Below is a brief history of herbicide use on Chautauqua Lake, the need for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and the work completed this year and last as well as a status for 2018.
For those of you that were unable to attend the rally and see the update in person, you’ll find the slides used in the presentation here.
And if you haven’t done so already, please contact your county legislator and encourage them to fund the necessary treatment for this season! Their contact information is available at the county website.
Herbicides were used by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Chautauqua Lake Association (CLA) in conjunction with CLA weed harvesting to successfully manage invasive weeds in Chautauqua Lake from the mid to late 1900’s. A DEC-required Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) supportive of such treatments, the only such requirement in NYS, was completed in 1990.
Due to onerous permit conditions and threats of lawsuits by local opponents, CLA ceased treatments in 1992. A limited, 70-acre Burtis Bay treatment by the Town of Ellicott, supported by the Chautauqua Lake Partnership (CLP), was successfully completed in 2002. However, since the 1990 SEIS was 12 years old, the DEC then required an updated SEIS, estimated to cost $250,000, before further permits would be granted.
2017 – Data Collection Project and SEIS Start
The CLP supported a 30-acre herbicide treatment by the Town of Ellery/Village of Bemus Point, a DEC- supervised Data Collection Project, in three areas of Bemus Bay in June 2017. No weed harvesting was required in the Bay after that treatment. Project results, including the effectiveness of invasive weed control and the success of potential impact mitigations, were reported to the DEC for use in a subsequent SEIS update.
CLP-organized weed type and density and bottom sediment depth surveys were performed offshore the eight communities requesting them in October 2017. These surveys were used to update the 1990 SEIS required by the DEC and develop nine location-specific herbicide treatment permit applications for 2018 treatments.
On November 9, 2017, the Ellery Town Board (Ellery) initiated the NY State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) Coordinated Review process by seeking Lead Agency status from approximately seventy-five involved and interested agencies and organizations. On December 11, 2017, the Ellery Town Board officially designated itself as the Lead Agency of the SEQRA process and directed a SEIS to be prepared.
2018 – SEIS Completion and Permit Applications
The Draft SEIS Scoping Document (scope, content, etc.) was issued by Ellery on December 11, 2017. A public hearing was held on December 28, 2017, to obtain verbal comments. Written comments were accepted through January 5, 2018. On January 11, 2018, Ellery issued the final SEIS Scoping Document.
The Draft SEIS was issued by Ellery on February 8, 2018. Copies of the Draft SEIS and all Appendices were provided to the DEC, the Villages of Lakewood, Celoron and Bemus Point, and the Towns of Busti, Ellicott and North Harmony. A public hearing was held on March 1, 2018, to obtain verbal comments; written comments were accepted through March 16, 2018. Over 800 comments from over 70 agencies, organizations and individuals were addressed in the Final SEIS. Of the Involved Agencies, only the DEC submitted written comments. Lakewood, Busti, Ellicott, North Harmony and Bemus Point did not submit any written or oral comments to the Draft SEIS. The Final SEIS was issued by Ellery on April 5, 2018.
Supportive Findings were issued by Ellery as Lead Agency on April 17, 2018, and, with that, the SEQRA process was completed.
On a parallel path to SEIS development and SEQRA completion, nine permit applications for herbicide treatment of 989 acres along eleven Chautauqua Lake shoreline communities were submitted to the DEC by the Towns of Ellery, Ellicott, Busti and North Harmony and the Village of Celoron on March 16, 2018.
A notice of the permit applications and proposed herbicide treatment-related water use restrictions was distributed to property owners of record on Chautauqua Lake and downstream watercourse shorelines on March 14, 2018. Objections to treatment were accepted by the DEC through April 13, 2018.
2018 – Permit Approval, Planning, Funding and Implementation
2018 herbicide treatment permits were first issued by the DEC on May 15, 2018. Permits were revised for consistency with municipality requirements and to correct inconsistencies and errors beginning May 22, 2018. The DEC significantly reduced proposed treatment areas beyond 200 feet from shore, within 500 feet of mapped wetlands and near fish spawning/nursery habitat and areas where the spiny soft-shell turtle has been reported. These reductions neither addressed nor accounted for mitigations provided for in the SEIS. Contracts are being prepared, funding identified, planning completed and preparatory actions taken for herbicide treatments the week of June 4, 2018. Final notification of treatment dates, areas and water use restrictions will be distributed by letter to property owners around the Lake and downstream waters, newspaper notices and posting of signs at lake access points prior to June 4.
The Chautauqua Regional Community Foundation provided $102,000 and the Lenna Foundation provided $67,000 (total $169,000) of the $250,000 cost of the 2018 SEIS and permit applications. The Towns of Ellery, North Harmony and Busti and the Villages of Bemus Point and Lakewood provided $28,500. Individual and businesses funded the remaining $52,500 while results of a third local foundation grant request were awaited. Thousands of volunteer staff-hours supported SEIS development.
New York State has dedicated $95,000 for 2018 CLP projects, through the efforts of Senator Cathy Young and Assemblyman Andy Goodell. Although these funds will not be available in time for herbicide treatments, we are very grateful for this funding and encouragement from Senator Young and Assemblyman Goodell as wellas encouragement from the Governor’s Office and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.
The CLP’s support and the Town of Ellery’s leadership have provided necessary follow-through to the invasive weed management studies by Chautauqua County, the 1990 SEIS for herbicide application and the March 2017 Macrophyte Management Strategy (MMS).
On April 25, 2018, the CLP made a formal request to the Chautauqua County Legislature for $500,000 to fund 2018 Chautauqua Lake herbicide treatments. The request was subsequently reduced to $300,000 anticipating reductions as permits were granted.
The CLP knows that all legislators, with constituents near to Chautauqua Lake, in the north County or other areas,understand Chautauqua Lake’s importance to the economic interests and quality of life of all residents ofChautauqua County. CLP was confident the required ten of nineteen votes would be cast in favor of this critical funding resolution. Unfortunately, no legislator introduced the $300,000 funding resolution requested on April 25, 2018, and, as a result, no vote was taken at the May 23, 2018, meeting of the legislature.
We remain hopeful Chautauqua County will assist with funding of the 2018 Chautauqua Lake herbicide treatment program, the first significant such opportunity in over 25 years, a result of leadership by the Town of Ellery, participation by the Towns of North Harmony, Busti, Ellicott and the Villages of Celeron and Bemus Point and support from the CLP.