MAYVILLE, N.Y.:— County Executive PJ Wendel, joined by County staff unveiled the Chautauqua Lake Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at a press conference held on the evening of Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in the County Legislative Chambers in Mayville. The eagerly-awaited MOU is the next generation version of the 2019 Chautauqua Lake Memorandum of Agreement, which had a 2-year tenure and termed out at the end of April 2021. County Executive Wendel referred to the 2021 MOU as “Brilliant in its Simplicity,” as the 20+ tenets contained in the original MOA have been replaced with language that encourages cooperation among essential Chautauqua Lake Stakeholders. A majority of the stakeholders, who will be encouraged to sign the MOU in the coming weeks, were present at the event.
“The new agreement is strictly aimed at facilitating collaboration among the numerous stakeholders and will have a 2-year term,” said Wendel. “The 2019 MOA was a successful start as it facilitated a collaborative weed management program for Chautauqua Lake. The 2019 MOA did not fully resolve all stakeholder disagreements regarding funding and lake management activities; however, the stakeholders communicated much better and more often than in the past, and it resulted in a stronger effort to improve Chautauqua Lake.”
By the second year of the agreement, the following activities were underway or ongoing:
- A combined effort to improve near-shore cleanup utilizing Mobitracs, Barges, and Harvesters;
- Increased ability to more quickly respond to stakeholders’ needs;
- Use of a new herbicide product to control Eurasian Watermilfoil;
- Use of satellite-based Geographic Information System technology to track the movement of equipment and the location of herbicide applications on the Lake;
- More and better weed surveys; and
- Increased transparency, and the sharing of data and operations.
The term of the 2019 MOA was intentionally limited to just two years because the County wanted an opportunity to take what was learned from the MOA, and develop a better successor stakeholder agreement moving forward. Beginning in 2021, the County again retained the services of WSP (formerly Ecology & Environment) located in Lancaster, NY, to engage the Chautauqua Lake stakeholders regarding a successor agreement. WSP interviewed elected officials from each of the Towns and Villages, as well as representatives from the Not-for-Profits that are active in lake and watershed activities. The outcome of these interviews revealed that a majority of the Stakeholders believe that the 2019 MOA was good for Chautauqua Lake and an updated stakeholder agreement was the right thing to do.
The County’s challenge was to develop a successor to the 2019 MOA that most stakeholders could embrace, would “be forward looking,” and would build on our past success. In doing so, the County decided to retitle the stakeholder agreement as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Chautauqua Lake. The 2021 MOU is not a binding agreement, but rather a statement of the intent of all participants to work collaboratively and in good faith to achieve the common goal of an ecologically and economically healthy Chautauqua Lake.
The following are key foundational elements of the 2021 MOU:
- The agreement encompasses the Chautauqua Lake municipalities and Not-for-Profits;
- The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has full and objective regulatory authority over Chautauqua Lake;
- The issues that the Chautauqua Lake stakeholders and regulators are challenged with are much broader than just weed management;
- It is not productive or consistent with the existing New York State regulatory framework to establish a local or “Chautauqua Lake Specific” regulatory structure to censure or punish those who are accused of unfairly criticizing or denigrating the intent or actions of other MOU participants;
- The 2021 MOU is not a prerequisite or rubric that must be navigated to qualify for local funding;
- The 2021 MOU is an understanding between those who have similar objectives - that is a sincere interest in improving Chautauqua Lake – which they can trust and rely upon with their fellow stakeholders to collaborate and interact in a mutually respectful manner without the threat of litigation.
The Chautauqua Lake MOU is provided below in its entirety:
MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
This Agreement is made as of May 1, 2021, by and between the following parties:
COUNTY: COUNTY OF CHAUTAUQUA, NEW YORK
A Municipal Corporation
Gerace Office Building
Mayville, New York 14757-1007
hereinafter called "County,"
hereinafter called "Participants."
WHEREAS, the purpose of this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is to articulate an understanding among Chautauqua County, town and village governments, and other concerned stakeholders regarding Chautauqua Lake; and
WHEREAS, the parties agree that this MOU is not a binding agreement, but rather a statement of the intent of all participants to work collaboratively and in good faith to achieve our common goal of an ecologically and economically healthy lake; and
WHEREAS, Chautauqua Lake is an invaluable asset for Chautauqua County that enhances the environment and quality of life of its residents, provides recreational and tourism opportunities, and spurs economic development; and
WHEREAS, the health and usability of Chautauqua Lake is threatened by numerous factors including, but not limited to, nuisance levels of vegetation and Harmful Algal Blooms (hereinafter called “HABs”); and
WHEREAS, County and Participants all share a desire to protect and enhance the health and usability of Chautauqua Lake, which services as our regional hub for culture, employment, and recreation; and
WHEREAS, impairments caused by excessive nutrient loading, such as HABs and nuisance plant growth, put these valuable resources at risk; and
WHEREAS, County and Participants all recognize that a heightened sense of urgency about Chautauqua Lake’s health has generated different views regarding which projects and initiatives are needed and are most appropriate; and
WHEREAS, this MOU acknowledges that there are disagreements among Participants regarding appropriate in-lake maintenance actions, and there also are differing opinions between scientists, researchers, and lake managers; and
WHEREAS, the health of Chautauqua Lake will benefit more from Participants working together versus working apart and in opposition to each other; and
WHEREAS, County and Participants all understand that a healthy littoral zone with a thriving aquatic macrophyte community is critical to maintaining the world class fishery and aquatic resources in Chautauqua Lake; at the same time, Chautauqua Lake also needs to be used for recreational interests; and
WHEREAS, the parties recognize that there are various techniques and strategies that can be implemented to meet the objectives of lake residents, recreational boaters, and fishermen while still protecting aquatic habitat and vital ecosystems within Chautauqua Lake; and
WHEREAS, County and Participants all acknowledge that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has full and objective regulatory responsibility over Chautauqua Lake.
NOW, THEREFORE, THE PARTIES AGREE AS FOLLOWS:
1. County and the Participants named above, by signing this MOU:
- Agree to work collaboratively to protect and enhance the health and usability of Chautauqua Lake;
- Agree that the development of data sets to guide the parties’ collaborations will ultimately improve the health and usability of Chautauqua Lake;
- Agree to share data and information generated as a result of the implementation of management activities;
- Agree to coordinate and integrate in-lake maintenance activities;
- Agree to express opinions respectfully regardless of whether in agreement or disagreement with the opinions of others, and acknowledge that respectful discussions have a greater potential to achieve improved lake health conditions;
- Agree to actively pursue collaboration to enhance the parties’ individual efforts; and
- Agree not to pursue litigation against County or any other Participant who is a party to this MOU.
2. This MOU shall commence as of May 1, 2021 and shall terminate April 30, 2023.
3. The parties agree that this MOU may be signed in counterparts.