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Chautauqua Lake Is A Major Recreation and Tourist Destination in Western New York – As Well As Drinking Water Source; Feasibility Study Would Develop a Strategy to Restore the Lake’s Watershed 

Washington, DC – U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to prioritize funding to protect the lake’s water quality from toxic algal blooms by including the Chautauqua Lake Feasibility Study in its Fiscal Year 2020 Work Plan.

Chautauqua Lake and its surrounding communities suffer from continued environmental, public health, and economic damage caused by repeated harmful algal blooms, and this study would allow USACE to evaluate the excessive phosphorous runoff that causes these harmful algal blooms. Additionally, the USACE would be able to study flood risk management measures, assess ecosystem restoration efforts, and address the accelerated erosion along the lake’s tributary streambanks. Erosion along Chautauqua Lake’s tributary streambanks have resulted in excessive sediment deposition, which also impairs the lake’s water quality. Schumer and Gillibrand called on the USACE to allocate funding for the Chautauqua Lake Feasibility Study in the USACE FY 2020 Work Plan in a letter to R.D. James, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, earlier this week.

“Chautauqua Lake is a jewel of Western New York and a vital source of drinking water, recreation and economic activity for both residents and countless visitors alike, but it is threatened by harmful algal blooms that we must do more to reverse and prevent,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why today I’m calling on the Army Corps to include the Chautauqua Lake Feasibility Study in its Fiscal Year 2020 Work Plan, to carefully examine the destructive, repeated harmful algal blooms in Chautauqua Lake that have significantly diminished water quality. To successfully battle the blooms, Chautauqua Lake is going to need the Army Corps’ expertise and support.”

“Chautauqua Lake is one of our state’s great natural treasures, and Congress should do everything it can to help stop the algal blooms that have plagued the lake’s water quality and harmed the local economy in Western New York,” said Senator Gillibrand, member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “While I was proud to fight for the authorization of this Feasibility Study, the Army Corps now needs to allocate this funding and actually implement it. I will always work to ensure New York’s waterways are safe and clean.”

Schumer and Gillibrand successfully pushed to authorize the Chautauqua Lake Feasibility Study in the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. The Chautauqua Lake Feasibility Study would enable the local communities to better understand changing flood risks and provide tools to help guard against future environmental degradation and property damage. The study would inform best practices concerning excessive weed and harmful algae growth, as well as mitigation for sediments deposited at the mouths of the tributaries, to further minimize flood risks harming the environmental health and economic viability of Chautauqua Lake.

Chautauqua Lake is an important recreation and tourism destination for boating and fishing. The lake is approximately 13,000 acres in size and is fed by an approximately 100,000-acre watershed with 14 major tributaries. About 34 percent of the lake’s watershed drains from agricultural and developed lands. Excessive nutrients like phosphorous damage the ecological state of the watershed, threatening water quality.

The full text of the letter to R.D. James, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, may be found here and below.

January 14, 2020


Mr. Rickey Dale James

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works

108 Army Pentagon

Washington, DC 20310-0108


Dear Mr. James:


We write to request that you allocate funding for the Chautauqua Lake Feasibility Study as an Investigations New Start project in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) FY 2020 Work Plan. We worked alongside our colleagues in Congress to secure New Starts funding for the USACE in the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020. As a result, we now urge you to allocate $300,000 in New Starts funding to begin addressing the environmental harmful algal bloom (HAB) challenges that threaten the economic development of the surrounding area.

Chautauqua Lake is not used only by residents and visitors as a source of drinking water; it represents the most important economic asset for the surrounding 14 municipalities within the lake’s watershed. The lake is a huge draw for tourists using recreational watercraft, swimmers, kayakers, and anyone else who wishes to enjoy the water.  Regrettably, however, with 1,515 commercial farms, 15,500 acres of grapes, and eight wineries, Chautauqua Lake is particularly susceptible to the impact of HABs due to high phosphorus-rich runoff. Since 2017, Harmful Algal Bloom outbreaks have caused 22 beach closures and led to a total of 286 lost recreational days.

As you may know, in the Water Resources Development Act of 2018, we were pleased to authorize a feasibility study for Chautauqua Lake to address ecosystem restoration. We have also been informed that this is the number one aquatic ecosystem project for an Investigation New Start at the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. With a total estimated cost of $3 million, this study needs a mere $300,000 to begin to tackle this alarming environmental, health, and economic problem. Therefore, we urge you designate and fund the Chautauqua Lake Feasibility Study as an Investigations New Start.

Thank you for your consideration. Should you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us or our staff.