MAYVILLE - Selected use of herbicides on Chautauqua Lake is one option that could help battle a growing weed problem, County Executive Greg Edwards noted during a recent meeting of local business leaders.
Lake officials, meanwhile, are hoping to use natural means to battle a growing vegetation problem.
Regardless, before any chemical-control system can be used, the county would need permission from the state Department of Environmental Conservation - which has strict oversight regarding the practice.
"Weed growth continues to be a concern," Edwards said. "Using herbicides is something that is being analyzed."
The county executive discussed the lake during a Chamber of Commerce event with local leaders in the town of Chautauqua. He noted recent articles which have highlighted low lake levels and massive weed growth brought on by a mild winter and low snow pack.
The Jamestown Board of Public Utilities, which controls operations at Warner Dam, lowers the lake in the fall to avoid flood-like conditions. However, due to a lack of snowfall and rain, the lake has not refilled itself to normal levels.
The BPU last week estimated Chautauqua Lake was about 2 inches below its average.
Edwards said investing in the lake - including the possible use of herbicides as one option to manage weeds - is critical for the county, considering the amount of revenue the lake generates throughout the county.
"Of course, this is important. We need to be studying all of our options," Edwards said, noting the practice of mechanical weed harvesting and exploiting the use of weevils - an insect known to feed on the vegetation.
For chemical control, however, the county would have to obtain a permit from the state.
According to DEC spokeswoman Megan Gollwitzer, the last time a permit was issued for herbicide use in Chautauqua County was in 2002. She said the permit enabled 97 acres of shoreline area to be treated within the town of Ellicott with Aquathol K.
"In order to receive a permit enabling continued pesticide use in the lake, DEC required that an updated impact statement be prepared, which Chautauqua County agreed to undertake," Gollwitzer said in an email statement. "The impact statement at that time needed updating, as the document was dated 1990. Currently, the required updated impact statement that would enable DEC to issue an updated permit is being prepared by Chautauqua County, and has not yet been received."
In 2011, the DEC issued 59 permits to counties throughout the state for herbicide use. Those include permits for an application to a pond 1 acre or less in size with no outlet, and for aquatic permits - given to a lake association or homeowner for a treatment to a lake larger than one acre in size.
Jeff Diers, county watershed coordinator, said a submerged aquatic vegetation plan from the county Department of Economic Development and the Chautauqua Lake Management Commission is in the works.
Diers said more information on the plan - which was commissioned in November through a request for proposal, and calls for a detailed study of aquatic vegetation management - is expected to be released shortly.
As for as handling the current weed issue, he said, "There are several options, but the primary has been mechanical and natural options. There are certain zones that cannot and will not allow chemical use."
"... Also, you have to understand the cost," he added.
Edwards said if using a chemical-control system was sought, it would be under supervised conditions.
"It would only be done under strict supervision of the DEC," Edwards said of that option. "This isn't something where we'd be doing this as a bunch of amateurs. But this is one of those things we need to continue to work on."
Chris Yates, Chautauqua Lake Association president, would not comment directly on Edwards' statements regarding chemical use. Rather, he supports natural options to controlling weeds, including harvesting and utilizing herbivores to control vegetation.
"The preferred method is natural," Yates said. "In terms of control, natural is best."
Yates said Chautauqua Lake has used herbicides in the past; however, he said, more studies are needed to determine what effect chemical use has on waterways.
"Herbicides can only be used in certain areas," he continued. "... The amount of surface area that can be treated is very small compared to the overall size of the lake. The cost to render it is economically unfeasible."