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Keep the Lake a Lake NOT a WetlandsChautauqua Lake Wetlands Regulation Risk

NYS DEC describes wetlands as follows:

“Wetlands (swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas) are areas saturated by surface or ground water sufficient to support distinctive vegetation adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands serve as natural habitat for many species of plants and animals and absorb the forces of flood and tidal erosion to prevent loss of upland soil.”

  1. This issue is NOT about the value of wetlands,  it is about regulation of our lake as wetland and the consequences.
  2. Although we can see no evidence of it, we are being told parts of the lake already meet the characteristics of wetlands but were just never designated.
  3. Will DEC goals for management of wetlands be aligned with goals for managing invasive aquatic weeds on Chautauqua Lake?

Issue Background:

  • NYS State is targeting expansion of wetlands by 1M acres based on new wetland regulation that will go in effect Jan 2025
  • DEC public comments indicated that “much of the south basin” of Chautauqua Lake would be regulated as wetland (published March 2, 2024, Jamestown Post Journal)
  • Current Wetland Maps, Projection for 2025
  • Impacts:
    • Adds significant barriers to managing the lake as a lake since rules are designed to protect vegetation and wetland animals (high risk that invasive weeds will be “protected”)
      • SEQR  (State Environmental Quality Review) would be required
      • Pesticides in Lakes = Full Environmental Assessment Form – 13 pages – primarily focused on construction
      • Published newspaper ad + Environmental Notice Bulletin
      • More time, more money, more restrictions
    • Adds significant uncertainty to permitting process due to the additional permitting required for wetland (in addition to pesticide permitting)
      • Will Article 24 permits be for sites? Towns/Villages? Lakewide?
      • Will Article 24 permits for harvesting and herbicide use be the same?
      • Will additional restrictions apply?
      • Will multiple year permits be issued?
    • Adds significant uncertainty for homeowners and businesses regarding rights and the future condition of the lake
      • Will you need a permit for a new or expanded dock?
      • DEC Jurisdictional Determination or Private Delineation??  (i.e. homeowners may be required to follow complex processes and pay for the expense of this)
      • Will it be worth it if the lake turns into a wetland (i.e. will invasive vegetation be out of control due to restrictions)?
    • Real Estate is already being impacted – Buyers are wary about investing in wetland regulated property vs. lakefront property
  • The rules defining wetland classification are still not fixed, but the currently proposed version allows for any water body with submerged aquatic vegetation to qualify as wetland
  • They have said Burtis Bay and other areas of the South basin already meet the “density” requirements, however, there is no density requirement, and further, the vegetation density has been “sparse” since 2022
  • As currently written under the new rule,  any lake or pond in NYS could be designated as wetland and subject to these onerous regulations

–> The simplest solution would be a carve-out in the new rules that clearly exempts freshwater lakes

Watch video of meeting held March 12, sponsored by State Senatore George Borello in response to Chautauqua Lake concerns (after DEC comments were published on March 2): 

Speakers: DEC Region 9 Director Julie Barrett-O’Neill and DEC Wetland Official JR Jacobson

  • The statement was made that the DEC is not “creating” new wetlands
  • The DEC confirmed that the key criteria for wetland will be presence of submerged aquatic vegetation (current proposed rule)
  • The DEC confirmed many areas of Chautauqua Lake littoral zone would qualify, including Mayville area and the Institution shoreline in addition to Burtis and South Basin shorelines
  • The DEC confirmed additional permitting (Article 24) will be required in future in addition to general permits
  • Said DEC determinations would remain consistent and that it would still be possible to get permits to do herbicides and to harvest weeds (to manage vegetation)
  • Existing structures such as docks and homes in the 100′ buffer zone adjacent would be exempt from permitting but anything new or changed would be subject to wetland regulation

Some key concerns have not been addressed:

  1. If there is no intended change to management of Chautauqua Lake as a lake, then why designate our lake as wetland?
  2. The approach described amounts to a plea to ”just trust us – of course we will do the right thing.“ There is nothing that would prevent DEC from taking a completely different approach when it comes time to issue the Article 24 Wetlands permit. 
  3. If DEC’s intent is for the Wetlands program to not create new regulatory burdens for managing invasive weeds in the lake, then the rules should explicitly carve out Lake Chautauqua and similarly situated lakes. In the alternative, the rules should create a right to a permit by rule (including a general permit), provided that certain conditions exist that match what we are facing at Lake Chautauqua, including that we need to preserve our ability to manage invasive, aquatic weeds. 

Per the DEC Region 9 director, comments from the public regarding wetland rule and definition of wetland should still continue to be submitted throughout the process in 2024.

NYS wetland reg info:,NYCRR%20Part%20664%2C%20Freshwater%20Wetlands.&text=Written%20comments%20on%20this%20Advanced,of%20business%20February%2020%2C%202024.