CLA outlines summer program, board votes to be aggressive in the north

The Chautauqua Lake Association board of directors voted unanimously [May 29] to concentrate this summer’s harvesting operation in the North Basin above Long Point due to funding limitations and the herbicide treatment in the South Basin.

Funding shortfalls from New York State and local municipalities means that the CLA can only hire 27 workers instead of 42 as in 2018. The CLA’s operating budget for 2019 is $640,000, down from $730,000 last summer. New York contributed $150,000 last year, but nothing for 2019. The villages of Bemus Point and Celoron, and the towns of Chautauqua and Ellery, also contributed nothing this summer.

The CLA is contracted to receive the budgeted $90,000 from Chautauqua County via the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance, and that amount is included in the CLA budget. The CLA had asked Chautauqua County for $150,000 for lake maintenance services in 2019.

With state Department of Environmental Conservation’s approval, areas throughout the South Basin were recently treated with short- and long-term chemical herbicides. Proponents argue that with use of these chemicals, harvesting is not needed. Accordingly, the CLA will limit its South Basin work to shoreline clean up, according to the board vote.

“While our private and business fundraising have been excellent, which we are most grateful for, state and local governments have failed to meet past funding levels,” said Board Chair Paul O. Stage. “Responsible fiscal management requires that we only spend what we raise for lake stewardship and that’s significantly less than past years – given the governmental shortfalls. We’ll do the best we can where the need is greatest.”

“We have never been a fee-for-service organization in regard to general lake and shoreline maintenance and are not interested in moving in that direction. We do not believe subscription service to be in the best interests of the lake itself. At the same time, funding communities do have an expectation that we will be able to provide some level of service for them” said Douglas Conroe, the CLA’s executive director. “We must be responsive to these realties and are now discussing how to address this while continuing to provide services first to the areas of highest need. We will do everything we can this summer to manage the North Basin expertly for all concerned. At the same time, we will coordinate with Chautauqua County to provide those services to the South Basin that will not interfere with other efforts there while addressing as much shoreline maintenance assistance as we can afford.”

The CLA already completed successful work over nine days cleaning the South Basin shoreline in Burtis Bay, where crews hauled away 27 truckloads of debris built up over the winter along with performing similar assistance along Lakeside Drive in Vukote.

Wind, currents and turbidity are unpredictable factors on Chautauqua Lake any year, so it’s hard to explicitly plan for where crews will work and when. But the board outlined the following plan:

  • Lake operations will be adjusted to take into consideration the chemical herbicide program and its impact. The CLA recognizes the need to service the whole lake to the greatest extent possible, but with the claims of pro-herbicide groups, the CLA is taking a wait-and-see approach to where need is greatest.
  • A single, reduced-size crew is being utilized from May 28 through June 14 for shore-edge floating tree removal and for removal of other floating hazardous materials lake-wide. Two crews will be deployed from June 17 through August 29 for harvesting and shoreline clean-up.
  • The two summer crews will include four harvesters, two transport vessels, two large dump trucks, two small dump trucks, two toothless harvester-skimmers, and three barges staffed by a total of 27 employees.
  • One crew will be based primarily in Mayville, although it may relocate from time to time to Prendergast Point or Long Point State Park as efficiency dictates.
    1. This crew will operate solely in the North Basin, north of Long Point State Park;
    2. The crew’s time will generally be split evenly between the Chautauqua Institution and the remainder of the North Basin;
  • The other crew will be based split between the CLA headquarters in Lakewood and Long Point State Park for efficiency. This crew will operate in the southern end of the North Basin and throughout the South Basin;
    1. This crew’s harvesting activity will be limited to areas of extra-special need;
    2. The crew’s shoreline clean-up services will be dedicated to areas not treated by herbicide that are north of the Lakewood treatment area on the west side of the lake and above Greenhurst on the east side of the lake;
  • All harvesters will initially be assigned to the North Basin and will be redeployed to join the South Basin crew if a special need develops there.

“These are hard choices that our board and staff had hoped to avoid making,” Conroe said. “But there is only so much we can realistically accomplish with the funds we raised and the tax-based revenue allocated to us by five of the nine local governments. We say every year we’d like to fully service the entire lake all summer. We have the capacity to put eight harvesters on the lake, instead of four this year, or six last year.”

“But that requires revenue that we do not have. Given the importance Chautauqua Lake holds in providing critical economic resources to the community, the governmental-underfunding of lake maintenance services needs to come to an end. We are very appreciative that foundations have attempted to fill the gap. We know that such cannot continue very long as is being evidenced this year.”