Moving ahead on tough topic

It’s been more than two weeks since fish and weeds blew into the shore in Burtis Bay.

It’s unfortunate for the fish that were left to rot. It’s infuriating for the property owner who has to deal with the stench and mess. And, we hope the whole mess provides some illumination into what is necessary moving forward to remedy the ills on Chautauqua Lake.

Once again, the Chautauqua Lake Watershed and Management Alliance has shown that it isn’t the type of organization that can handle these types of emergencies. Pierre Chagnon finds himself between a rock and a hard place as the alliance’s board president. The organization is charged with promoting and facilitating implementation of recommendations from the Chautauqua Lake Watershed Management Plan and the Chautauqua Lake Macrophyte Management Strategy by prioritizing projects, securing funding and allocating resources. When situations happen like the sudden fish kill in Burtis Bay, the alliance is looked to for answers that it has no ability to give.

We give credit to Chagnon, then, for working behind the scenes after a meeting earlier this month to find ways the alliance can help clean up the mess in Burtis Bay, reaching out to Chautauqua County officials to see what can be permitted so that the alliance can see if there is a way to help pay for the work. It’s not Chagnon’s fault, or anyone else at the alliance, really, that the alliance was never given the authority to do much other than set funding priorities and look for money.

A strong organization with a full-time director and staff who can move quickly, with some authority, is needed for these situations. That organization needs to have some access to emergency funding so that it can act when circumstances arise. It needs to be able to make decisions and make those decisions stick even if they upset member organizations.

Imagine if this fish kill had happened on Memorial Day weekend and it took a week for anything to happen? There are times for debate and discussion, and then there are times for action. Removing weeds and dead fish from Chautauqua Lake’s shores is a time for action, not debate.