CWC Signs County MOU

CWC's Board of Directors recently endorsed Chautauqua County’s Chautauqua Lake Memorandum of Understanding. CWC strongly supports good faith and cordial collaboration among our lake and watershed partners and seeks to continue working together to conserve and improve Chautauqua Lake watershed and in-lake conditions. We support objective, evidence-based science with which to guide management decisions that conserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty, and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands, and watersheds of the Chautauqua region, and recognize the critical importance of an economically and ecologically healthy Chautauqua Lake.

 

The CWC notes, however, our disappointment that the MOU fails to acknowledge the human land uses that continue to contribute significant sources of the phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediments to Chautauqua Lake which fuel excessive weed and algae growth, harmful algae blooms (HABs), and loss of lake depth. Each of the lake’s sub-watersheds should be maintained in at least 60-70% forest and wetlands for clean, non-polluting waters to feed the lake (Protecting the Source, The Trust for Public Land and American Water Works Association, 2004) which, in turn, will support improved Chautauqua Lake water quality, wildlife and fisheries habitats, and human health and enjoyment.

 

To truly address the root causes of nutrient loading in Chautauqua Lake, a pro-active, preventive approach is urgently needed to reduce the loss of watershed forests and wetlands, protect streams and stream corridors, control stormwater and erosion, and reduce sediment loading into the lake, including effective stormwater erosion control regulations, currently lacking. Every year in which local governments fail to adopt and enforce such laws means more pollution is reaching the lake and contributing more phosphorus cumulatively being released as “internal loading” each summer. And while the NYSDEC has regulatory responsibility over the waters of Chautauqua Lake, it does not regulate local land uses that contribute the nutrients and sediments driving excessive plant and algae growth in the lake. That is primarily up to local municipalities, potentially augmented by the County through its human health protection jurisdiction. CWC encourages local governments to look to Lake George and the Finger Lakes and local land use regulations in other states for examples on how to better protect our precious water resources, now and long into the future.

 

CWC looks forward to continued participation in the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance and Chautauqua County Water Quality Task Force, and to ongoing and future collaborations with our lake and watershed conservation partners.

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Annual Mother’s Day Wildflower Walk

Join us on Sunday, May 9th, for our annual Mother’s Day Wildflower Walk at the Bentley Nature Preserve!

This year, to help with social distancing, CWC is offering two group tours, the first starting at 1PM and led by local naturalist Jack Gulvin, and the second at 2 PM led by CWC Board President Becky Nystrom. The walks will follow the Pamela A. Westrom Wildflower Trail, where tour leaders will point out the numerous wildflowers and ferns typically encountered in the region in springtime.

Participants should dress for the weather and also wear footwear appropriate for the typical muddy conditions of a wooded wetland. Face masks are required for all participants. All other current COVID-19 safety protocols will also be followed.

Advance registration is required, and each group is limited to 15 people. A $5 donation per individual or $10 donation per family for non-CWC members is suggested.

Register online via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mothers-day-wildflower-walk-registration-151704073969. Or, if you prefer to register by phone, please contact Tracy at 716-664-2166, ext. 1001.

Find directions to the Bentley Preserve (on Bentley Avenue in Jamestown) here: https://goo.gl/maps/UFahbqJWoLFTncTP8

Read more about the Bentley Nature Preserve here: Bentley Preserve – Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy

Concerns About Herbicide Use in Chautauqua Lake

Several local municipalities have submitted applications to the NYSDEC for permits to apply the herbicides ProcellaCOR EC and Aquathol K on up to 529.4 acres and 345.5 acres respectively in 2021. Permit applications for Aquathol K have been requested to control curly-leaf pondweed between 4/19 and 5/19 and for ProcellaCOR EC to control Eurasian watermilfoil between 5/17 and 6/18. Both proposed chemicals kill beneficial and native aquatic plants in addition to the targeted “nuisance” plants. Some of CWC's nature preserves in Ellicott and Celoron with waterfront habitats may be directly impacted by the herbicide treatments by these municipalities. CWC has submitted a letter voicing this concern to the NYSDEC and urging careful protection of the ecology of our preserves, fisheries and wildlife and the ecology of the lake and its outlet. Read our full letter by clicking on the link below. 

CWC Letter to NYSDEC 2.23.21

 

From Top to Bottom and Back Again

From Top to Bottom and Back Again: Every inch of the watershed is in the lake….and the lake is in every inch of the watershed!

It has often been said amongst old hydrologists that the lake at the bottom of a watershed contains all that exists in that watershed, from the most distant ridge all the way down to lakeside gardens and lawns. 

A watershed is the basin-shaped piece of land with highpoints as its boundaries that slope down toward the lake. When it rains or snows, the whole 176-square mile Chautauqua Lake watershed collects water that flows downhill via 300 miles of streams into the 20-square mile lake. Along the way, the water carries with it everything it can move or dissolve – including soil, litter, pet waste, oil, road salt, pesticides and fertilizers. How we, our businesses, our towns, our county, and our state and federal governments manage the land above the lake is the Number One determinant of the lake's ecological health and its suitability for human activities. The use of every land parcel affects the health of the lake.

It's important to recognize the fact that Chautauqua Lake returns to us exactly what we give it. If we give it phosphorus and nitrogen, it will give us weeds and blue-green algae. If we give it road ditch run-off and let the banks of its tributary streams erode, it will give us less depth and a muddy bottom. If we replace its absorptive shoreline with concrete breakwaters, it will give us fewer spawning beds for fish and increase the likelihood of floods. These are natural laws – and laws that are not about to be challenged. At least not without consequences.

We have centuries of evidence and information to inform our choices. It’s worth asking ourselves which aspect of the watershed we appreciate most and why that might be so. Then follow up that answer with how to best protect that function. What one action can you or your community take to protect the lake? It almost certainly will come back to limiting harm to remaining shorelines, forests and stream flows from the top of the ridges all the way back down to lakeside. Once the insult or injury is in the lake itself, it is generally too late to do anything but try to mitigate a bad situation. In other words, prevention is truly the better part of proper treatment and protection of the lake. This precious resource, held in common by all the residents of the watershed and even farther afield, has a particular appeal and promise that it can only fulfill if the waters flowing into it carry mostly just water rather than water containing unpleasant pollution of other materials.

The Chautauqua Lake watershed is an integrated and interconnected system of forests, streams, wetlands, floodplains, and shorelands. Given the fact that the lake's shoreline is almost entirely developed, the most urgent management need is to save the few remaining wetland, shore and near-shore spaces for fish and wildlife. Lakeshore wetlands are among nature's most biologically diverse and productive places. Lakeshore plants hold the shore in place, protecting it against erosion from waves and ice. They provide breeding, nursery, food and cover for pan fish, game fish, amphibians, turtles, snakes, mammals, and waterfowl, including many animal species of economic value.

Whether the interest is in inherent value posed by aesthetically pleasing places or economic activity or valuation of lakeside properties, the health of the rest of the watershed is what elevates any of those interests.  From top to bottom and back again.

CWC Awarded State Grant for Cassadaga Lake Nature Park Improvements!

CWC has been awarded a $40,000 state grant for improvements at our Cassadaga Lakes Nature Park! The park, located on the old Route 60 just outside of Cassadaga, encompasses 77 acres of beautiful woods and wetlands at the head of the Cassadaga Lakes, including 26 acres of shoreland wetlands and 1,100 feet of natural shoreline.

The grant will allow us to make trail improvements, enhancing and connecting trails in the park with a parking area, as well as to install an entryway welcome kiosk and pavilion that will offer visitors shelter and information about the park. On the shoreline of Mud Lake, a wildlife observation blind will be constructed featuring an elevated platform and ramp for access. Gaps will be included in the blind’s walls facing the lake which will allow visitors to use binoculars to observe birds and other wildlife in and on Mud Lake.

The grant is funded from the New York State Conservation Partnership Program and New York’s Environmental Protection Fund. The NYSCPP is administered by the Land Trust Alliance, in coordination with the State Department of Environmental Conservation. There has been very strong community support for this project, with fifty families, individuals, businesses, foundations and organizations contributing $79,000 to this project to date. We thank State Senator George Borrello, Assemblyman Andy Goodell and Governor Cuomo for their support of this project and the New York State Conservation Partnership Program during this challenging time.

The use of parks and preserves has skyrocketed in 2020 as people choose to socialize safely outdoors and find peace in the beauty of nature. The CWC has registered over 1,300 persons using its preserves over the last nine months, and we anticipate that this site will become one of area’s most popular walking destinations. The completion of these improvements and the park opening are scheduled for summer 2021.

The Power of Trees & Leaves

By Carol Markham, CWC Conservationist

The dazzling colors of deciduous trees are upon us, freckling our landscapes with vivid shades of autumn. Meander down any country road or through your local neighborhood, and the hillsides and yards are ablaze with magnificent hues of red, yellow and orange. As colder days approach, these leaves will dance, twirl and fall gracefully, garnishing our lawns with brilliant colors. To many, this spells w-o-r-k, but the benefits and beauty of trees and leaves in your yard outweigh the time and effort it takes for fall cleanup and winter readiness.

The environmental, economic and personal benefits of a yard dotted with trees are enormous to a homeowner and their surrounding community. In addition, with many of us experiencing the death of our native ash trees, we need to think about replacing what we have lost. Native trees increase property values and save homeowners money on energy costs. They help buffer noise pollution and can moderate local climates by providing shade and cooling our homes. Trees slow water runoff, thus preventing soil erosion into our streets and waterways. They store carbon and clean the air. Trees regulate temperature extremes, increase wildlife habitat and improve the land’s capacity to adapt to climate change. Phew! Who would have imagined the rewards we receive just by having trees in our yards! And we didn’t even mention the beauty and structure trees give to our landscapes! Even the most brilliant of painters could not capture the true beauty that our trees give to us this time of year.

With this splendor comes an explosion of color that eventually ends up on the ground. This color carpet is not only stunningly beautiful but, if managed properly, also adds free natural fertilizer to our lawns every fall. What a perfect scenario for feeding and nurturing our grass heading into the cold winter months! These leaves are wonderfully small pieces of free fertilizer that every homeowner should want to take advantage of. And the easiest way to do this is to mow and mulch them right into your lawn. Mulching mowers can shred unwanted leaves into tiny, organically-rich particles that will eventually decompose. These leaf particles add valuable nutrients back into the soil and improve water absorbency, resulting in a stronger, healthier lawn. This thin layer of mulched leaves can also help protect your lawn from harsh winter conditions, ensuring a healthy lawn next spring. Instead of removing this bountiful beauty with rakes and plastic bags, we should be reaping the benefits and nutrients they offer and give them back to our tired end-of-summer lawns.

So…plant a native oak, maple or birch…and enjoy the glory of its year-round benefits as well as its spectacular leaves. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy would be happy to offer free assistance on selecting a tree and its best location in your yard. Just email Carol the Conservationist at carol@chautauquawatershed.org and schedule your yard consultation today! You, your yard, and your community will be thankful you did!

Golfing for the Watershed!

CWC was this year’s beneficiary of the 20th Annual WKZA 106.9 Kiss-FM, Media One Radio Group Tavern Charity Golf Tournament! The tournament was held on Sunday, August 30th at Maplehurst Country Club and was sponsored by RS Motors. Twenty-seven four-man teams (108 golfers total) participated in 18 holes of scramble golf and raised $1,000 for the CWC! CWC plans to use this generous donation to help support our efforts to prevent excessive plant growth and algae blooms in our region’s lakes by working with landowners to implement pollution prevention practices and undertake other land conservation activities. Thank you to Media One and all of the players and sponsors who participated in the event in support of furthering our lake and watershed conservation programs!

In the photo above are Jamie Trusler (left), General Sales Manager at Media One Radio Group, and CWC Executive Director John Jablonski III (right).

Celebrating 30 Years of Local Conservation

By John Jablonski III, CWC Executive Director & Becky Nystrom, CWC President

Thirty years ago, a small group of lake lovers, naturalists, fishermen and other conservationists came together out of a profound concern for the ecological and economic health and future of Chautauqua Lake and other area waterways.

This small group (which included both of us) knew that a new voice was urgently needed in the midst of the ongoing degradation of Chautauqua Lake’s natural shoreline habitats and increasing evidence of harmful land use practices such as lakeshore development without erosion controls, filling of tributary floodplains, nutrient loading that fueled excessive aquatic plant growth and harmful land management practices higher in the watershed.

Our group perceived that government leadership at that time was lacking in addressing these larger issues. The focus of local leaders was only on “weed” control, and a more holistic, proactive and preventive approach was clearly needed. Aquatic plant management in Chautauqua Lake regrettably ignored the root causes of the lake’s excessive plant growth problems and only focused on in-lake harvesting and herbicides as management options. Our group had witnessed troubling changes taking place on and within the lake and recognized disturbing and undesirable trends for water quality, fisheries and the ecological health of the lake and its wildlife and human users. 

As a result, we set out to start an organization that would seek to: 1) protect our area’s most threatened sensitive and ecologically valuable watershed forests, stream banks and shoreland habitats, 2) conserve the most important fish and wildlife habitats county-wide, 3) change the careless and improper land use practices that were filling our streams and lakes with sediments, nutrients and other pollution, using a more watershed-wide paradigm, and 4) help people connect to the gifts of nature in the Chautauqua region. And in 1990, we formed the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy to accomplish these goals.

In the years since, CWC has tirelessly and passionately remained true to our shared vision and mission of preserving, healing and protecting the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of our region. CWC has grown from a handful of concerned citizens to an organization with over 1,000 members and supporters. In collaboration with New York State and other partners, we have (so far!) conserved over 1,126 acres of wooded wetlands, streambanks, shorelands and other natural areas to help absorb and filter rainfall and stormwater and help reduce downstream nutrient loading and sedimentation to our streams and lakes. More than 470 acres of wetlands, two miles of ecologically valuable Chautauqua Lake and Outlet shoreline and three-quarters of a mile of shoreline on the Cassadaga Lakes have been protected! We have established and maintain 30+ nature preserves, providing peaceful refuges for people to spend time in the great outdoors, reconnect with nature and absorb the many physical and mental benefits that go along with it. CWC has also facilitated a NYS investment of $8.7 million in land conservation and outdoor recreation facilities in Chautauqua County! We’ve also provided numerous watershed education presentations and publications as well as technical assistance to local municipalities, homeowner associations, businesses and residents.

All of these accomplishments, however, could not have been achieved without help, and we are enormously grateful to our founders, board directors, volunteers, donors and friends who have supported and promoted our mission over these many years!

A Homeowner’s Guide To Lake Friendly Living!

By Carol Markham

The dog days of summer are upon us, but landscaping and yard work is still in full swing! Most of us are enjoying COVID ‘stay-cations’ and spending quality time with our families, making home improvements and beautifying our yards and outdoor living space. If you are new to the Chautauqua Lake area or live on or near the lake, improving and enhancing your yard has taken on a whole new meaning now that we are home bound.

As homeowners are working diligently in their yards, we don’t want to forget the improvements we can do that not only beautify our yards and living space, but also work to enhance and improve the water quality and beauty of our lake as well! The lakefront shoreline that surrounds our lake is vital to its existence. It is the protective barrier that ensures a nice afternoon for boating, swimming, catching that elusive fish or simply enjoying the beautiful view and watching for wildlife. Without it, most of the good things about our lake would diminish entirely. Most lakefront shorelines include trees, small shrubs and native plants all designed by nature to protect our waters. The more natural barriers we remove, the more likely the lake will be negatively impacted by erosion and runoff. Eroded shorelines invite runoff carrying pesticides, chemicals and nutrients into the water that kill fish and promote the growth of aquatic weeds and harmful algae. Our understanding as homeowners of how we can better interact and adapt our landscaping practices to benefit the lake is key to maintaining its health. Simple acts such as keeping a healthy stand of shoreline vegetation and reducing water and chemicals used on your lawn can go a long way to keeping your lake healthy, clean and enjoyable year-round.

To help homeowners and educate them about lake friendly landscaping and lawncare, the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy created “A Homeowners Guide to Lake Friendly Living: 5 simple strategies in your lawn and landscape practices that will conserve, protect and enhance your Chautauqua Lake Watershed.” This guide introduces new and old lakefront property owners to the relationship between land use/landscaping practices and water quality, along with concepts for watershed friendly landscaping. It encourages the use of best management practices regarding fertilizer use, shoreline buffers, landscaping waster and lawn care and mowing. It also introduces CWC’s new Lakescaping program, which promotes a healthier community one yard at a time, no matter where the homeowner lives or what size garden they want to create. The guide also provides a helpful resources page, giving homeowners access to additional sources for information and guidance on lake friendly living.

We are all in this together. The lake is a vital resource not only for the communities that rely on it for their social, economic and recreational activities, but also for the plants, insects and wildlife that live and thrive within it. This simple guide inspires communities and homeowners to connect and be a part of something – to understand and feel that their small yard will make a difference in protecting water quality. This guide gives communities the power to be the most influential component of preserving, protecting, and enhancing the health of the water that surrounds them. View or download it here: https://chautauquawatershed.org/watershed-stewardship/homeowners-guide/.

The real environmental impact lies in the hands of committed homeowners like you!