Lake’s milfoil battle endless

Divers display bundles of the invasive watermilfoil weeds they uproot from East and West Caroga lakes five days a week. (Photo submitted)

CAROGA LAKE — Five days a week, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., a team of divers goes into East and West Caroga lakes to fight an endless battle to uproot a lake-damaging invasive species called watermilfoil.

Without the town’s unrelenting, labor-intensive effort from June 1 to Sept. 1, the Eurasian weed would “destroy the ecology of the lakes” and render them unusable, said Gene Centi, who supervises the town project.

Milfoil chokes out native plant species and can deplete oxygen in the lakes, killing the fish, and milfoil are not eaten by native fish or bugs, he said.

Unfortunately, the weed can only be controlled, not eradicated. It spreads by fragmentation.

“We’ve won the battle, but we haven’t won the war,” Centi said. “The milfoil will be there forever. We concentrate on the really dense areas.”

On Saturday, an open session was held at the town hall to noon to educate the public about the problem and enlist its help.

“We all have a vested interest” in dealing with the problem because it affects the useability of the lake for recreation and fishing and town property values, Centi said.

The town can’t fight weeds at private docks and beaches, only the homeowners can, he said.

Other methods to battle the weeds can run into problems. Mechanical harvesting just mows the weeds as lawns are mowed. Introducting chemicals or bugs and fish that can prey on the milfoil are expensive and incur environmental restrictions, he said. Milfoil can spread on unwashed boats and can thrive on fertilizer runoffs from lawns. Lake Steward and boat-wash programs at the state’s lakes allow for the inspection of boats and washing away of invasive plants—but are not mandatory for boaters.

Town Supervisor Beth Morris opened Saturday’s program. Then Mike Durkee, the Lake Steward coordinator, and Marcus Harazin, co-chairman with him of the Canada Lake Conservation Association invasive species committee, talked about Lake Steward and boat-wash programs.

Following them were Centi; John Persch of the Fulton County Soil and Water Conservation Board, addressing decontamination of other sites in the county; an overview of the Adirondack Invasive Species Management Strategy and Operations for Adirondack Park; a representative of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program; a representative of the Paul Smith College Adirondack Watershed Institute; and advocacy and coordination of AIS prevention in the Southern Adirondack Region by Bryan Rudes of the Adirondack Lake Alliance. An open forum followed.

By Patricia Older

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