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Army Corps Of Engineers To Begin Lake Work In September

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin its work on Chautauqua Lake this fall.

Dr. Marion Divers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager for the Chautauqua Lake project, spoke to those attending the recent Chautauqua Lake Symposium organized by County Executive PJ Wendel. Originally authorized in 2018, the Chautauqua Lake Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration received $500,000 as part of federal appropriations bills approved earlier this year by Congress.

Chautauqua County will partner with the USACE to remediate water quality and other hydrological impairments of Chautauqua Lake, and collaborate on a feasibility study to assess potential aquatic ecosystem restoration, flood mitigation, sedimentation and shoreline remediation, watershed erosion, and water recreation projects for Chautauqua Lake.

“This is something that we’ve been excited about,” Wendel said. “For years and years we kept saying, when’s it going to happen, when’s it going to happen? This year they said, ‘Here we are guys. This is this is it.'”

Divers said the work will be easier given the amount of research that has been done on Chautauqua Lake over the past several years. She specifically cited ongoing work by the Jefferson Project, State University at Fredonia, SUNY ESF, North Carolina State University and Bowling Green University. Divers will review that work before the Army Corps of Engineers begins its work with the county in September.

The first three months of work will largely be spent on scoping, with evaluation and analysis taking place from January through September 2025. Then, there will be a feasibility analysis of the selected plan that is released to the public for review and comment. The draft plan will then be further analyzed before it is endorsed by federal officials. The district engineer will then submit a final report for review before the chief of engineers makes a recommendation to Congress. The entire process should take about three years and cost about $3 million.

“This (the Chautauqua Lake analysis) will really build on this foundation and consider all the possible ways to address the problems, see holistic solutions, leverage all of this existing work and knowledge and engage the public and stakeholders to help define the problems and come up with some solutions,” Divers said.

There are many opinions about possible solutions to invasive weeds in the lake as well as harmful algal blooms. Divers said the Army Corps of Engineers will consider those long-discussed alternatives as part of their analysis.

“What preferences do we have for certain actions?” Divers asked. “Yeah, we can go in and douse the whole length of the lake with chemicals or dredge the entire thing, but is that the best choice in this situation?”

There are no shortage of opportunities for the public to learn about the lake. In addition to the county’s Chautauqua Lake Symposium, Chautauqua Institution will host its 2024 Chautauqua Lake Conference at Chautauqua Institution from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 22, will include updates from local Chautauqua Lake organizations, SUNY Fredonia researchers, researchers from SUNY Oneonta and North Carolina State University, the Jefferson Project and local lake organizations.

Divers said she hopes the public will remain engaged when the Army Corps of Engineers begins its scoping process in September.

“Early scoping is really critical and we hope to get as many people involved as we can,” Divers said. “We need to define the problem. How are you impacted? We need to define the opportunities. How can things be better? The constraints – what do we need to consider as we develop these potential mitigation measures and objectives? What should we be trying to achieve? Is it achievable and, if so, how do we get there? I don’t imagine that’s going to be much of a problem here. You guys have so much. You’re data rich and that’s really a blessing for this situation.”

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