Watershed Actions Determine Lake Plant Growth, Part II

In last week’s column, I talked about how some species of aquatic plants grow excessively and seriously impair the use of Chautauqua Lake for recreation and affect the use and value of adjacent properties. So what actions can be taken by Chautauqua County, its municipalities, businesses, organizations and the public to control Chautauqua Lake’s submerged aquatic vegetation?

First, the public and community wastewater treatment plants disposing wastewater into the lake must be upgraded. The recent Total Maximum Daily Load regulation put into place by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for Chautauqua Lake will require the major treatment plants on Chautauqua Lake to be upgraded to remove 85-95 percent of the phosphorus in their discharges within five years, helping to address both the lake’s algae and plant problems.

The second is working with landowners to repair eroding stream and lakeshore banks and to plant or enhance natural waterfront vegetation to act as natural pollution filters. The Chautauqua Lake Management Commission’s Goose and Dutch Hollow Creek erosion control feasibility studies are quantifying estimates of erosion from various sites along these creeks.

County staff, CWC conservationists and County Soil & Water District staff are working together to engage landowners who will participate in addressing the worst erosion sites along these streams in the watershed. Conservation practices will be designed for eroding sites on both creeks. CWC staff is already working with more than two dozen lakeshore property owners to plant lakeshore buffers.

Third, the staffs of the Soil & Water Conservation District and the Natural Resources Conservation Service are engaging farmers to adopt soil erosion, fertilization and manure management practices on their farms in the region and have recently obtained more than $800,000 in grants for these conservation practices.

Fourth, watershed municipalities are cooperating as the Inter-Municipal Committee to develop model site plan zoning provisions and erosion control law to enforce the reduction of erosion from construction sites.

Fifth, the county Health Department is strengthening its regulations to ensure that onsite septic systems are more frequently tested and monitored to make sure that they are working effectively.

Sixth, the CWC is working to conserve the landscape features in the watershed, such as waterfront wetlands, stream corridors and forests that collect, store, filter and deliver clean waters to our lake. Scientists Robert Johnson and Paul Lord have noted the importance of conserving and restoring natural vegetation to the lakeshore to control erosion and provide habitat for beneficial insects that consume nuisance species of lake plants. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy’s Tributary Preserve System now includes 382 acres of lands conserved in this effort.

Chautauqua Lake has a good watershed management plan with specific recommendations for governments, organizations, businesses, agriculture and homeowners to implement. Read it online at “http://www.planningchautauqua.com/watershed/chautlake”>www.planningchautauqua.com/watershed/chautlake-mgmt-plan.htm. Encourage your elected representatives to implement the recommendations in the plan. Please support the organizations which are delivering the conservation actions to implement the plan. Please do your part to reduce pollution from your piece of watershed. Learn what you can do by clicking on the “watershed care” tab at www.chautauquawatershed.org.

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a private, nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization with a mission to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. Its present focus is to conserve and enhance the natural shores and banks of Chautauqua County’s lakes and streams, which provide fish and wildlife habitat and pollution filtering functions. The conservancy is funded primarily through membership donations, and its 2013 annual membership campaign is currently underway.