CAROGA LAKE — New efforts to combat an invasive pest in Caroga will be mostly funded out of state coffers.
The town was recently awarded $46,650 from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to pilot anti-Eurasian milfoil herbicide ProcellaCOR in West and East Caroga Lake.
Roughly $50,000 was requested in the town’s initial application submitted late last winter. Had the grant fallen through, Caroga officials were prepared to fully fund the study.
“We’re thrilled,” said Caroga Supervisor Scott Horton. “If you take a look at the grants and the heavy hitters that we had to go against that the [DEC] would support this — especially as a pilot program, it’s fantastic because it has far reaching effects.”
Caroga was among 14 towns within the Mohawk River watershed, including Rotterdam, Colonie and Gloversville, to receive a slice of $600,000 distributed by DEC last Thursday. East Caroga Lake is connected to the 149-mile-long Mohawk through the Caroga Creek.
Milfoil has been on-and-off concern mostly in East Caroga Lake for 40 years. The town has annually funded boat washing and underwater hand-harvesting initiatives in order to kill off the menace.
Recent growth in West Caroga Lake has set off some alarm bells.
“West Caroga Lake has never had much of a bloom and we got 100 bushels of milfoil harvesting in one day,” Horton said. “That’s a record. Holy mackerel, it just shows you the veracity of the plant.”
More than 1,000 bushels are expected to be harvested before the scuba-harvesting program ends later this month.
Milfoil is typically targeted in shallow areas. When not maintained, the invasive plant can render lake waters nearly unswimmable, destroy native species, and hurt property values.
Discussions regarding ProcellaCOR picked up in late 2022. The idea was first considered by Walter Hogan, coordinator of the lake management committee’s diving and harvesting program, following the death of Gene Centi in January of last year.
Hogan previously worked as a hospital administrator for Bassett Healthcare in Cooperstown, Albany Medical Center and the former Johnstown Hospital.
“That environment was what I liked because I’m not a ‘we’ve always done it that way’ kind of guy,” said Hogan. “I don’t like that way. There’s always a better way.”
ProcellaCOR has been applied in more than 30 state lakes since DEC officials gave it the greenlight four years ago. It was first approved in 2017 after years of testing.
This hasn’t allayed any fears among opponents, who worry the herbicide hasn’t been studied enough to understand the chemical’s long-lasting effects. The Adirondack Council has firmly maintained that herbicides should only be used in lakes as a last resort.
Granted, feedback over ProcellaCOR in Caroga Lake has been comparatively positive to communities surrounding Lake George. The Lake George Park Commission last year was served an injunction by the state Supreme Court after the Adirondack Park Agency approved permits to use the herbicide without public review. The case is currently undergoing an appeals process.
Caroga officials have been steadfast to avoid the same situation. They held a town hall meeting earlier in the summer and plan to hold another event soon.
“For somebody whose family’s been up here over 100 years, the last thing I want to do is to kill the lake, so we’ll be very careful,” Hogan said.
Under pilot plans, about 15% of East Caroga Lake will be treated with ProcellaCOR and between 5% to 10% of West Caroga Lake will be treated. Crews are expected to start applying the herbicide next June.
The pilot will continue until 2025. Until then, the town plans on continuing harvesting operations as usual.
“The plan is, if the pilot is successful, then we can begin to become a smaller unit with fewer divers,” said Hogan. “It looks like the cost of the milfoil would only be like every three years if you have to reapply it.”
The diving program currently costs the town more than $100,000 a year. What’s more, town officials such as Horton have grown concerned with the longevity of the 30-year-old harvester boat.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected]. Follow him on Facebook at Tyler A. McNeil, Daily Gazette or X @TylerAMcNeil.