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Chautauqua approves lake agreement after initial concerns

MAYVILLE — A month ago, the town of Chautauqua appeared all but against signing the Chautauqua Lake Memorandum of Understanding. This month, town officials approved the agreement.

The MOU is an update to the 2019 lake agreement that termed out in April. The agreement encourages cooperation among essential Chautauqua Lake stakeholders.

Last month, Chautauqua Town Supervisor Don Emhardt said the agreement “isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on,” and “there’s not much substance to it.”

His biggest concern stemmed from the part of the agreement that states parties “would agree not to pursue litigation against county or any other participant who is a party to this MOU.”

“If the weed spray got into our water systems, we wouldn’t be able to retaliate against anybody. If you ask me, that’s just ludicrous,” he said last month.

However, in a “complete change of face,” Emhardt decided it would be worthwhile for the town of Chautauqua to sign on to the agreement.

“I think we should approve this,” he said at Monday’s town board meeting. “We’d get quite a few dollars through the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Alliance. We’ve been on the alliance since the beginning. Everyone else is doing this.”

Board member Scott Cummings shared his thoughts on the agreement.

“I think with the information we we’re given after our last meeting, I agree. I think we should sign on to this as well,” Cummings said.

County Executive PJ Wendel was also in attendance at the meeting and commended Chautauqua’s reconsideration of the agreement.

“A lot of the concern was the litigation clause, and has been said several times, we do not take away anybody’s right to litigate or to bring suit to anybody else,” Wendel said. “Especially damages in the case of the town of Chautauqua with your water inlets. It’s very important we maintain the safety and integrity of those water inlets.”

Wendel also spoke on the MOU in general and its importance to the community.

“(The MOU) is everyone’s cooperation and collaboration to work together for something that’s figuratively and literally bigger than all of us,” he said. “The efforts that Don has put forth and the town of Chautauqua — all of your efforts for the lake have been greatly appreciated. I appreciate your reconsideration in signing this.”

Wendel said as of Monday, there “may only be one that hasn’t signed on.”

There is more in store for the lake this summer.

“There’s a lot of great things going on (with) the lake and more to come,” Wendel said. “The likes that none of us can really comprehend right now.”

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