Only path forward involves unity
Facilitating cooperation and compromise is critical to maximizing our success in addressing issues involving Chautauqua Lake management. While thoughtful people might disagree on the priorities facing Chautauqua Lake, a consensus strategy is much better than endless conflict and the threat of lawsuits.
Chautauqua Lake is one of our region’s environmental gems, a natural resource that sustains a thriving ecosystem, enhances our region’s scenic beauty, provides drinking water for thousands and contributes to the nearly $500 million in tourism-related spending that supports our region’s economy.
To have such a vital asset in the heart of our community is a gift. That is why preserving its health, cleanliness and usability are critical goals, in both the short-term, and for the benefit of future generations. On these points, all of the lake’s stakeholders, agree.
Unfortunately, however, for too many years, these goals moved farther and farther out of reach because of disagreements over how best to address the growing problem of invasive weeds and harmful algal blooms. Intermunicipal conflicts, lawsuits and public relations battles did nothing but stall real progress and allowed the problem to worsen.
The Chautauqua Lake Consensus Strategy and Memorandum of Agreement was a historic effort that brought together lake organizations, municipalities located around Chautauqua Lake, and so many other stakeholders in a shared commitment to work together to achieve our common goals. Initiated in 2019, the consensus strategy pursued a balanced approach to in-lake treatment and management that set the stage for what most lake-users considered to be one of the best seasons ever. It also helped spur new funding which previously sat on the sidelines because of the toxic and counterproductive divisions that dominated the lake.
We should have no desire to go backwards to the old ways that divided us and tarnished the jewel of Chautauqua County. That’s why following the agreement. which not only includes the responsible use of herbicides, but also limits their use, should continue, along with advancing the other tenets of the MOA.
Particularly in this precarious and unprecedented time, the proper management of Chautauqua Lake’s health is more important than ever. The COVID-19 crisis and our prolonged shutdown have wrought tremendous damage to our economy. A return to conflict and division over Chautauqua Lake will hurt our ability to secure the dwindling funding that will be available for its maintenance. Most importantly, controversy and conflict will hamper effective control of the nuisance and invasive weed problem and further threaten our local economy, which will already be damaged as a result of the pandemic.
We’ve come a long way from where we were just two years ago. But that positive progress will only continue if we stay unified and committed to the tenets of the MOA. With so much at stake, we cannot afford to go backward to controversy and conflict. Chautauqua Lake is a regional treasure that will continue to benefit our community as long as we refuse to let personal agendas hijack its future and keep our focus on our shared goals.
George Borrello is state senator for District 57, Andy Goodell is state assemblyman for the 150th district and P.J. Wendel is Chautauqua County executive.