Formation Of The Chautauqua Lake And Watershed Management Alliance

Editor’s note: This is the third article in a three-part series.

This summer, the Chautauqua Lake Management Commission begins a methodical process of transitioning from a volunteer group into a new nonprofit organization that will be known as the “Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance.”

The sun-setting of the CLMC and the establishment of the alliance draws increased attention to the many efforts currently underway to improve the health of Chautauqua Lake. The past accomplishments of the CLMC, the formation of the alliance, and other Chautauqua Lake management initiatives currently underway will be discussed in this article and at length during the “Chautauqua Lake Rally” being held at the Village Casino in Bemus Point on Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon.

In 2005, the Chautauqua County Legislature created the CLMC, which was tasked with identifying projects to address the health of the lake. The CLMC has been successful over its nine-year lifespan, largely due to the efforts of a dedicated group of legislators, volunteers and county planning staff.

The CLMC has provided a forum for Chautauqua Lake communities, residents, and lake-related organizations to exchange ideas and advocate for improvements to the lake. A portion of its activities have been funded with occupancy tax dollars, which have been used to deliver water quality projects, municipal training, public outreach campaigns, education, and completion of the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Plan.

The Watershed Management Plan has provided a foundation from which other important initiatives, such as the Chautauqua Lake Dredging Feasibility Study, the Macrophyte Management Strategy and watershed assessments on Goose and Dutch Hollow creeks were founded.

In turn, these detailed studies have been instrumental in procuring funding for important water quality improvement projects, such as the Goose Creek Streambank Stabilization Project, which will be one of the largest environmental restoration projects ever undertaken in the Chautauqua Lake watershed.

Despite these and many other positive contributions to the Chautauqua Lake community, the CLMC is only an advisory group, and as such, cannot accept donations or raise the capital required to undertake and implement recommended projects. In 2012, Chautauqua County undertook a collaborative effort to investigate options for the future management and improvement of Chautauqua Lake and its watershed. The outcome of this process resulted in the recommendation to form a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporation identified as the Chautauqua Lake & Watershed Management Alliance to succeed the CLMC. This was, in part, based on the success of the Ohio-based Chagrin River Partners, which is very successful 501(c)(3) charged with procuring resources to address water-related issues in the Chagrin River Basin.

The alliance will have three primary objectives: prioritize projects, secure state and federal funding, and allocate resources to existing watershed-related organizations.

Its board of directors will consist of representatives from county and municipal governments, the various lake-related organizations, and the public, many of whom have been active with the CLMC. Members of the alliance will include the towns and villages located in the watershed, the Soil & Water Conservation District, sewer districts, the Chautauqua County Visitors’ Bureau, non-profit water-related organizations located within the watershed, Chautauqua Institution, the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce, foundations, and other entities with a relationship to the lake or watershed.

The alliance, which is in the process of filing its corporation paperwork, will be sustained through a variety of funding sources including, but not limited to: membership dues, contributions from charitable foundations, and grant administration fees. As envisioned, the alliance will have staff with the necessary skillsets (i.e. biology, chemistry, planning, grant writing, and operations) to manage the day-to-day operations and to fulfill the mission of the corporation.

Most importantly, the alliance will provide a single point of contact for federal and state government agencies, Chautauqua Lake communities, lake-related organizations and other stakeholders that have an interest in addressing the health of Chautauqua Lake.

Please come and learn more about all of the positive initiatives currently underway to address the health of Chautauqua Lake at the “Chautauqua Lake Rally” being held at the Village Casino at Bemus Point on Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon. County Executive Vince Horrigan will open the rally along with remarks from federal, state and local government officials. The agenda is filled with informative presentations on the formation of the new Chautauqua Lake & Watershed Alliance, the Integrated Sewer Management Study, the Macrophyte Management Strategy, and algae. Numerous lake-based organizations will also have table-top displays and experts present at the event to discuss their projects and to answer questions. The public event is free and breakfast will be provided to attendees. For more information regarding this event, contact Dave McCoy at 661-8915.