Friday, July 12, 2024

Lakewood unanimously opposes lake wetlands designations

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OBSERVER Photo by Michael Zabrodsky
From left Lakewood Trustees Richard Fischer and Ellen Barnes discuss business Monday at the Lakewood Village Board Meeting.

LAKEWOOD – Village trustees do not support any wetlands designations for Chautauqua Lake.

The Lakewood Village Board of Trustees Monday unanimously approved a measure that opposes the New York State draft regulations submitted in the 2022 amended 1975 Freshwater Wetlands Act.

“There are approximately 42 miles of shoreline around Chautauqua Lake. Lakewood has a significant lake frontage,” Trustee Ellen Barnes said.

Jim Wehrfritz, a longtime advocate on Chautauqua Lake issues, earlier this year began raising concerns about the new wetlands designation and its potential impact on Chautauqua Lake. Concerns initially focused on the Burtis Bay area of Chautauqua Lake in the town of Ellicott and village of Lakewood. Wehrfritz has said the new regulations could affect the entire lake. Homes along Chautauqua Lake’s shores make up more than 25 percent of the county’s total taxable value.

The 2022 Wetlands Law amendments and 2023 draft regulations can regulate the use of significant portions of the lake and adjacent shoreline with major negative impacts on tourism, commercial interests, property values, and ultimately, property, school, and sales tax revenue.

State Sen. George Borrelo, R-Sunset Bay, recently introduced legislation that will exempt inland lakes that are navigable waterways and have an area of 150 acres or more from freshwater wetlands designations. The bill will further exclude the Great Lakes from the definition of “inland lake.”

“As representatives of Lakewood’s riparian owners and all the other residents of Lakewood, I think it is important for the board of trustees to oppose these new draft regulation regulations, and get it on record that these regulations will impact all areas of the lake including Lakewood,” Barnes added.

Trustee Ben Troche noted that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has not said how it will enforce the regulations.

“Who is going to handle the permit process?” Troche asked.

Barnes said the release of the revised draft regulation is planned for later this month. There is a plan by the DEC to have public hearings between August and October. Implementation and enforcement begins in January 2025.

Barnes added that the DEC will regulate wetlands and their adjacent areas. Activities requiring permits include, construction of buildings, roadways, septic systems, dams, dikes, bulkheads, modification, expansion or extensive restoration of existing structures, new decks, clear cutting of trees, water wells, driveway installations and installation of utilities.

“Chautauqua Lake and surrounding area is highly developed, so the impacts to this area could be substantial,” Barnes said.



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