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Another Voice: Science works best in managing Chautauqua Lake

By Doug Conroe and Paul O. Stage

Everyone concerned with Chautauqua Lake’s optimum management agrees on the basics: The lake is 17.3 miles long and spans 42 miles of shoreline. The lake drains 10 major watersheds and 10,500 people rely on the lake for drinking water.

In short, it is an enormous, cross-jurisdictional lake where multiple recreational, economic, governmental and tourism interests intersect and, in some cases, compete. We now have an ad hoc group of residents with parochial interests trying to hijack and reroute lake-management techniques for the full lake that years of science-based experience proved effective.

The lake is best beheld with everyone’s broad best interests in mind. That’s why we think it’s time to take parochial emotion out of the debate on managing the lake, stop hearing what’s best for an elite minority, and maintain the scientific and decadeslong, proven stewardship. This stewardship, by multiple lake management groups, gets positive results, limited only by funding to do more. We at the Chautauqua Lake Association spent more than 65 years perfecting plant harvesting and other management.

The recently revived Chautauqua Lake Partnership makes bold assertions that are mostly incorrect. For instance, its proponents argue that agencies ignore negative impacts of harvesting aquatic plants. In fact, all lake-planning groups and regulators repeatedly reviewed the practice and concluded harvesting should continue. Most recently, a March 2017 report from the Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Economic Development stated: “Mechanical harvesting is an acceptable technique for the management of rooted aquatic plants in Chautauqua Lake.”

Another CLP flare recently went up about a fishkill in a limited area of the lake, Burtis Bay, in October and November, five weeks after harvesting ended. The CLP tied this unfortunate occurrence to harvesting. This is false linkage that fails to recognize impacts from other lake activities and conditions, along with exaggerating what occurred in that small percentage of the lake’s 13,422 acres.

Another CLP false claim is that the CLA opposes the use of any herbicides. There’s no doubt that for a lake supplying drinking water to more than 10,000 people, widely recreated in and that is dependent upon a world-class fishery, herbicide is not choice No. 1. Even so, CLA does not oppose carefully planned and effectively applied herbicides.

Let’s return to sound science, think from 30,000 feet about what’s best for the health of the lake, and look to the future together.

Paul O. Stage is board president and Douglas Conroe executive director and CEO of the Chautauqua Lake Association.

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