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DEC is developing general permit for Chautauqua Lake

CELORON – The New York State Department of Conservation will develop a Chautauqua Lake General Permit.

What the permit will cover is still being developed, according to Chad Stansiszewski, assistant regional director for the state DEC Region 9.

Stansiszewski gave an update Sunday at the Chautauqua Lake Symposium at the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel, 10 Dunham Ave. His presentation also addressed the wetlands issue for the lake.

In 2022, according to the DEC, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law historic revisions to New York’s Freshwater Wetlands Act. New York’s original Freshwater Wetlands Act was enacted in 1975 to regulate activities near larger wetlands, greater than 12.4 acres, and smaller wetlands considered to be of unusual local importance. The new wetlands law eliminates the use of the old, inaccurate wetland maps and clarifies that all wetland areas greater than 12.4 acres are subject to Article 24 regulations. Freshwater wetlands are lands and submerged lands – commonly called marshes, swamps, sloughs, bogs, and flats – that support aquatic or semi-aquatic vegetation.

“It’s a law the DEC is obligated to comply with,” Stansiszewski said. “This is not at DEC’s discretion so we are trying to navigate the new law like everybody else is.”

He added that the DEC is trying to make widely known the regulations that meet the intent of what the law is.

Stansiszewski said one big change in the regulations is that the regulatory maps are being nixed. Historically, he said, there were maps in which wetlands were designated. If wetlands were not on those maps, then wetlands were not regulated.

“The biggest change with this law is that the maps no longer hold any kind of legal bearing,” he said.

Stansiszewski said there will be maps available to property owners for informational purposes only.

“There will be informational maps available to help property owners determine where wetlands may be, but they’re really just for informational purposes. They are not regulatory in nature,” Stansiszewski said.

He noted that if property owners are unsure if an area is a wetland or not, they can contact the Bureau of Ecosystem Health in Albany for wetland jurisdiction determination at 518-402-8920 or fw.ecohealth@dec.ny.gov.

Stansiszewski said it is not the DEC’s intent on turning Chautauqua Lake into a swamp.

“We’re not creating new wetlands. We’re not making new wetlands. We’re not constructing new wetlands. If it meets the definition of a wetland (then) it’s a wetland,” he said.

Stansiszewski said in his presentation that there will be no physical changes to the lake. There will be no permits required for continuing existing uses, ordinary maintenance and repair, seasonal installation, and removal of docks, He said.

Undeveloped land that may be developed in the future as well as any major modifications to existing properties will need a permit.

“If you own undeveloped land adjacent to the lake and you want to develop it, you’re going to need to get a permit from the DEC,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you won’t be able to develop it (the land), but we’re going to look to make sure that your development is as protective of the resource as possible, and that your development is reasonably necessary to occur.”

Permits are needed, Stansiszewski said, for new docks, or new boat houses.

“It doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It means that (the) DEC is going to have to look at it to make sure that it’s being done appropriately with the least impact to the resource as possible. That’s what that permit is. That’s what that permit is intended to do,” Stansiszewski added.

The assistant director noted that in New York state, a 100-foot adjacent area is also regulated, so permits would be required if a property owner falls within that boundary. If a property owner falls outside that boundary, then another requirement may apply. He added that herbicide permits are required annually under the NYS pesticides law, and weed harvesting in the lake will require a permit and may fall under the general permit that is being developed.

“Harvesting, which currently doesn’t need a permit, will need a permit moving forward,” he said.

DEC comments can be emailed to WetlandRegulatoryComments@dec.ny.gov, and a video of the symposium can be viewed at YouTube.com/@ChautauquaCounty.

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