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Opposing New Technology in Chautauqua Lake

The Chautauqua Institution (Institution), the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance (Alliance) and the Town of Chautauqua are opposing new weed management technology used successfully in other states and in three New York lakes in 2019.

Lakeside Towns and Villages used NYSDEC-permitted herbicides Navigate and Aquathol-K in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and NYSDEC-permitted Renovate in one area in 2018. Successful invasive weed management results were celebrated by lakeside residents and users in the Lake’s north and south basins including an overwhelmingly positive response in the normally weed-choked Burtis Bay in 2019. Lake users successfully complied with swimming and drinking water use restrictions. Further, 3rd-party water testing showed that the herbicides used, applied in accordance with permit requirements, had no negative affect on drinking water supplies.   

In 2020, three Towns, Ellery, Ellicott and Busti, with support of three Villages, Bemus Point, Celoron and Lakewood, have applied for permits to use a new herbicide, ProCellaCor EC, used successfully in other states in years past and registered for use state-wide by the NYSDEC and used successfully in three New York lakes in 2019. ProCellaCor EC is a revolutionary environmentally friendly herbicide with NO swimming restriction and NO drinking water restrictions. 

You would expect recognition and support of this new technology from the Alliance, Chautauqua County’s lake and watershed management agent, the Institution and the Town of Chautauqua, all signatories to Chautauqua County’s 2019 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). By signing that Agreement, they committed to “science-based decision making”. Surprisingly, the Alliance, the Institution and the Town of Chautauqua have opposed use of this new technology in various ways. 

The County included a “north of Long Point” herbicide exclusion in the 2019 MOA for political reasons, to appease unsubstantiated Institution fears, with no scientific basis and without acknowledging the NYSDEC registration and planned use of ProCellaCor EC in early 2019. That unfortunate and unnecessary requirement lives on in 2020. 

The Institution’s President Michael Hill and Vice President John Shedd have demanded that the NYSDEC issue NO herbicide permits in all of Chautauqua Lake. And, they have threatened to sue the Town of Ellery if it uses any herbicides, including ProCellaCor EC, “north of Long Point”. Recall that a fatally flawed Institution lawsuit filed in 2018 against the Town and the NYSDEC was dismissed in early 2019. 

Further, in a recent letter to “Chautauquans”, Michael Hill pretended to represent many more than just his “Chautauquans”. He said that “North Basin residents and municipalities do not support these (herbicide) applications”. Someone needs to remind Michael that he does not speak for the ~4000 Town of Chautauqua residents outside his gated community nor other North Basin municipalities and residents in the Towns of North Harmony and Ellery. 

The Alliance’s interim Executive Director Vince Horrigan has also threatened the Town of Ellery. His threat, is to withhold local foundation funding distributed by the Alliance from the Town of Ellery if it uses any herbicides, including ProCellaCor EC, “north of Long Point”. 

Surprisingly, Town of Chautauqua Supervisor Don Emhardt has now joined in support of the positions taken by the Institution. We wonder how such a small number of year-round residents/voters can have such overwhelming influence. 

The Institution, the Alliance and the Town of Chautauqua refuse to acknowledge the availability and obvious benefits of ProCellaCor EC and insist that the Town of Ellery, not even a signatory of the MOA, adhere to the MOA prohibiting all herbicide use in the entire North Basin, over 50% of the lake. They fight against new technology to abide by the letter of an outdated, unscientific MOA requirement, depriving those who live along and use the lake of proven effective weed control. 

If others had adhered to a document such as the County’s MOA and refused to consider new technology, what chemical benefits, such as vaccines and antibiotics, would have been made available or used to improve the human condition? How would we feel if reasoned exceptions to regulations were not allowed to facilitate development of a treatment or vaccine for COVID-19? So, will we allow these three organizations to prevent the use of new technology to improve our Lake? We hope not!   

Jim Wehrfritz

Bemus Point, NY

May 4, 2020