New York State awarded the Chautauqua Lake Association $100,000 to thwart new invasive plant species through the Watercraft Steward Program of boat-launch inspections.
The program allows the CLA to provide watercraft stewards on boat launches on Chautauqua Lake, Cassadaga Lake and Lake Erie. In 2018, the CLA’s watercraft stewards interacted with 10,326 boaters, inspecting 5,685 boats of all sizes, shapes and propulsion methods.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the grant last Friday. The money is part of $2.8 million in projects statewide designed to reduce the negative impacts of invasive species through control or removal activities, research, and spread prevention.
“New York State is leading the way in invasive species management, to ensure our environment remains sustainable, healthy and strong,” Cuomo said. “Through joint efforts by our state, community and organizational partners, we are developing new programs and initiatives to combat the threat of invasive species that could damage New York’s waterways, agricultural crops, and invaluable forest lands.”
The state Department of Environmental Conservation prohibit boats and equipment from entering or leaving DEC launch sites without first being drained and cleaned.
“This is a smart, effective program that focuses on prevention and pro-activity,” said Douglas Conroe, executive director of the Chautauqua Lake Association. “We’re grateful for the funding because this program has already proven its preventative value.”
The Invasive Species Grant Program is administered by the Bureau of Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health in DEC’s Division of Lands and Forests.
The grant is for three years. In 2019 and 2020, the CLA will combine it with $39,900 annually from a Chautauqua County Occupancy Tax-funded grant and, in 2019, a $15,000 Lake Erie Watershed Protection Alliance grant. Total program for the CLA is $194,800
This most recent funding, however, is unrelated to revenue shortfalls from New York and local municipalities that means the CLA can only hire 27 workers instead of 42, as in 2018, to harvest and clean the lake this summer.
The CLA’s lake services operating budget for 2019 is $640,000, down from $730,000 last summer. New York contributed $150,000 last year, but nothing toward the 2019 operating budget. The villages of Bemus Point and Celoron, and the towns of Chautauqua and Ellery, also contributed nothing this summer.
With DEC 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 a vote by its board May 29.
For the boat-launch stewardship grant, CLA Board President Paul O. Stage announced that the association has collaborated with the DEC, Chautauqua County, the Lake Erie Watershed Protection Alliance, the Barcelona Harbor Commission, the Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District and the Western New York Program for Invasive Species Management (WNY PRISM).
“This grant brings together all the key players in this ongoing battle against waterway invasive species,” Stage said. “We’re pleased to collaborate with these private and governmental groups on such a logical and effective program.”
The Chautauqua Lake coverage will include the following boat launch locations: Bemus Point DEC; Celoron; Jamestown McCrea Park; Lakewood Community Park; Long Point State Park; Mayville Village; Prendergast Point DEC.
The Lake Erie launches are at Barcelona and Dunkirk harbors. Cassadaga Lake’s DEC launch covers that body of water.
Coverage occurs Friday through Monday, started in mid-May and will continue through Labor Day.
The CLA is coordinating with the WNY PRISM that is separately providing stewards on various DEC launches to provide additional manpower support during peak activity times.
“We are excited to have this opportunity to be able to continue to provide this critical invasive species avoidance program,” Conroe added. “Preventing the arrival of new invasive species to area waterways in the end will save hundreds of thousands of dollars that would otherwise have to be expended to eradicate new invasive species that might arrive.”
Invasive species of concern include new aquatic plants such as hydrilla and water chestnut, quagga mussels and terrestrial plants that like to grow along the shoreline.
“Hydrilla is present in nearby waterways and would cost millions to eradicate if it were to get established here,” he said.
The stewards provide voluntary inspections services of arriving and departing vessels along with educating boaters and the public about how to prevent introduction and movement of invasive species from one waterway to another.