Criticism and Responses Regarding Lake Management

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Overall, the lake is getting worse.

The lake is actually improving. People’s expectations are getting unrealistic, which gives a false image about the lake and what it should be. It’s not, and should not be, a pristine ‘swimming pool’ or a weed-free lake.

Removing all the weeds from the lake is the best course.

Aquatic plants are critical for the lake’s health, the abundant fishery and to help limit algal blooms. Plants also filter water, making it cleaner for drinking water supplies and for in-water recreational use.

Get rid of all invasive weeds.

The invasive plants (Eurasian water milfoil and curly leaf pondweed) have been in the lake for decades and are now an important part of the lake’s ecology. They need to be controlled instead of being removed. Any new-arriving invasives (water chestnut, hydrilla) should be immediately eradicated if they arrive.

The lake is not usable.

This is a large-end-of-the-telescope view. Chautauqua Lake continued to be very usable in 2018. Only one beach closed for a couple of days, and as a precautionary measure, not due to any specific harmful situation. All other public beaches were open all summer. Fishing tournaments occurred on the lake almost every weekend. More than 4,000 transient boats used the lake, based on hard recordings at boat launches coming and going on weekends. Recreation occurred throughout the summer.

Negative impacts of harvesting long overlooked in Chautauqua Lake.

In fact, in several reports spanning decades, all lake-planning groups and regulators reviewed the pros and cons and concluded that harvesting should continue. The most recent document, the Chautauqua Lake Macrophyte Management Strategy, March 2017, by the Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Economic Development, said: “Mechanical harvesting is an acceptable technique for the management of rooted aquatic plants in Chautauqua Lake.”

Negative impacts were not shown after 2017 and 2018 treatment programs.

In 2018, South Basin fishing dramatically dropped off after herbicide was applied to the lake. Chautauqua Fishing Alliance [CFA] surveys documented negative impacts even outside immediate treatment areas. Non-target plant species were also affected. The 2017 treatment area was also affected by several actions there, but not all impacts were discernable beyond loss of important potamogeton plants.

Chautauqua County Macrophyte Management Strategy requires 100 percent fragment recovery.

The MMS is an excellent advisory document. It does not, however, require specific actions or make some illegal or even ill-advised. MMS recommends that “collection of fragments needs to be monitored carefully to prevent floating masses of cut plants.” No requirement exists to collect 100 percent, which is impractical anyway. CLA closely monitors and collects all observable cuttings in addition to collecting cuttings that result from general boating activity and natural die-off fragmentation.

Less than 100 percent fragment recovery violates state invasive species law.

This is clearly a stretch and not true. The state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Governor’s Harmful Algal Bloom Action Plan agree that harvesting is acceptable. And the HAB plan applies the same management plan to 11 other key New York State lakes.

Substantial killing of fish, mostly small fingerlings, along with invertebrates, results from cutting/harvesting.

This flare recently went up after a fishkill in a limited area of the lake, Burtis Bay, in October and November, 5-12 weeks after harvesting ended. The Chautauqua Lake Partnership tied this unfortunate occurrence to harvesting. This is false linkage and also exaggerates what occurred in a small percentage of the lake’s 13,422 acres. No current-day studies exist to demonstrate this alleged linkage. The Chautauqua Lake Association, which has managed the lake for decades, chiefly through plant harvesting, invites people to stop at unloading sites to see for themselves that this is not true.

Cutting/harvesting kills of millions of fish, which is documented in lake studies.

There are no known, current studies to support this silly assertion

Fishkills are annual occurrences, resulting from weed-cutting operations, and are independent of periodic proliferation of invasives.

This is, of course, incorrect, on both counts. There is simply no scientific
evidence, nor reputable study, supporting this assertion.

Harvesting caused significant fish mortality in 2018 in Burtis Bay in October and November.

Harvesting ceased August 30. But more relevant, most of Burtis Bay wasn’t even harvested in 2018 – just channels and near docks. The attributed cause was oxygen depletion due to congested rotting plants. Extensive numbers of plants with died-off roots floated in on high winds, causing the congestion.

Chautauqua Lake Partnership is an all-volunteer operation.

For some reason, this seems to be important to the CLP, as if “volunteer” equates to ‘grassroots.” Is its law firm volunteer? Is its public relations assistant volunteer? Is its scientific consultant, SOLitude Lake Management, working pro bono? Clearly there are contracted and otherwise paid staff functions.

There have been no discernable improvements to cutting operations since CLP asked for them in 2017.

The CLA constantly assesses its operations and makes improvements when they are endorsed by scientific experts and are financially realistic. In fact, constant improvements over the years often result from CLA officials attending state and national lake-stewardship conferences, where best practices are discussed and evaluated. CLA most often follows the practices proven successful at other similar lakes in the state and nation.

CLA advocated for cessation of herbicide use.

There’s no doubt that for a lake supplying drinking water to thousands, widely recreated in and which is dependent upon a premier world-class fishery, herbicide is not choice No. 1. But the CLA does not oppose carefully planned and effectively applied herbicide use. The methodology must be better, however, than what’s transpired to date.

The past two years herbicides proved safe and effective controlling invasives.

This is not true. There was too much collateral damage to native species.

A combined herbicide-harvesting program will prevent repeat of Burtis Bay fall fishkill.

This was a cyclical experience. In 2017, conditions did not foretell 2018 conditions. Spring 2018 conditions did not foretell 2018’s summer conditions. Applying herbicides for unpredictable conditions is a waste of funds and miss-use of herbicides that introduces avoidable environmental risks.

CLP is well-positioned to develop a combined program that could be funded through Sheldon Foundation’s $20,000 grant for CLA-CLP cooperative program.

The CLP’s use of flawed science and scientific method, the unintended consequences of its two herbicide programs, its inability to work collaboratively with the
various lake groups, all combine to disqualify it from being positioned to develop and lead. In November, the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance rated a funding request from the Chautauqua Lake Association highest of 12 approved and asked the Ralph C. Sheldon and Chautauqua Region Community foundations to fund the CLA at $162,050.

All lake advocacy and stewardship groups need to come together and get along.

The other lake stewardship and advocacy groups are already there. The CLP is the only group that does not get along with the others. Everyone else is on the same page about lake management and what the lake needs. The others interact regularly and effectively on lake issues.

The Town of Ellery’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement [SEIS] addressed all the lake’s environmental issues.

Numerous commenters on the draft pointed out deficiencies that were not addressed in the final document. One involved agency formally declared it to be deficient, which under the law means it is deficient. State DEC permits issued reflected disagreement with aspects of the SEIS.

Need to think “outside the box” in addressing solutions to lake problems.

The solutions are known and scientifically based. Additional funding is needed to achieve consistent lake management. Any out-of-the-box thinking needs to concentrate on how to successfully obtain more and regular funding, from local, regional and state government, as well as private sources.

Eurasian water milfoil growth has increased.

Over a decade of lake-plants monitoring factually evidences that the quantity and
density of EWM decreased, due mostly to herbivores’ (moths, weevils, caddis flies) impact. The main problem plant species today is not EWM, but the native elodea.

Large portions of lake overwhelmed by invasive weeds.

Simply inaccurate. The invasives have been documented to have declined throughout the last decade. Most plant beds are dominated by natives. Most of lake was usable in 2018, such that plant beds were not overwhelming in the lake overall. There can be, of course, smaller, localized “hot spots” that may bother neighboring residents, but it’s wrong to extrapolate those particular issues lakewide.

Lake doesn’t need any off-shore invasive weeds to support the fishery.

The state DEC recognized the importance of protecting the off-shore plant colonies by limiting herbicide treatment to 200 feet from shore, or in six feet of water, whichever occurs first. This despite that fact that plants can grow in up to 15 feet of water. The Chautauqua Fishing Alliance has described the importance that the off-shore plant beds have for the fishery.

State DEC less-than 200-foot/6-foot depth permit for herbicide application is “arbitrary and unnecessary.”

The mixed species plant colonies, including invasives, that exist off-shore, provide critical fishery habitat upon which the fishery depends in addition to absorbing nutrients thereby lessening algal bloom conditions.

Herbicide must be applied in May/June to assure destruction of curly leaf pondweed.

Again, incorrect. May and June are critical spawning times. Herbicide is not plant selective, so many plant species will be destroyed. Fish-friendly plant-control actions throughout the United States and Canada at that time of year utilize harvesting to remove plant-propagation buds and to keep lakes traversable.

Lake management is status quo and needs to change.

The CLA’s program has been far from status quo. Harvesting machines have been upgraded. Larger transports have been added to increase efficiency. Shoreline services increased. Staff keeps current on lake management literature and attends workshops.

A balanced approach is needed

The term “balanced approach” is often misused to mean the use of harvesting and herbicides. It actually means utilizing in-lake and watershed techniques [North American Lake Management Society]. “Integrated pest management” is the appropriate terminology. IPM is “an environmentally friendly, common-sense approach to controlling pests,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Further, it says: “IPM programs take advantage of all appropriate pest-management strategies, including the judicious use of pesticides. Preventive-pesticide application is limited because the risk of pesticide exposure may outweigh the benefits of control, especially when non-chemical methods provide the same results.” IPM programs can include harvesting, herbicide, weed mats, herbivores, lake drawdown and other plant-control techniques.