Whether Chautauqua Lake is going to encounter as many weed problems as last year is anyone's guess at this point in the year.
Last year, weed growth in the lake sparked many discussions on the best way to get rid of the problem. Additionally, the lake saw blue-green algae, which closed several beaches around the lake over the summer. And, in July, water chestnuts, another invasive species, were found in Chautauqua Lake.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, last year the most severe and extensive drought in at least 25 years hit much of the nation. In Chautauqua County, temperatures were above average during the winter months, causing far less ice, snowpack and snow melt on the lake. Due to this, Chautauqua Lake experienced lower water levels.
"The lower the water during the season allows for the plants to grow," said Jeff Diers, county watershed coordinator.
Diers explained that the lower water levels meant that plants were getting more sunlight, causing them to grow. Additionally, because there was little ice last year, plants closer to the shoreline that would have normally been frozen by the ice were able to grow.
On Jan. 31, 2012, Diers said the lake level was at 1,308.8 feet. Yesterday, the lake level was at 1,309.12 feet. Comparatively, on Nov. 2, 2012, the level was 1,309 feet.
"It's not significantly different from last year," Diers said. "Looking at today, with the way it has been so far this winter season, we have had really warm events, we've had cold events, we've had rain. As of now, we look in pretty good shape."
Last year, people did not realize that the lake was going to present a problem until March, Diers said.
"It is too early to predict precipitation rates throughout the winter months and make a determination of how the lake is going to be in the spring, throughout the summer," he said. "But, with the early snow pack and ice, plus the recent rains, we hope that the lake will maintain sufficient levels of water for recreation throughout the summer. We also hope that the ice pack will be enough to prevent light to reach plants and allow them to grow."
Diers said that the Chautauqua County Department Planning & Economic Development routinely checks on the water levels of the lake. However, he said right now there is nothing of concern to note for this summer.
"All we can hope for is that we have a typical Chautauqua County winter this year, to ensure that lake levels are optimal for lake recreation during the season," he said.