BEMUS POINT – Preservation and improvement plans for the Chautauqua Lake area were presented at a rally Saturday at the Bemus Point Casino on the shore of the lake.
Chautauqua County Executive Vincent Horrigan presented the program to more than 100 residents and representatives from area organizations. Several speakers were featured at the rally.
One of the improvements for the watershed area is to have a public sewer district in the northern area of the lake, near Mayville. The estimated cost of the new district is $31 million. More than 1,200 private septic systems are currently in place in the area. Michael Manning, project manager, and Janelle Chagnon, project engineer, provided information about the proposed project.
Septic systems within 250 feet of the lake have been determined to release phosphorus into the lake and contribute to the blue-green algae and other pollution factors in the waters. A warning was issued Friday by the Chautauqua County Department of Health that the harmful algae and toxins are growing in the lake. Starting in January, the Chautauqua County Health Department will start mapping and identifying private septic systems. The maps will result in further testing of the private systems and identifying systems that are overflowing into Chautauqua Lake.
There are four wastewater treatment plants that discharge into the lake for customers who are connected to public systems. An integrated sewage management plan was completed by the firm of O’Brien and Gere to prioritize needs to improve the lake water. The goal to improve the public system is to reduce the harmful discharge into the lake by 2018.
In addition to the public and private sewage systems, there are other sources that release phosphorus into the lake. Private septic systems and public treatment plants were determined to be the most influential of the sources. The other supplies include rainwater, farm discharge and residential groundwater. Targeted areas will also include private camp areas along the lake shore that have systems at a low elevation that risk flooding and overflow into the lake.
There are also plans to expand the South and Center Chautauqua Lake Sewer District and including the area of Ashville. The engineering report to expand the district is $41 million and would serve about 770 occupied lots in the area over a stretch of more than seven miles.
Chagnon said that applications have been completed for several grants to help fund both sewer treatment projects. She said the timeline for the projects will be dependent upon financing by the county.
“With the average wages in Chautauqua County, they are eligible for zero percent financing,” she said.
She said the annual wages for the county define the area as an “economic hardship” zone.
She said both the north and south-center projects are targeted for beginning in 2018.
Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, asked the engineering representatives if upgrades to the current sewer treatment plants should be completed before new users are connected to public sewer systems. The speakers said that upgrades and eliminating private sewer are both important to the reduce pollutants into the lake.
Representatives of the Chautauqua Lake Association also provided information on the state of the lake. The CLA’s mission, since 1953, is to monitor the condition of the lake and investigate issues that could damage the waters. They also remove debris and weeds from the lake for cleanup and safety for water sports.
A new organization, the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance was formed in January and is focusing on cooperative efforts to maintain and improve the lake. There are 29 founding members of the alliance representing communities around the lake including lake related organizations, local government representatives and businesses owners. Erin Brickley, executive director of the alliance, announced receipt of a new grant to help stabilize streams that flow into the lake.
Mark Geise, planning director for the county, also summarized efforts that his department is coordinating to help enhance the lake. He said a focus project this year is on submerged aquatic vegetation. He said the department is looking at balancing proper vegetation and the conflicts of dangerous species such as the water chestnut.
The annual rally also included informational booths and representatives from environmental agencies.
Chautauqua Lake is 17 miles long and two miles wide at its widest point. It is a drinking water source for many areas in the county and is the discharge basin for treated water from public sewer systems. The lake is ranked as one of the best sport-fishing areas.