CELORON - The Chautauqua Lake Partnership is hopeful to have a comprehensive plan for the management of the lake's submerged aquatic vegetation problem approved by Jan. 1.
On Saturday, the CLP and members of the Chautauqua Lake Management Commission convened at Lucille Ball Memorial Park to discuss the details behind its SAV plan, and the subsequent approval process for its implementation. According to Tom Geisler, CLMC board member and CLP representative, the SAV plan has been in the making for more than a decade, and is intended to provide a road map toward improving the health of the lake.
"I think what really kicked everything off was, in 2002, the Chautauqua Lake Partnership was created," Geisler said. "And they raised enough funds, and got permission from the state to spray about 72 acres in Burtis Bay with (herbicides). And it was a big controversy. But the state monitored us, the (Department of Environmental Conservation) was here watching the whole thing and we hired professionals that were certified in doing that kind of thing. But after that, (the state) said, 'This is it. This is the last thing we're going to let you do with the lake until you do this plan.'"
Karen Rine, president of the Chautauqua Lake Partnership, addresses attendees of the CLP’s annual meeting in which the status of its submerged aquatic vegetation was discussed.
by Gavin Paterniti
Geisler said, aside from the Chautauqua Lake Association's mechanical weed-pulling, no more measures could be taken in controlling the weed population until the CLP demonstrated a thorough understanding of the lake and the variety of ways it is used. Since then, a sizable amount of research has been done in these areas, and the data has been assembled into the SAV plan - which, according to Geisler, has impressed the state.
"We've been in the process of doing all this research, and it's not quite finished," said Geisler. "We've been doing all of this talking and planning but we really are experts on our own lake. And understanding all of those things has been a huge educational project for all of us involved. And the DEC was actually quite impressed with what we're doing. Actually, the lake has become a pilot program for a lot of what you're going to see in the future in the northeast (U.S.). It will become, really, a standard by which other lakes are managed throughout the northeast."
While the plan's ultimate weed-management method has not yet been specified, Geisler said several options are being considered, such as: continuing with mechanical pulling, dredging, harvesting, spraying herbicides and watershed management, such as shoring up streambeds.
Jeff Diers, Chautauqua County watershed coordinator, said choosing a specific methodology is a requirement for the approval process.
"We have to have that before we go back and complete our draft report," Diers said. "But at least we'll have an understanding of how we might base our decisions. At that point, we'll be sitting down with the DEC and other groups to make sure it not only makes sense, but it's also implemented. If the DEC's not on board at this point, there's no sense in finishing the report. So, we're at a critical point right now."
"We thought it was going to be difficult, but it wasn't until we were part way through that we realized how difficult it was," he added.
Diers said he hopes to have the draft finished by October in order to have the plan approved in its entirety by the end of the year. The ultimate goal, he said, is to have the plan be implementable next year.
With the plan being near to finished, Geisler said the CLP is in contact with the DEC to present it shortly. However, he said, there is also the difficulty of developing an authority to implement the plan.
"That's a big issue," he said. "We've been looking at other options, and that's kind of what we're doing right now. The challenges we have are funding. If we're a state entity, we can't accept grants and the way the money's managed is much more difficult to the state. So, we're grappling with all of those issues, but it's all running in parallel."
He continued: "So, there is great progress, and I think that there's light at the end of the tunnel. We can't guarantee anything's going to be done next year, but everybody wants something desperately. And I think we're all headed in the right direction."