Goals Of Lake Groups Vary Greatly

When deciphering issues within Chautauqua Lake, a broad scope of moving parts contribute to its current predicament.

An overwhelming amount of weeds, blue-green algae and phosphorus are just a few problems occurring in the body of water.

However, there are several groups setting forth initiatives dedicated to its improvement.

Most recently, the County Legislature allocated $50,000 out of the 2 percent occupancy tax reserve fund in support of the creation of the Chautauqua Lake & Watershed Management Alliance.

While there are several subgroups and organizations dedicated to lake issues, the new alliance will be composed of foundations, municipalities, watershed organizations and other stakeholders. Most importantly, the group will be considered a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, which gives the group the ability to accept grant funding.

The alliance plans to implement suggestions from the Chautauqua Lake Watershed Management Plan, a study performed in 2010 by the Chautauqua Lake Management Commission, which will dissolve into the alliance.

“Now that we’ve completed the Watershed Management Plan, what do we do going forward is prioritize projects, go after money and allocate resources,” said Mark Geise, deputy director of Planning and Economic Development. “We’ve been working, again, as a collaborative group along with the Soil and Water Conservation District, and we’re in the final stages of submitting our Internal Revenue Service paperwork.”

In April, the Soil and Water Conservation District, with the help of BOCES students, planted 1,800 trees at Allen Peterson’s farm on Strunk Road in an effort to improve the quality of a stream on the property, which flows into the Chadakoin River and further into Chautauqua Lake.

“People don’t realize how much we actually contributed to the lake’s improvement,” said David Spann, district field manager for Soil and Water. “You must start at higher ground, at the source of where the nutrients flow into the lake.”

Spann said people often forget about contributors of nutrients into the lake.

Although a variety of sources of phosphorus contribute to the lake’s poor water quality, it is primarily influenced by runoff events from the drainage basin. As rainfall or snowmelt moves over and through the ground, the runoff picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers and wetlands.

An example of this can be seen at Goose Creek in Ashville, for which a grant of $438,120 will be used to help stabilize 3,800 feet of streambank.

John Jablonski, executive director of the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, explained that the creek bed washes thousands of tons of soil down the creek each year, extending erosion all the way to the lake.

“The magnitude of this project is huge,” Jablonski said. “There isn’t anything else like it in the Chautauqua Lake watershed that we’re aware of. The project will eliminate about 90 percent of erosion from this site.”

The Chautauqua County Water Quality Task Force’s phosphorus monitoring committee is another group working to identify problem areas within the watershed.

Legislators received a status report about Total Maximum Daily Load limits for phosphorus in the lake at July’s monthly meeting.

Legislator Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point, said progress had been made in phosphorus management strategies, as the amount of nutrients in Chautauqua Lake are often a contributing factor to the overgrowth of weeds and blue-green algae.

“However, there has been limited progress made on some of the strategies, such as surveying and testing of septic systems,” he said. “There has been no action in a couple of strategies such as septic system protection and maintenance programs and the report has no information in regards to road and ditch maintenance and management practices for roadway de-icing.”

The Chautauqua Lake Association, one of the longest-standing organizations dedicated to the lake, held its annual meeting in July, where the presence of blue-green algae was heavily discussed.

Aging septic systems around the lake contribute to the issue, and forming a continuous sewer system would help drastically, according to multiple reports.

Chautauqua Heights, North Chautauqua Lake Sewer District, Chautauqua Utility District and the South and Center Chautauqua Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant make up the lake’s wastewater system.

“We know we need to complete a sewer system around the lake,” said Vince Horrigan, county executive. “We need to come together with a focused approach. We have taken a step back and re-engaged, and we have a group now looking at how we can complete sewer system around the lake. The discussion now is what’s the best way to do it, and the most efficient way to do it.”

The Chautauqua County Wastewater Consolidation Study, which Horrigan referred to, is being funded by a $50,000 grant.

Geise said the study results are necessary for deciphering which projects to move forward with in terms of applying for grants within the Lake & Watershed Management Alliance.