Lake Alliance Raises Awareness At Village Casino

BEMUS POINT – Communities, organizations and residents are coming together to rally around Chautauqua Lake.

The Chautauqua Lake Rally, held at the Village Casino in Bemus Point on Saturday morning, brought a full crowd to recognize the alliance and the initiatives currently underway. Known as the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance, the nonprofit organization is gathering towns and villages located in the watershed, sewer districts and other conservation organizations. The alliance intends to keep everyone on the same page and able to be heard with regard to issues surrounding the lake and the response needed to combat them. From blue-green algae, weeds, septic systems and flood plains, each issue will fall under a collaboration to serve the communities affected.

“A month and a half ago, Tom Geisler and Karen Ryan suggested we have a rally to celebrate all the good things we’re trying to do for Chautauqua Lake,” said Mark Geise, deputy director of Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Economic Development. ” We wanted to do it at a time before the seasonal property owners left.”

Vince Horrigan, county executive, is a 50-year lakefront resident of Bemus Point. Horrigan said he not only cares about the lake as a resident, but also as county executive. Horrigan credited Geisler for the idea of coming together for a rally along with the Community Foundation for its sponsorship.

“Our lakes are critical to our economy, our way of life and the future of Chautauqua County,” Horrigan said.

Also supporting the lake’s many initiatives is Assemblyman Andy Goodell. He mentioned that issues surrounding the lake and its use need to be balanced. Fishermen, sailors and those using the lake for recreational activity along with residents near and surrounding the lake all have problems regarding certain aspects. Goodell mentioned that state Sen. Cathy Young, R-C-I-Olean; Congressman Tom Reed, R-Corning; Horrigan; and himself are making it a top priority as they continue to work.

“Dealing with the lake involves a lot of players who have been putting in a lot of time, and obviously, we have a long ways to go,” Goodell said. “The solutions are also difficult. The solution involves multiple parties, multiple issues and multiple planning.”

On the state level, Young and Goodell supported an increase in funding for evasive weeds. According to Goodell, the Chautauqua Lake Association received $100,000 this year from the funds gathered. They also encouraged the DEC to work with local treatment plants to reduce phosphate discharges entering the lake.

Sally Carlson, North Harmony town supervisor, said the alliance is pivotal, if everyone works together to resolve issues. Pursuing those challenges regarding the welfare of the lake and those affected will be a process.

“If this works, it’s a step in the right direction,” Carlson said. “Getting everyone from the surrounding towns, on board on top of those who live on the lake, is difficult.”

Geise presented the newly formed alliance, which took a year and half to get where it’s at now. He provided information regarding goals and primary methods with the organization’s makeup. According to Geise, the board will consist of nine representatives: two from the county, three from towns, villages and municipalities, and four at-large groups that provide the maximum benefit. Linda Barber, president of the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy board of directors, expressed the importance of action over what’s said.

Presentations were given throughout the morning discussing projects underway and specific issues on the agenda. Presenters included Doug Conroe of the Chautauqua Lake Association, who discussed the necessity of a clean lake and how all algae can’t be eradicated for the sake of the lake’s health. Mike Manning and Janelle Chagnon from O’Brien & Gere, an engineering firm, spoke about septic systems and the need to reduce discharge entering the lake. Geise and Dave McCoy, Chautauqua County watershed coordinator, spoke on the strategy currently under development regarding macrophytes.

“All in all, it was well-received,” Geise said. “We’re on the right track, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing this if we thought that we were on the wrong track.”