Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Week of November 9, 2008

Updated 11/13

N.Y. looks at Vt. law to control invasive species

By Tom Mitchell, Rutland Herold

LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. — A key issue facing the first chairman of a new invasive species advisory committee for all of New York is whether the state would be able to adopt an exotic plant transport law similar to Vermont's, to help check the spread of invasive aquatic plants between lakes.

James Hood, communications director for the Lake George Association, has been named chairman of the newly formed New York State Invasive Species Advisory Committee (ISAC).

"I am very excited and honored to be the first chairman of the Advisory Committee," Hood said Friday. He has already served as representative for the New York State Federation of Lake Associations (NYSFOLA) on the committee.

The Advisory Committee, formed in the last few months, is comprised of 25 nongovernmental stakeholder groups, representing academia, industry, local government and environmental advocacy, LGA officials said.

"Not having industry representatives at the table (in the past) was a glaring weakness in previous efforts to control invasives" in the state Hood said. The wide range of representation will be crucial to developing comprehensive strategies to prevent the introduction of invasive species in water bodies and to control existing infestations, he said.

"This puts the LGA and New York state lake federation in a very advantageous position," Walt Lender, the LGA's executive director, said.

"New York's lakes have been heavily impacted by aquatic invasive species, (like Eurasian water milfoil) and now we will be able to have a say in how the state manages invasives," Lender said.

In Lake George, LGA has managed milfoil and zebra mussels for a number of years. The group began a stewardship program that implemented boat inspections at access areas that was well received last summer, Hood said.

Meg Modley, invasive species coordinator for the Lake Champlain Basin Program in Vermont, developed the idea of using the Green Mountain State's transport law as a model and has provided guidance on the matter for them, Hood said.

Vermont's law prohibits the spread of exotic species like milfoil between lakes.A provision allows officials to write tickets for offenders who don't comply with the law. Such a penalty will be needed in New York to make a new regulation or law work there as well, Hood said.

"If one state is doing something well, we want to consider implementing that in our own plans."

The idea of having continuity in regulations between neighboring states has also had appeal in this case.

The committee will also draw on work Modley has done with the Adirondack Park Agency.

"It's not just a lake by lake issue" but transcends watershed boundaries, becoming more of a "regional issue," Hood said.

The new invasive species advisory committee will look into whether a regulation could suffice initially in New York to address aquatic plants like Eurasian milfoil or a state law would be needed.

Once committee members come up with a proposal they would likely present to the Invasives Species Council, a statewide group representing nine state agencies. The council was formed last year to help develop a strategy to deal with invasives.

"I look forward to working with the members of the Invasive Species Council, to make sure that New York is prepared to deal effectively with the huge challenges presented by invasive species," Hood said.

Currently, the new invasives committee will likely propose addressing the spread of exotic fauna like zebra mussels and other animal species through education programs rather than regulations, Hood said.

Another species the group could address is the potential for spiny water flea to move up the Champlain Canal to Lake George from Great Sacandaga Lake to the south by boat or bait bucket, Hood said.

The exotic flea collects on fishing line like gobs of jelly and can cause a clumping of the line and clog eyelets of fishing rods. Link


TVA to reduce weed control on Alabama lake

The Associated Press

GUNTERSVILLE -- A decision by the Tennessee Valley Authority to reduce its weed-control program on Lake Guntersville is drawing protests from opponents in northeast Alabama who say the move could choke tourism and hurt development.

About 300 angry residents, elected leaders and economic recruiters attended a meeting last week about the federal utility's decision to quit killing aquatic weeds around private docks and residential areas on the north Alabama reservoir.

TVA will continue spraying weeds around boat launches and other public areas. But critics said the decision to stop weed eradication work elsewhere will result in an overgrowth of weeds and a loss of tourism dollars.

"We base our tourism on fishing and outdoor activity," tourism director J.P. Parsons said. "TVA created the lake, and it's their responsibility to service the lake."

TVA spokeswoman Barbara Martucci said Monday the utility ended weed control work at most reservoirs in the 1990s.

Reducing the program at Guntersville and Lake Nickajack in Tennessee, the only two places where it continued, will save about $800,000 annually, she said. The utility decided it wasn't fair to eradicate weeds in just two lakes.

"It's a huge job that is probably not conquerable, keeping the weeds controlled," she said. "Only one person has to bring a weed in on their boat for there to be a problem."

The timing of the decision angered TVA critics already upset over a 20 percent rate increase approved last month and a decision to grant chief executive Tom Kilgore a raise of about $500,000 that could increase his incentive-driven annual pay to $3.27 million.

State Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville, called the weed decision "crazy" and said it would cost local government $1 million to replace the work previously done by TVA.

"These people are mad, and they ought to be," McLaughlin said at the meeting. "Where's Marshall County and Gunters-ville going to find a million dollars? Can't you spare a million dollars to keep that river clean?"

With about 68,000 total acres of water, Lake Guntersville was covered by about 17,000 acres of milfoil and hydrilla this year, said Martucci. TVA has been treating about 1,000 acres three times a summer using chemicals and harvesting machines, he added.

While the weeds can foul boat propellers, surround docks and make swimming impossible in places, they also provide a haven for fish and have helped make the lake a popular destination for angling.

"Bass fishermen love the weeds. There are reservoirs where people do not want us to touch the weeds," Martucci said.

TVA is the nation's largest public utility and sells electricity to 159 distributors with 8.8 million consumers in Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.


Removing the mighty phragmites at Marion Lake

By Eric Shultz, The Suffolk Times

According to Lori Luscher, the phragmites invasion of Marion Lake started with a 1991 nor'easter.

"Waves brought the bay over the road into the lake, making it brackish," she said of the freshwater East Marion (New York) lake, which has no natural outlet to Orient Harbor. "Year after year, it got worse, the weeds got taller, thicker, and eventually started taking over the whole shore."

Though accounts vary of how, when and why the invasive strain of wetland weed (technically known as Phragmites australis) grew to dominate the lake, Southold Town Trustees and property owners like Ms. Luscher joined forces with the town highway department this past weekend to begin clearing the shore of the invasive stalks.

They started near the Bay Avenue bridge.

"Once the weeds took over the bridge area, the flow of water under the bridge became a concern," Ms. Luscher said. "Without flow, the lake would go stagnant and become polluted."

Ms. Luscher, representing the community of lakeside property owners, said she'd applied for an eradication grant from the state Department of Environmental Conservation last year and had also applied for cutting permits with the Town of Southold and the DEC in 2006. She said the permits and a matching grant of $100,000 from the DEC all came together last month.

Bill Fonda, spokesman for the DEC, said that the powers that be in the state agency were impressed with the community group's efforts. "It is kind of unusual for any homeowner's association to come to us [for permits]," he said. "But they proved to us that they can do this."

With a year's worth of yard sales and an "awareness" booth at this year's Maritime Festival in Greenport, Ms. Luscher said community members are "getting close" to matching the grant. She said they're about $40,000 short.

"Most of the neighbors who live on the lake and surround the lake have been generous," Ms. Luscher said.

But even for the generous, the process of removing phragmites properly is time-consuming and laborious, according to Ms. Luscher, which is why the community group has hired Putnam County-based consultant and contractor Tim Miller to do the bulk of the work.

That work involves cutting the stalks down to about a foot above water level during the fall, using hedge trimmers and snips -- "No heavy duty mechanical stuff," she said. "We don't want to disturb the wildlife." -- then coming back in the spring to "wick" them.

According to Peconic Bay Keeper Kevin McAllister, wicking is the process of hand-applying a chemical that is environmentally safe (for everything but the phragmites) into the weakened stalk. The straw-like root system will then soak up the chemical and kill the weed, he said.

Comparing what Ms. Luscher and company are doing to a recent successful phragmites eradication project in Long Pond Greenbelt near Bridgehampton, Mr. McAllister says that the twofold approach to Marion Lake is good. But he says that the community group will have to maintain and monitor the site long after the invasive plants have been removed. "Phragmites will come back in," he said. "The plants thrive in nutrients, gain foothold and march across the marsh."

Ms. Luscher, a summer resident of East Marion for 30 years, said she and her neighbors are well aware of this and are in it for the long haul, which she said she hopes isn't more than two years. She said that once the phragmites are killed, they plan to replant with some native species like Hibiscus mosheutos, Baccharis halimfolia, Iva frutescanes, Rosa rugosa, Typha latifolia, Juncus effusus and Scirpus tabernaemontanii to crowd out any remaining stalks -- and to take over the phragmites' beneficial role of absorbing nutrients, which helps prevent algae blooms, according to Mr. Fonda.

"We also plan on flooding a portion of the lake, which is another proven method of eradication," Ms. Luscher said. "Once the clearing is complete, it will be up to each landowner to monitor for regrowth and periodically test areas for other methods of maintenance."

Ms. Luscher says that the entire phragmites removal project could cost up to $250,000, "depending on how far we go with it."

By removing the phragmites around the bridge, Ms. Luscher said Southold Town saved her community group about $20,000.

Southold Trustee Jill Doherty said that the town wanted to do its part in clearing the lake. She said the town also is in charge of "de-watering," or drying-out, the dead stalks on the East Marion fire department's property and transporting them up-island to be incinerated. If they're disposed of in a landfill, she said, they will begin growing again.

Ms. Doherty added that septic runoff and natural waste from geese and other animals have contributed to the nitrates that have allowed the invasive plants to proliferate in recent years.

"I grew up in East Marion," the trustee said. "We used to ice skate on the lake, surrounded by cattails -- it was beautiful. [The phragmites] have gotten out of hand." Link


Study: Separate Great Lakes, Mississippi basins

By SOPHIA TAREEN, Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — Connections engineered more than a century ago between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed should be changed to block the advance of invasive species that can cause irreversible damage, an environmental advocacy group says.

Separating the two basins is the only way to stop the transfer of some species, including the voracious Asian carp that is within 50 miles of Lake Michigan, says a feasibility study issued Wednesday by the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

"If you want to protect the Great Lakes, this is what you have to do. Invaders like Asian carp are unpredictable, but their effects are catastrophic and irreversible," said Joel Brammeier, Alliance vice president and lead author of the study. "You've got to remove their pathway."

Researchers fear the carp, which can grow up to 100 pounds and more than 4 feet long, could eat all the food that's available for other species in the Great Lakes ecosystem, possibly leading to the collapse of the lakes' multibillion-dollar fishing industry, Brammeier said.

Scientists say more than 150 invasive species have entered the Great Lakes, multiplying rapidly and feeding on native species or outcompeting with them for food. Millions of dollars have been spent trying to control the zebra mussel and round goby, which already have moved between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins.

Millions also have been spent on electrical barriers across the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal south of the city to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan. The Alliance says the barriers, which deliver a non-lethal jolt to fish, have been effective, but are not a long-term solution.

There are no natural connections between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds. More a century ago, engineers linked them with a complex network of manmade canals and existing rivers to reverse the flow of the Chicago River and keep waste from flowing down it to Lake Michigan, which Chicago uses for drinking water.

Possible changes include erecting concrete walls and constructing more shipping locks, according to the study. It does not make explicit recommendations, but calls on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency to conduct further study.

"The EPA is very concerned about the impact of invasive species on the health of the Great Lakes. Limiting their spread is important for protecting the Lakes and we need to look at all options for controlling their movement," EPA spokeswoman Phillippa Cannon said. "We welcome suggestions from the Alliance and look forward to reading its report." Link


Volunteers Sought for Invasive Species Clearing at SVAC, Vermont, Nov. 14

MANCHESTER - On Friday, Nov. 14, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., a pair of experts from The Nature Conservancy, Dave McDevitt and Sharon Plumb, and as many volunteers as can be mustered, will remove invasive species from the Boswell Botany Trial.

Quietly, steadily, and over time, intruders have crept onto the Southern Vermont Arts Center's Boswell Botany Trail - the nature walk of the original Webster estate, circa 1917, and one of the Top 10 Wildflower Walks in the state according to Vermont Life - and threaten to destroy the native organisms found there. The culprits: buckthorn, honeysuckle, Asiatic bittersweet and Japanese barberry, four invasive species introduced to the area as ornamental plants that have spread precipitously to many wild areas around the state.

To help address, and to promote awareness of, the statewide challenge of non-native plant species proliferation, SVAC and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) are partnering in TNC's Wise on Weeds! (WOW!) program. A growing number of businesses, schools and other organizations have signed on as WOW! sites, committed to removing invasives from their grounds in favor of native plants.

To volunteer or to get more information, call SVAC Volunteer Coordinator, Ed Cyzewski, at 362-1405, ext. 29, or drop by the Arts Center, which is just off West Road in Manchester, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 12 to 5 p.m. Visit any time at


Volunteers for Staten Island this Saturday

On Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m., you can assist with the ongoing forest restoration project at Conference House Park. Volunteers will remove invasive plant species, preventing their spread and encouraging native plant and animal habitats to recover. As needed, volunteers will plant, seed, or mark with flagging some of the native species.

The Conference House, built in the 17th Century and located at the southern most tip of New York State in Staten Island, is famous for the Peace Conference held there on September 11, 1776.

Gather at the flagpole outside the Visitors' Center at 1 p.m. Sturdy shoes and long pants are highly recommended. Gloves and tools will be provided. Tap water and restrooms are available at the Visitors' Center.

Because the work will take place in several areas of the park, anyone arriving late may have difficulty finding the group, so RSVP if you plan to attend. Call Cheri Brunault at 718-390-8021, or e-mail at This event is rain or shine.


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