Efforts fail to retrieve submerged harvester

LAKEWOOD — Local efforts to retrieve a capsized lake vegetation harvester continue to be unsuccessful as lake officials turn to a new plan.

The Chautauqua Lake Association’s vessel has been under water near the Lakewood shoreline since Tuesday when the operator reportedly encountered rough water. The harvester was taking on water as CLA officials decided to tow it back to headquarters for service.

Before the 1982 harvester capsized, the operator was able to move to safety on the towing vessel, and no injuries were reported. Efforts to right the vessel were unsuccessful throughout the week.

Doug Conroe, CLA executive director, said Friday afternoon that he’s in discussions with a Lake Erie firm that has experience bringing submerged vessels out of the water. Conroe said they’re hoping to get the vessel out of the water by next week once they know how much it will cost.

On Thursday, the CLA convened with the Chautauqua County Water Emergency Team to try and lift the harvester. Conroe said the attempt didn’t work as the vessel was too heavy for the flotation equipment being used.

“We’ve tried every aspect that we can and now the weekend is here, so now it’s a matter of remobilizing,” he said. “I hope to receive a proposal today and hopefully we can get this working.”

Conroe said the situation isn’t impacting operations a whole lot at this point. Five harvesters are still in operation around the lake along with three shoreline barges.

“Regular operations are continuing. We’re still doing lake service in all areas of the lake” he said, adding that harvesting is the only aspect impacted at this point. “It’s something we think we can get through.”

To assure the safety of water users, a warning buoy was placed near the capsized vessel along with night-time flashing warning lights on portions of the harvester.

The Navigational Division of the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office is keeping an eye on traffic around the obstruction, according to Sheriff Joe Gerace. Boaters are urged to stay away from the area until the issue is resolved. Boaters are also reminded to stay within the 5 mph limit when passing an anchored boat or buoy, Gerace said.