Out of Sight, Not out of Mind Maintaining Chautauqua Lake is a Year-Round Operation

0
341

Throughout the summer, the presence of the Chautauqua Lake Association is highly visible around the Lake. From the brightly colored vessels on the water to the dump trucks running on the road, the CLA crews and the work they do is well known among lake residents.

But what happens in the off-season? Chautauqua Lake management is a year-round operation and the work is never done. Late September through mid-May is shop time, according to Douglas Conroe, CLA executive director. It is during this time that every piece of equipment is overhauled, seasonal data is reviewed, and preparations for the next year begin.

In the Shop

At the end of each summer, the full-time maintenance cr ew is tasked with pulling the machines from the water and preparing them for storage at the CLA’s Lakewood facility. “Each machine is washed down, winterized, and then overhauled,” said Heather Nolan-Caskey, Administrative and Community Services Manager. “Everything is checked from top to bottom, from the engine to the paint. Every machine needs to be ready for those crucial 2-3 months.”

The person in charge of the hands-on overhaul is James Cappalino, operations manager and chief mechanic. “Every machine comes in the shop one at a time. We grind, sand, paint the bottoms, weld patches as needed. Sometimes a machine needs a complete paint job, sometimes just a touch-up. We check all the hoses and hydraulic motors to see if anything needs to be replaced, and completely winterize the vessel.”

And while that may seem like a reasonable undertaking — the entire fleet consists of six harvesters, five shoreline barges, four large dump trucks, four small dump trucks, three transport barges, two skimmers, a loader, a skid steer, and a forklift. Each machine spends roughly one to two weeks in the shop for its overhaul.

“Your working days (in the summer) are so limited. It’s crucial that the fleet is in fully-operational condition to avoid down time,” Conroe said.

The Work Doesn’t End in the Shop

While all that is underway, the office is just as busy. Budget preparation, grant applications, year end reporting and summer preparations: the work never stops.

“We review our end-of-season results and prepare final reports that outline what we accomplished as an organization,” Nolan-Caskey said. “For the grants, there is a lot of data reviewing, summarizing, publicizing, and applying for new grants.”

The number of seasonal hires and size of the CLA summer crews are based solely on budget. With a non-guaranteed revenue stream, the CLA is solely reliant on state and foundation grants, town and village support, as well as contributions from its members.

In a non-COVID year, the CLA is involved in numerous outreach and
educational programs. Last year, those were all cancelled due to the
pandemic.

“There are a lot of interactions with other collaborating organizations this time of year,” Conroe said. “There are three offseason conferences that we attend: The North American Lake Management Society (NALMS), the New York State Federation of Lake Associations (NYSFOLA), and the Western New York State Federation of Lake Associations. Lake management and maintenance are continually changing. The ecology of the lake responds to climate change, we need to be up to date on new technology, technique and scientific findings.” This year these important conferences will be held virtually, as they were in the Fall of 2020.

How Can You Help?

Contribute. Whether it is online, via phone or the mail, you can help the Chautauqua Lake Association’s mission to keep Chautauqua Lake safe, fun and clean for all to enjoy. Your contribution will assist the CLA’s lake management services and programs that run throughout the year. Participation in this fund drive is critical— From harvesting, dredging and shoreline cleanup to AIS prevention and awareness, science, and stewardship, the necessary summer services cannot be provided without the financial support of all lake users.