Collaborative Effort

MAYVILLE – Chautauqua Lake stakeholders are collaborating to address its issues.

On Tuesday afternoon, Congressman Tom Reed, R-Corning, and Margaret Burcham, brigadier general of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, met with stakeholders concerned with Chautauqua Lake’s issues at the Carlson Community Center in Mayville.

Among those in attendance were representatives from the United States Army Corps of Engineers; Chautauqua County Executive-elect Vince Horrigan; Jeff Diers, Chautauqua County watershed coordinator; state Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Chautauqua County; and other local stakeholders.

The local stakeholders have been working closely with the United States Army Corps of Engineers to find the best course of action for the lake in regards to sediment and algae buildup.

According to Diers, sediment buildup is impeding swimming and boating on the lake and the Chautauqua Lake Management Commission is trying to better understand the algae problem.

The economic impact of the lake is substantial, making solving lake issues a priority to keep visitors coming to the area.

“Standards (for visitors) have changed … the choices and expectations people have are significantly higher,” said Doug Conroe, president of the Chautauqua Lake Association, regarding the importance of solving lake issues.

He added that stakeholders need to increase the confidence of people who visit the lake.

Conroe also said that lake vegetation has been a problem in various forms since the 1800s, and that proper management is necessary to combat it.

According to Mark Geise, deputy director of planning and economic development for Chautauqua County, stakeholders hope to bring funds to the county to address these watershed issues. Geise added that lake issues were “not an easy nut to crack,” addressing the difficulties in finding and funding viable solutions.

Diers noted that Chautauqua County is privileged to have a natural resource like the lake, and that homes within 1,000 feet of the shoreline represent 26 percent of the tax base in the county, despite their occupants representing only 1 percent of the population. According to Diers, only half of these homes are occupied year-round, with many owned by individuals from nearby cities like Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

According to Reed, the lake is important in attracting people to the county and having them stay here. “What can I do?” he asked the stakeholders, noting that the lake management funding is merely a prioritization issue that he will do what he can to help.

Burcham said that what the Army Corps of Engineers does is very complex, involving finding solutions to problems, acquiring funding and navigating applicable laws. For this reason, Chautauqua Lake management is in the planning stages and action may not take place for a few years.

One representative from the United States Army Corps of Engineers noted that Chautauqua County is “doing an awesome job with (lake issues)” and that the collaborative efforts could become a model for other communities involved with lake management issues.