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Community Update on Chautauqua Lake Conservation Efforts

Dear Chautauqua Institution Property Owners and Other Interested Citizens:

Thank you for your continued attention to and concern for the health of Chautauqua Lake, which is fundamental to the livelihood of Chautauqua Institution, our community and our neighbors all around the lake shore. I write today to share the latest developments in our efforts to ensure responsible conservation of the lake.

At a hearing on Oct. 25 in Erie County, State Supreme Court Justice Donna M. Siwek asked attorneys for Chautauqua Institution, the Town of Ellery and Chautauqua Lake Partnership to encourage their clients to pursue mediation as a potential means of resolving the litigation regarding the Chautauqua Lake Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). Justice Siwek suggested the mediation involve representatives of the named parties, their counsel and mutually agreed upon legal and technical consultants to attempt to work through the disagreements on the content and sufficiency of the SEIS. Attorneys for Chautauqua Institution immediately indicated willingness to participate in mediation.

In a written response Monday, Oct. 29, attorneys representing the Town of Ellery, Chautauqua Lake Partnership and the DEC declined Justice Siwek’s request to enter into mediation, and instead chose to pursue court motions.

We are very disappointed in the continuing unwillingness of the Town of Ellery and Chautauqua Lake Partnership to work together with other Chautauqua Lake organizations and independent citizens who are concerned about the conservation of Chautauqua Lake. This is the same posture we encountered last spring and that led to our lawsuit. We remain hopeful that the very legitimate concerns about the SEIS will be addressed through eventual collaboration among our region’s lake conservation leaders, experts and partner organizations. In the meantime, we have no choice but to continue to pursue through the courts our concerns and those of many others in our region.

In the court proceedings, respondents have filed multiple motions, the effect of which would generally be to postpone any judicial review of the merits of the SEIS. The court will address these motions on Nov. 14. The pending assertion by the suit respondents is that the case is premature or moot and should await further herbicide application permits before judicial review of the SEIS. Yet, state law requires SEIS reviews within four months of their finalization. Given this and the fact that respondents have stated publicly their plans to seek additional herbicide permits this coming spring, Chautauqua Institution asserts judicial review is legally and logistically timely.

We will continue to update you on our efforts to advocate for a comprehensive and collaborative approach to Chautauqua Lake conservation.


Michael E. Hill

P.S. I was fortunate earlier this month to take part in a Chautauqua County delegation to Lake George, where a diverse set of stakeholders have collaborated — based on shared, universally accepted science — to implement remarkably effective measures to protect another of New York's freshwater jewels. Click here to read about our visit.

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