Crews from the Chautauqua Lake Association have been refinishing decades of old machinery ahead of their spring launch.

"These machines go out and pick up material that accumulates along the shoreline,” said Doug Conroe, Chautauqua Lake Association executive director.

What You Need To Know

  • The results of the 2021 Chautauqua Lake study results are in

  • The lake shows measurable improvement in water clarity

  • The biologists also study several other lakes across the state

That material and debris are subjects of two studies done last year.

Results are now in with the first showing water clarity has improved from 2020.

"Water quality means many things to many people. Technically through science, we're looking at its chemistry. And we're seeing those data points are doing well,” said Conroe.

The second study focused on weed harvesting.

Late last year when we took you aboard a harvester in Chautauqua Lake to get a first-hand look at the process, well critics say crews don't pick up enough of what they cut, so Doug agreed to take us to one of the sights.

"People believe that our harvesting operation loses a lot of plant material, which in my 40 years [of] experience here simply is not accurate,” said Conroe.

He drove us out to Whitney Bay, where much of the plant growth is actually preserved to help maintain the muskie habitat. 

Conroe says despite the criticism, he now has reliable data that shows the harvesters leave less than 1% of the loose debris behind. 

"Our reaction is very encouraging that it demonstrates what we've known all along is that our loss is minimal,” said Conroe.

"The health of the lake is in good condition. It's nutrient-rich. It has been ever since we've been there,” said Robert Johnson, a research biologist with Racine-Johnson Aquatic Ecologists.

Johnson has been studying the state's waterways for 55 years, including Chautauqua Lake since 2002, with a focus on aquatic plant growth, insects and invasive species.

Not only did Johnson note the improvement in water clarity, but also that mechanical harvesters were not solely responsible for weeds left in the water. 

"The plants that pile up on the shoreline are usually the result of wind-blown plants in the lake. Wave action in the lake pulls plants from the bottom and piles [them] up on the shoreline. They're from a lot of recreational action, especially on weekends,” said Johnson.

Johnson and his team conduct similar studies in the Finger Lakes and Cazenovia Lake near Syracuse.

He said many of them are in great shape and need that plant material important to the aquatic habitat.

"We just have to try to bear to live with them, how to manage them efficiently. They provide all the opportunities for recreation and fishing that we want to have in our freshwater lakes,” said Johnson.

Opportunities crews continue to prepare for as Doug hopes to have equipment in the water by early May.