By Liz Skoczylas
If there is one thing every lake group can agree on, it is that Chautauqua Lake needs some improvements.
At 17 miles long, and 2 miles across at its widest point, Chautauqua Lake is the largest complete body of water in the county. And, there are many groups involved in caring for the lake. The five major groups include the Chautauqua Lake Management Commission, Inter-Municipal Committee, Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, Chautauqua Lake Association and Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District.
"All of us are trying to work together to find a path forward," said Lyle Hajdu, chairman of the Chautauqua Lake Management Commission.
"The good news is, we know what needs to be done, and there's unanimity on what solutions are," Hajdu continued. "The challenge is that it takes a great amount of resources - time, money and talent - to put these projects into place."
CHAUTAUQUA LAKE MANAGEMENT COMMISSION (CLMC)
The Chautauqua Lake Management Commission was created by the County Legislature in 2005. The CLMC was given the responsibility to annually recommend and monitor a comprehensive lake management plan.
"The original mission, when they formed the Chautauqua Lake Management Commission, was to determine what's wrong with the lake, what problems we have in the lake, and then to report back on how to fix it," Hajdu said.
The CLMC is made up of an 11-member advisory board, consisting of representatives from the Chautauqua County Conference of Mayors and Chautauqua County Supervisors Association, Chautauqua County Farm Bureau, Chautauqua County Federation of Sportsmen, Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, Chautauqua County Water Quality Task Force, Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District, Chautauqua Lake Partnership, Conewango Creek Watershed Association, Chautauqua Lake Association and the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy. Hajdu was appointed by the legislature.
"Our core mission was to determine what's wrong with the lake, which we did, and then to report back on how to fix it, which we did with the management plans that are in place," Hajdu said. "In simplest terms, what we determined was that the nuisance weeds, the algae blooms and the loss of navigable water routes - it just means that the lake is getting shallower and shallower - those are symptoms of a eutrophic lake, which is kind of like an aging lake."
The CLMC is currently looking ahead to see what it does next. According to Hajdu, now that the group has identified problems, it is working to put its recommendations into action.
INTER-MUNICIPAL COMMITTEE (IMC)
The Inter-Municipal Committee is made up of local leaders from towns and villages in the Chautauqua Lake Watershed. The municipalities involved include the towns of Busti, Chautauqua, Ellery, Ellicott, North Harmony, Portland, Sherman and Stockton, as well as the villages of Bemus Point, Celoron, Lakewood and Mayville. According to Donald Emhardt, chairman of the IMC and town of Chautauqua supervisor, the committee is an appointed group of the Chautauqua Lake Management Commission.
"We also work heavily with the planning department for the county," Emhardt said. "It's a loose-knit type thing, but everybody works together on the lake."
The IMC meets monthly, except in the summer. Emhardt said the committee generally meets right after the CLMC meetings. Recently, the committee crafted a Storm Water Management and Site Plan review for zoning, which it is working to get passed in all of the towns and villages within the watershed.
Emhardt said the committee members meet to discuss the problems with the lake. However, when it comes to solving the problems, it is left to each particular municipality to pass legislation and, if necessary, find funding.
CHAUTAUQUA WATERSHED CONSERVANCY (CWC)
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy was formed as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, public benefit agency in 1990. The CWC's vision is to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. It was formed by John Jablonski III, as well as Rebecca Albaugh, Albert Cala and Rebecca Nystrom as trustees.
Since it began, the CWC has established 13 nature preserves, and protected four other environmentally sensitive sites in Chautauqua County. It has conserved more than 718 acres of land throughout the county, as well as 2 miles of shoreline on Chautauqua Lake and its outlet. Additionally, the CWC holds educational workshops, presentations and programs regarding land conservation, and lake and watershed stewardship. It has also held many watershed walks, waterfront and preserve cleanups, willow plantings, and canoeing, paddling and skiing events.
Currently, the CWC employs three conservationists in addition to its executive director, director of operations, development assistant and legal counsel. Its current projects include The Last Mile campaign, Landscapes for Healthy Waters and a Don't Feed the Weeds campaign.
Additional information about the CWC can be found at www.chautauquawatershed.org.
CHAUTAUQUA LAKE ASSOCIATION (CLA)
The Chautauqua Lake Association, which is also a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, is primarily responsible for controlling lake plants. It has a fleet of equipment, including eight harvesters, four work barges, three transport barges, a Hydro-Mate work barge, three heavy-duty mobile conveyors, eight dump trucks, an equipment truck, three trailers, a Bobcat loader, a Dresser loader, a forklift, and a Gator all-terrain utility vehicle.
According to the CLA website, the association began in 1946 as a special committee to the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce. It was charged with studying the deteriorating conditions of the lake, and to find ways to correct them. However, there were no funds to remedy the situation. A certificate of incorporation was obtained in 1953, and the CLA was officially born.
Since its beginning, the CLA has sponsored lake improvement projects, performed lake maintenance services and facilitated on-going scientific monitoring and research. The CLA also performs weed harvesting and shoreline cleanup. From June 30 through July 6, the CLA harvested 32 truckloads of weeds, although it did not operate July 4 - 5 due to a holiday. From June 24 - 28, it harvested 59 truckloads.
Additional information about the CLA can be found at www.chautauqualakeassociation.org.
CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY SOIL & WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT
New York state has 58 conservation districts representing counties and the five boroughs of New York City. These districts are a local governmental subdivision, established under state law to carry out a program for the conservation, use and development of soil, water and related resources.
The federal Natural Resources Conservation Service provides a district conservationist and shares in providing technical assistance primarily to the agricultural community and local governments to develop and implement conservation projects. The district also hosts the County Water Quality Task Force, an advisory coordinating committee made up of county, state and nonprofit organization representatives to advise on water quality management. A subcommittee of this group is tasked with evaluating and ranking projects to make recommendations to the County Legislature on the allocation of county 2 percent waterway protection and enhancement funds.
Chautauqua County employs a watershed coordinator out of its 2 percent bed tax funding. Jeff Diers is responsible for organizing watershed planning, education, and the implementation of projects for the protection and restoration of local water resources.
"My position is funded through the county to support Chautauqua Lake programs, specifically staffing the Chautauqua Lake Management Commission," Diers said. "Which, in essence, is supporting all other interested and involved stakeholders."
Although he is not a member or a part of the not-for-profit lake groups, he said he is in contact with them to provide assistance when requested or required.
As the watershed coordinator, Diers works to coordinate meetings, activities, projects, contracts, grants and works with the 2 percent program. He works to ensure information regarding Chautauqua Lake is shared, getting information to the public and to support watershed stakeholders.
"As much as 90 percent of my overall efforts with my job go to Chautauqua Lake and watershed programs," Diers said.