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Schumer pushes Army Corps to aid Chautauqua Lake algae problem

WASHINGTON – Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer on Monday intensified his push to bring the Army Corps of Engineers' experimental algae treatment program to Chautauqua Lake.

Schumer made his case in a letter to David W. Pittman, director of the Army Engineer Research and Development Center. The senator said the Army Corps' Harmful Algal Bloom Interception, Treatment, and Transformation System – a pilot program aimed at removing algae from water bodies – should be used to try to eradicate Chautauqua Lake's persistent algae problems.

"A team of experts that can study the impact of the algal blooms and the greater lake ecosystem as whole is needed now more than ever," Schumer, a New York Democrat, wrote. "A thorough assessment of the area will help the entities involved identify solutions to ensure the continued vibrancy of this beloved resource, which stands to benefit everyone."

Schumer first approached the Army Corps in November about bringing its experimental algae removal program to Chautauqua Lake or other water bodies in the state that face recurrent algae problems.

In a response last month, Pittman said the Army Corps plans to try out the experimental program somewhere in New York State this year, and is working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to determine the proper site.

And while Pittman stopped short of committing to bringing the effort to Chautauqua Lake, he said it is under consideration, given that Chautauqua Lake faces "significant HAB (harmful algae bloom) challenges."

In response, Schumer advocated strongly that Chautauqua Lake ought to be selected for the experimental federal program.

"Simply put, Chautauqua Lake is the lifeblood of Southwestern New York," Schumer wrote. "As one of the highest navigable lakes in North America, it remains the foremost example of glacial formations from the Ice Age. Home to the iconic Chautauqua Institution, two state parks, countless lake cottages, beaches, and parks, it is the main economic driver for the entire region."

Chautauqua Lake serves as both a drinking water source and a recreational site in the Southern Tier – and according to the DEC, it experienced upwards of 85 harmful algae blooms last year, part of a total of 298 such events since 2012.

The algae blooms, which are tied to farm runoff, have caused Chautauqua Lake beaches to be closed 22 times since 2017.

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