MAYVILLE Legislators Tom Erlandson and Lori Cornell announced that they will be introducing legislation for the June Legislature meeting to provide a much-needed financial commitment and some critical policy changes to benefit Chautauqua Lake. They are currently working with area lake and watershed organizations to complete the details of the plan, but explain that the effort will provide both immediate relief via bolstered harvesting and longer-term support for the county's Watershed Management Plan.
"Our county's lakes and waterways are among our most precious natural assets. We must do everything possible to help protect these assets, both for economic and quality of life reasons," stated Cornell.
Environmentalists have predicted that the infamous lake weeds and algae will be even worse this summer due to the unseasonably warm weather and lower than normal lake levels. With more than 20 percent of the total county's property tax base included in the area surrounding Chautauqua Lake and the seasonal cash infusion upon which the local economy has come to depend, maintaining this natural asset as critical. Experts continue to comment that without quick action to address the rapidly declining lake conditions, the county could likely face a potential property value crash and a devastating loss of summertime tourism.
Cornell called the planned legislation, a "proactive approach toward an increasingly challenging problem."
"We simply cannot afford to run our harvesting operations at a sub-par level this summer. And the Legislature can join in stronger leadership role in helping to protect the entire watershed. Residents and visitors alike deserve a healthy lake. It is an integral part of the quality of life we enjoy here in Chautauqua County," he said.
Although Erlandson, an ecologist by trade, agrees with the need to harvest lake weeds to provide much-needed relief, he also understands that the most effective longterm solution toward improving the health of the lake lies within the watershed itself. All studies point to the fact that the health of the watershed directly correlates to the condition of the lake.
Erlandson and Cornell plan to pay for their proposal through the use of a small portion of the $10 million in unanticipated surplus recently announced by the Edwards Administration from the county budget. "That money belongs to the taxpayers. What better way to return the taxpayers than through an investment in our county's economic future," stated Cornell.
They are in the process of reaching out for bipartisan support and are confident their colleagues on both sides of the aisles agree with the importance of this emergent matter.
"The lake is not a partisan issue," explained Cornell. "Whether you're Republican, Democratic, or any other persuasion, our local economy and quality of life are far too important to let any meaningless politics get in the way."
The county recently adopted the Watershed Management Plan which provides extensive recommendations necessary to better manage the flow of sediment into the lake. Erlandson commended Jeffery Diers, the county's watershed coordinator, for his dedicated work toward implementing the plan, particularly the creation of an intermunicipal committee, and explained that the Legislature's efforts this summer will help further support the implementation of this Plan.