters to our lakes. In fact, CWC conserved one mile of functioning streamside and lakefront natural buffer lands in 2011 alone.
The Chautauqua Lake Management Commission, of which CWC is a partnering agency, has produced the Chautauqua Lake Watershed Management Plan, which lists priority actions for municipalities, watershed residents, organizations, farmers and developers to take to address the nutrients and sediments affecting Chautauqua Lake. You can find this report and its summary at the Planning Chautauqua website at www.planningchautauqua.com/watershed/chautlake_mgmt_plan.htm.
Lakeside and streamside (riparian) vegetative buffer strips trap pollutants from cropland, yards and septic systems before they reach the water.
Photo by the USDA-NRCS
What about chemical herbicides? Can they be used to address the abundant plants in Chautauqua Lake? Various herbicides affect different types of plants. According to personal communications with Chautauqua Lake Association staff and scientist Robert Johnson, common water weed (Elodea sp.), a generally beneficial native plant, is the most abundant plant in most of Chautauqua Lake. Eurasian watermilfoil, targeted in past herbicide applications, is not a problem in most parts of the lake. With our lake's oversupply of nutrients, herbicide applications would likely result in nuisance algae blooms occurring sooner, or just different species of plants growing in abundance to fill the void of the plant species targeted by any herbicide. Herbicide treatment of Chautauqua Lake is of very limited value, except for use in eradicating infestations of invasive plant species that are new to this lake.
The only viable preventive response is a comprehensive watershed approach to cutting off the nutrients and sediments before they reach our lake's tributaries and the lake itself. As citizens, your participation is needed to: 1) undertake practices on your own properties that will minimize the loss of storm water, nutrients and topsoil from your land, 2) convince elected officials to commit the resources necessary to effectively implement the actions in the watershed plan, and 3) support the lake associations and Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy in their management efforts. The Chautauqua Lake Management Commission and its member organizations are asking everyone to do their part. For communities with centralized public or community wastewater systems, this means investing in upgrades to remove 80 to 90 percent of the phosphorus from the wastewater before discharge. For residential and commercial land owners, that means avoiding or significantly reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides on lawns and mulching leaves into lawns to increase the water- and pollutant-holding capacity of soils. For farmers it means fencing cattle out of streams, careful manure management, and planting and conserving vegetative buffers and filter strips along streams and water courses. For towns and villages, it means managing and investing in storm water systems that store and infiltrate storm water, and trap pollutants, rather than causing erosion and sedimentation, and adopting laws that require new development to implement appropriate storm water management and erosion control. These are just some of the actions we need to take for a clean lake. Learn more at www.chautauquawatershed.org/pub2/2011plansummary.pdf, visit our website or call CWC at 664-2166 with questions. Please call CWC if your group would like to have a watershed stewardship presentation.
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy presently has its 2011-12 membership drive under way and is seeking donations to conserve the Wells Bay Lakeshore. To support these efforts or for more information on CWC's healthy landscaping for healthy waters efforts, visit our website at www.chautauquawatershed.org or call 664-2166.