A pretty convincing case has been made for controlling weeds on Chautauqua Lake.
Every year, weeds begin to choke off access to Chautauqua Lake. Every year, in the early summer months, the Chautauqua Lake Association has to run to the Chautauqua County Legislature to ask for part, or all, of the county's $40,000 emergency fund paid for with the county's 2 percent bed tax so the CLA can harvest the weeds. Every year, legislators approve the allocation - but by the time the money comes through, half of the summer tourist season is over and the CLA is behind the eight ball.
It's pretty obvious, then, the Chautauqua Lake Association needs the additional $40,000 to simply be part of its yearly allocation from the county. It's a pretty standard proposition - spend the same money, just spend it more logically.
In the end, the legislature made the right decision recently by taking the emergency fund and making it part of the Chautauqua Lake Association's yearly funding, which now totals $90,000.
The legislature should be commend for doing the right thing, but we are left scratching our heads when it comes to Legislator Bob Duff, R-Sheridan. During floor debate on the Chautauqua Lake funding resolution, Duff tried to make a silly point about lake ownership, saying the Department of Environmental Conservation should be responsible for keeping the lake clean.
"We, the Chautauqua County government, should find out who actually owns Chautauqua Lake ... Taking our people's money and just handing it off doesn't gel good with me. That's it."
Actually, Legislator Duff, that's not it.
The land area along Route 394 and Route 430 that form the Chautauqua Lake shoreline makes up 1 percent of the county's land mass, but contributes 26 percent of total county property taxes. Those property taxes are paid by wealthy people who expect, for their tax money, they will be able to use their boat or fish on the lake. If they can't use the lake, they will sell their homes and vacation elsewhere.
Recognizing this, Chautauqua County has been involved keeping Chautauqua Lake healthy by investing more than $2.6 million in lake-related efforts since 2006. As legislator George Borrello, R-Silver Creek, said, simply cutting the weeds is "treating the symptoms and not the disease."
Borrello, though, is encouraged by several ongoing actions that will treat the disease. County Executive Greg Edwards is proposing a single management organization to be the lake's sole voice as the county implements the Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Plan. The county is also involved in finding ways to decrease the amount of phosphorus in the lake, largely caused by public sewer systems and private septic systems. Edwards is proposing a single system to deliver sewer services around Chautauqua Lake to help decrease the phosphorus in the lake.
Full implementation of the Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Plan and a lakewide sewer district are both a long way off, though, which means it will take a while before the county can stop paying for weed removal in the lake.
Until the disease is cured, the county has to keep treating the lake's symptoms.