Last year, an implementation committee, which was commissioned by the Chautauqua County Chautauqua Lake Management Commission and made up of representatives of several agencies and organizations, met over several weeks to review the findings of the Chautauqua Lake Watershed Management Plan and develop a set of priority recommended actions for 2013 based upon those findings.
The group set objectives that addressed the immediate needs of managing the excessive nuisance plant growth in the lake (short-term relief) and taking actions to address the root causes of excessive algae and plant growth in the lake (longer-term solutions).
For in-lake management, the committee recommended the following programs be funded and implemented:
Restoring more stream banks, such as this one done by Chautauqua County, the Soil and Water Conservation District and BOCES students in 2012, has been identified as one of several priority Chautauqua Lake watershed actions for 2013.
1) Mechanical harvesting by the Chautauqua Lake Association;
2) The construction of boater education kiosks at each boat launch on the lake to help control invasive species;
3) A "lake steward" boat inspection and education program to keep boats carrying plants and other organisms from bringing them into Chautauqua Lake;
4) An annual plant community survey to monitor the growth of various species of plants in the lake and monitor for invasions of new non-native species.
To help reduce the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen entering the lake and to reduce watershed soil erosion and lake sedimentation, the committee recommended that the Chautauqua County Health Department proceed with on-site wastewater and septic system regulatory and educational activities to improve the maintenance and operation of on-site septic systems to reduce failures and pollution, and that the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Chautauqua County Soil and Water Conservation District and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County continue programs to assist farmers with improving agricultural operations to reduce the amount of chemical fertilizers and animal wastes escaping into waterways.
Eroded soil provides suspended particles that carry phosphorus to the lake and help fuel plant growth and algae blooms and reduce the depth of the lake. Therefore, the group urged funding for cost-sharing with landowners on stream-bank stabilization projects and with municipalities on stabilizing roadside ditches to help reduce soil erosion and lake sedimentation. Likewise, they recommended that funding be provided to the Chautauqua County Soil and Water Conservation District to acquire and stockpile stone and other materials necessary for municipalities to install erosion-control structures on road projects.
The committee also recommended that municipalities continue to develop, adopt and enforce local laws to address soil erosion and storm-water management. The Chautauqua Lake Inter-Municipal Committee is now reviewing draft provisions prepared by the County Department of Planning and Development in this regard.
The implementation committee also recommended that funding be provided to the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy to continue its program which provides technical assistance to lakeshore and stream-side landowners to convert strips of land along their banks from lawns to native shoreline vegetation buffer plantings of 10 to 50 feet in width. Native plants have stronger and deeper root systems, which resist erosion better than grass and act to intercept nutrients before they reach the lake.
Lastly, the committee recommended that funding be provided for a public awareness campaign to engage the public to take action to reduce the pollution to our lakes and streams that fuels the excessive growth of algae and aquatic plants.
The public is asked to help fund these projects through contributions to the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, Chautauqua Lake Association and Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District.
The CWC is a local nonprofit agency focused on land conservation and watershed education. It invites you to join them for two upcoming events: The Myths and Realities of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing with Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, a professor of engineering at Cornell University, on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Lake Erie Research & Extension Lab in Portland, and Native Landscapes and Gardens Day, on Friday at 8 a.m. at the Carnahan Building at JCC (pre-registration required). See the CWC website for more information.