Rupp Baase Assists Municipalities in Completing Approval Process to Apply Herbicides to Chautauqua Lake
On June 11, municipalities surrounding Chautauqua Lake applied herbicides to the lake for the first time in twenty-five years after months of dedicated efforts by the Chautauqua Lake Partnership (CLP) and the assistance of John Kolaga and Anne Bowling of Rupp Baase Pfalzgraf Cunningham, LLC. The herbicides and treatment rates chosen are selective towards invasive species, Eurasian watermilfoil and curly leaf pondweed, meaning that they have only a minimal effect on native vegetation. These species have become a significant nuisance in Chautauqua Lake in the last several decades, choking out native species, greatly limiting the use of the Lake for recreational purposes, and harming lakeshore property values and local Lake-dependent businesses.
Many said that the project was too controversial; that community support could not be garnered; and that any attempt to meet the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) would stall and fail. CLP and Rupp Baase proved the naysayers wrong.
In the late 1980s, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and the Chautauqua Lake Association, a non-profit corporation, agreed that an environmental review specific to Chautauqua Lake must be completed before permits to apply herbicides would be granted. Chautauqua County completed its first such environmental review in 1990, but herbicides stopped being applied on an annual basis in the early 1990s and by the early 2000s, the NYSDEC decided that a new environmental review was required.
In 2017, the Town of Ellery and Village of Bemus Point, with the assistance of CLP, applied for aquatic pesticide permits. CLP retained Rupp Baase to break a stalemate regarding these permits. In June 2017, NYSDEC granted a permit to complete a data collection project to evaluate the efficacy and effect of different combinations of the herbicides to sections of Bemus Bay. As part of this process, however, NYSDEC made clear that no further permits would be granted until updated environmental reviews were completed.
After the results of the data collection project proved that the herbicides were effective in combating invasive weeds and facilitating native plant rebound, residents of the Towns of Busti, Ellery, Ellicott, and North Harmony and Villages of Celoron, Bemus Point, and Lakewood approached CLP and asked to be included in the environmental review process in the hopes that their municipalities would be granted herbicide permits. All seven municipalities pledged their support for the project, and the Town of Ellery was designated as Lead Agency in the SEQRA process.
Rupp Baase attorneys Kolaga and Bowling worked hand-in-hand with CLP, and the Town of Ellery to ensure that all steps in the application process were completed and advocated zealously before the NYSDEC, in the face of opposition from a small but vocal number of Chautauqua County residents and organizations, to obtain the necessary permits to apply herbicides in an environmentally and operationally sound manner. The Towns of Busti, Ellery, and North Harmony completed the application of herbicides on June 11 to areas along the Towns’ respective shorelines.
Over the years, others have tried and given up on completing an environmental impact statement for the application of herbicides to Chautauqua Lake. The Town of Ellery, the CLP and Rupp Baase did what others before could not do and what many thought could not be done. With this development, herbicides are once again a part of the weed management toolkit for Chautauqua Lake, and the first step towards developing an integrated weed management approach for the Lake has been completed.
For more information on this project and the SEQRA process please contact
John Kolaga, Esq. firstname.lastname@example.org
Anne Bowling, Esq. email@example.com
Rupp Baase Pfalzgraf Cunningham LLC
1600 Liberty Building | Buffalo, NY 14202 | 716.854.3400