We’re responsible for lake’s future

Weeds along Burtis Bay on Chautauqua Lake are a source of frustration.

Several weeks ago, members of the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy Conservation Committee convened a meeting to discuss compiling a statement of concerns regarding the health and condition of Chautauqua Lake.

Eighteen participants attended that meeting, including representatives from CWC, Roger Tory Peterson Institute, Chautauqua Lake Association and other local environmental organizations. With the Lake watershed being the focus, our approach was to outline a sustainable, science-based approach to lake management.

The opinions, ideas and strategies that resulted from that initial meeting have now been woven together in the attached “Conservation Statement for Chautauqua Lake.” The following organizations have signed on to our statement:

¯ Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy.

¯ Chautauqua Lake Association.

¯ Chautauqua Institution.

¯ Musky Inc Chapter 69.

¯ Chautauqua Fishing Alliance.

¯ Roger Tory Peterson Institute

¯ The Nature Sanctuary Society of WNY, Inc.

¯ Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper.

We appreciate the recent urgency given to Chautauqua Lake solutions and wanted you to receive a copy of the Conservation Statement for Chautauqua Lake.

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Craig Seger is a member of the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy Board, Chautauqua Lake Association Board and co-chair Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy Conservation Committee.

Here is the statement:

The management of Chautauqua Lake — and the reduction of nuisance aquatic plants and harmful algae blooms — has topped headlines and sparked many discussions in the past year. We feel it is important to state that many local organizations are working together, as we have been for decades, for a healthier lake and a healthier watershed. While some of the focuses and methods of our individual organizations may vary, we believe in the same core principles and work collaboratively toward common goals.

We believe a healthy lake ecosystem benefits people and nature.

A healthy lake features a healthy ecosystem with thriving aquatic plants and wildlife. Aquatic plants are essential to a healthy lake. They provide habitat for fish and other aquatic life. Plants filter the water to make it usable for drinking, irrigation and recreation. Plants provide food for waterfowl, birds, aquatic life and insects. They stabilize the sediment on the lake bottom to prevent disruption by boating and recreational activity to protect water clarity. When a lake’s ecosystem is healthy and in balance, the lake will support recreation, benefit local businesses and provide water that can be used for drinking.

We believe in the importance of a scientific approach to improving lake health.

Improving the health of Chautauqua Lake must rely on a scientific approach to ensure the measures taken will result in a lake ecosystem that benefits people and wildlife for generations to come. A scientific approach also helps to ensure that the actions we take to improve the lake will do no harm. There are decades of research on Chautauqua Lake and on similar lakes that can guide our actions in improving the ecosystem of the lake. A scientific approach allows us to adopt best practices to find solutions to problems within the lake that are sustainable, both financially and ecologically.

We believe in creating long-term solutions for a healthy lake that will serve generations to come.

Permanently improving the health of Chautauqua Lake is a long-term venture. It has taken the lake hundreds of years to reach its present condition, and the lake ecosystem can’t be dramatically altered within the span of a few years. Science has shown the most effective way to establish a healthy lake ecosystem is with an approach that balances the establishment of a healthy watershed and the implementation of best management practices within the lake. For healthier waters within Chautauqua Lake, the lake must be surrounded with healthy, natural landscapes that filter nutrients and pollutants from the water that flows to the lake.

This means permanently protecting streams, woodlands and wetlands, planting buffers along shorelines and streambanks, and reforesting portions of the watershed. New development in the watershed must be offset by restoration of wetlands and forests. The long-term health of the lake also requires improvements in septic, sewer and storm-water management practices. Selective dredging of the lake to reduce the amount of sediment that provides internal nutrient loading also has been suggested as a potential long-term action.

We believe in the necessity of short-term solutions.

While the lake requires a long-term strategy, we recognize the need for short-term solutions that make the lake more usable and pleasant for recreation. Plant harvesting reduces nuisance lake vegetation that makes lake navigation and recreation difficult, and it removes organic matter from the lake that can feed future algae blooms. Streambank stabilization stems the flow of aquatic plant- and algae-feeding sediment and nutrients to the lake. Instituting landscaping best practices in backyards and on commercial and public lands can reduce the amount of nutrients feeding aquatic plants and algae within the lake. Herbicide use can be suitable when it fits within an invasive species management plan and when other methods of nuisance plant control are not workable. It is crucial that any short-term solutions used to address excessive plant and algae growth within the lake are not short sighted; they must be well thought out and performed in conjunction with long-term goals. They cannot endanger the fish, birds, amphibians, animals and insects that rely on the lake and must not pose a risk to human use of the lake’s waters.

We believe improving the lake’s health is everyone’s responsibility.

Improving the health of Chautauqua Lake requires buy-in and action from everyone within the Chautauqua Lake Watershed. Everyone within the watershed must think about how their actions affect the lake. Property owners can stop unnecessary fertilizer use, plant rain gardens and buffers, and re-naturalize their yards to filter water as it flows to Chautauqua Lake and to stop fertilizing lake plants and algae. Officials and community leaders must secure state and federal lake improvement grants to implement projects and provide for on-going, adequate lake maintenance. Individual financial support of the organizations that have been proven to be dedicated to the health of the lake is needed now more than ever. Everyone within the watershed is a steward of the lake, and together we can create a healthier lake environment that can be enjoyed by everyone.

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