Chautauqua County Department wins DEC award

The Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Economic Development received an Environmental Excellence Award for the stewardship of aquatic resources from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The award highlighted seven organizations across the state for their “state-of-the-art programs and commitment to environmental sustainability, social responsibility and economic viability,” according to the DEC.

The award focused on the county’s use of occupancy tax funds which are collected from visitors who stay in hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts. The county invests the funds in sustainability projects and programs surrounding natural resources like healthy lakes, streams and ponds.

According to the DEC, the county has invested $2.6 million from the occupancy tax revenue in water quality improvement projects.

The improvements include removing nearly 14 million pounds of aquatic vegetation from Chautauqua Lake; eliminating more than 360 tons of soil entering waterways through various soil stabilization projects; and reducing nearly 400 pounds of phosphorus and 850 pounds of nitrogen from entering waterways be investing in green infrastructure such as rain gardens, vegetated swales and porous pavements.

Dave McCoy, county watershed coordinator, traveled to Schenectady to receive the award on Tuesday, said County Executive Vince Horrigan. Horrigan said the award is more proof of all the good things that are happening in Chautauqua County.

“It’s another example of the wonderful work going on with the lakes and waterways,” he said. “We were very please to receive the award.”

Horrigan said the county did not receive the award last year; he said it was an honor to get the recognition this year.

“I am proud to present this year’s Environmental Excellence Awards to municipalities and organizations that are demonstrating outstanding leadership by adopting innovative solutions to protect our environment and strengthen our economy,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “These projects set a high bar for others to follow as we collectively address critical environmental issues such as fighting climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting pollinator habitats critical to our agricultural economy, advancing the use of electric vehicles, protecting the vitality of our waterways and keeping potentially hazardous materials out of landfills. Congratulations to all of our outstanding award winners.”

The awards were presented by acting DEC chief of staff Julie Tighe.

The awards were established by the DEC in 2004 to highlight organizations that are improving and projecting the environment, advancing sustainable practices and forming partnerships which will in turn create a healthier economy. The DEC has since recognized 80 award winners.