MAYVILLE — One of the developers of the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel is calling out local leaders for not doing enough to control weeds and odors at Chautauqua Lake.
At a county council meeting last week, Mark Franz spoke about the dire conditions in the south reaches of the lake.
Frantz mentioned how he and his family worked with the Krog family to open a hotel in Celoron in 2018. He said they employ 150 of his people on average and over the past four years he has provided more than 1,000 jobs.
“The community and county government have been very supportive of us and we appreciate it. He said.
Having said that, Franz pointed out how bad the conditions of the lake by the hotel were. “We are very disappointed in the management of the lake, especially in the southern watershed. He said.
This summer, they hosted 26 weddings and many other functions, attracting 9,100 guests. Most of them were probably out-of-town visitors. “What impression do you think they left? How many will come back? How many functions will work in the future?” he asked.
He worries that the poor condition of the lake will keep people away. “The front of our building looks and smells horrible.” He said.
Patrons said they noticed the odor while dining at outdoor bars and swimming in the hotel pool.
In 2019, hotel owners spent $120,000 on docks for kayaking, canoeing and other water sports activities. “We’ve seen very little activity at these docks this summer. People don’t want to venture out on boats.” He said.
Franz said while they’re going nowhere, other potential investors may be hesitant to come to the area, knowing how bad the lake is.
He blames county officials for the poor condition. “My opinion about lake management is that they are failing, at least at the southern end. If the 2023 plans are the same as the 2022 plans, they will fail again.” He said.
A month ago, Franz said, a meeting was held on how to clean up the lake, which included officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, county commissioner PJ Wendell, and state senator George Borrello.
“There is consensus on how to make this happen, but there are many obstacles. Some people don’t want change.” He said.
He wasn’t the only one to complain about weeds and lake smells.
Celoron’s Michael Newell spoke about the Burtis Bay problem. “We need to find a solution or the area will rapidly follow its current path and turn into a swamp.” He said.
Newell wants to install booms, clean more often, and bring in additional equipment and operators to stop floating weeds before they reach the shoreline. “Whether these or a combination of these, along with other ideas that may not yet be identified, should be studied by a knowledgeable and unbiased third-party controlling entity.” He said.
Jim Wehrfritz, a lake consultant for the town of Ellery, also expressed concern about the county’s lake management.
“Based on my experience with the County to date, I am here to tell you that many people do not believe that the Chautauqua Lake Conservation and Rehabilitation Agency, CLPRA, will successfully manage Chautauqua Lake.” He said.
He noted that in 2018, invasive weed growth and weed debris in the lakes accumulated large weed clumps that caught and killed thousands of fish. “Cleaning was postponed until after seven months, when much of the weed clumps had fallen to the bottom, water depth had decreased, and algae and weed nutrients had increased.” He said.
This year, Wehrfritz said, the same area was struggling to break down foul-smelling weed debris. “Boating, fishing, and recreation on lakes and beaches were almost impossible.” He said.
Wehrfritz said the county doesn’t seem to have a plan for these problems that occur each year. “While this is an annual issue, the county is treating this situation as an annual surprise – a crisis that requires emergency funding and sole-procurement contracts after equipment and staff are demobilized.” He said.
Wehrfritz said the county should have dedicated funding for the issue. “Funding is in place. Of the $25 million the county received from the American Relief Plan Act, less than 2 percent is dedicated to Lake Chautauqua.” He said.
He said CLPRA is considering new tax ideas to fund management of the lake, but he questions the organization. “If the county fails to successfully address this highly visible annual problem, can we be confident that our new county agency, CLPRA, will perform any better?” he asked.
CLPRA met with Barton and Loguidice, who were hired using ARPA funds, this summer to find out how best to fund management of the lake. Ideas include creating tax districts near lakes, basin drainage districts, charging user impact fees, and charging user fees for boats. No final decision has been made. This summer’s conference did not focus on how best to clean and maintain the lake.