Article Contributed by
Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy
The Board of Directors of the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy (CWC) recently endorsed Chautauqua County’s Chautauqua Lake Memorandum of Understanding.
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy strongly supports good faith and cordial collaboration among our lake and watershed partners and seeks to continue working together to conserve and improve Chautauqua Lake watershed and in-lake conditions. We support objective, evidence-based science with which to guide management decisions that conserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty, and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands, and watersheds of the Chautauqua region, and recognize the critical importance of an economically and ecologically healthy Chautauqua Lake.
The CWC notes, however, our disappointment that the MOU fails to acknowledge the human land uses that continue to contribute significant sources of the phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediments to Chautauqua Lake which fuel excessive weed and algae growth, harmful algae blooms (HABs), and loss of lake depth. Each of the lake’s sub-watersheds should be maintained in at least 60-70% forest and wetlands for clean, non-polluting waters to feed the lake (Protecting the Source, The Trust for Public Land and American Water Works Association, 2004) which, in turn, will support improved Chautauqua Lake water quality, wildlife and fisheries habitats, and human health and enjoyment.
To truly address the root causes of nutrient loading in Chautauqua Lake, a pro-active, preventive approach is urgently needed to reduce the loss of watershed forests and wetlands, protect streams and stream corridors, control stormwater and erosion, and reduce sediment loading into the lake, including effective stormwater erosion control regulations, currently lacking. Every year in which local governments fail to adopt and enforce such laws means more pollution is reaching the lake and contributing more phosphorus cumulatively being released as “internal loading” each summer. And while the NYSDEC has regulatory responsibility over the waters of Chautauqua Lake, it does not regulate local land uses that contribute the nutrients and sediments driving excessive plant and algae growth in the lake. That is primarily up to local municipalities, potentially augmented by the County through its human health protection jurisdiction. CWC encourages local governments to look to Lake George and the Finger Lakes and local land use regulations in other states for examples on how to better protect our precious water resources, now and long into the future.
CWC looks forward to continued participation in the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance and Chautauqua County Water Quality Task Force, and to ongoing and future collaborations with our lake and watershed conservation partners.