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Invasive Species in Lake George: An Ongoing Problem

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Asian Clams Continue to Wreak Havoc on Lake George

Combatting the Invasive Species Proves a Tricky Endeavor

Corbicula Fluminea: The Asian Clam. Photo Courtesy of the United States Geological Survey.We seem to be losing the battle of destroying the invasive species that, in some cases, have infested the great waters of Lake George for decades. Adirondack Park Agency (APA) scientists tried eradicating the Asian claims by using smothering benthic mats to kill them off; but at the expense of the lake’s shoreline ecosystem where indigenous plants and animals have died as a result.

Due to the need to respond quickly to the new Asian clam populations, which are spreading rapidly, new areas had been discovered on the lake’s eastern and northern shores this past September, APA commissioners according to Jon Alexander’s article “APA: Clam-smothering mats are killing native plants, animals in Lake George” published in The Post Star approved a fast-track permit for benthic mats.

The problem is that scientists are uncertain what the outcome will do to the biodiversity of the lake.

“Quite honestly, the multi-year, large-acreage benthic barrier deployments we’ve been seeing the last couple of years are having a significant impact on the wetlands,” said APA freshwater analyst Ed Snizeck in The Post Star. “We really don’t have a good idea at this point what the recovery period is for those areas that have been matted over and over again.”

Since the Asian Clam Rapid Response Task Force got permission in 2011 to eliminate the Asian clam populations, more than 5 acres of lake-bed have been repeatedly smothered with the large mats. Task Force members sent emails and letters to APA officials, questioning the restrictions on time and space required under the new permit.

“I understand their concern, but we’re confident that any native plants will repopulate fairly quickly,” said Walt Lender, executive director of the Lake George Association in the Post Star’s article.

How can Lender be certain that native plants and animals have the resiliency to withstand an invasive species which produce chemicals to inhibit the growth of other plants nearby?

Lake George. Photo by Dave BowerNot only the Asian clam but the Zebra mussel, spiny waterflea, Curly-leaf Pondweed and the Eurasian Watermilfoil has permeated the ecosystem of the lake, out-competing indigenous plants and animals. Altering water quality and affecting the general health of the lake, these invasive species pollute beaches with washed-up remains, clog water intake and foul boats and boats engines. They are jeopardizing property values, business activities and the area’s heavily-relied upon tourism by posing a multi-billion dollar threat to the Lake George region.

The Eurasian Watermilfoil, found in Lake George in 1985, is an aquatic plant that has spread to 191 known sites according to the Lake George Association’s website. Although task force members have used different techniques such as hand pulling and laying down smothering mats to get rid of them, seven sites still remain with dense milfoil beds and 11 sites have moderately-dense growth. The Eurasian Watermilfoil crowds out native plants that diminishes the fish population and negatively impact wetland habitats. They interfere with fishing and swimming and entangle boat propellers.

The Lake George Association should be commended for their heroic deeds of stopping the spread of these invasive species. Visual inspections have already been conducted by their summer staff that have been able to catch between 80 to 85 percent of plants like the Curly-leaf Pondweed and Eurasian Watermilfoil clinging to boats; but they cannot win the fight without the support of the DEC and state officials.

The first week in January, The Lake George Park Commission’s proposal to mandate boat inspection and washing program were tabled by DEC and Governor Cuomo’s administration.

The Post Star published “State backs away from mandatory boat-washing plan for Lake George,” towards the end of November, describing how Kathy Moser, DEC’s invasive species expert told the Adirondack Park Agency that the boat-washing program could cost $700,000.

Officials from the Adirondack Council, The Adirondack Mountain Club, Protect the Adirondacks, Adirondack Wild and the Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter wrote a letter to Governor Cuomo and the DEC’s commissioner, blaming DEC for allowing invasive species to spread.

“DEC management of boat launches around the Adirondacks and at state campgrounds has, unfortunately, enabled major infestations at DEC facilities on Lake Durant and Upper Saranac Lake, among other locations,” the letter reads.

Supporters of the proposal doubt anything will happen to enforce the mandated boat inspection and washing program for the upcoming boating season. At this point in time when Governor Cuomo is trying to neutralize the state’s image as over-regulated and overtaxed, DEC is reluctant about the proposed ‘lockdown’ boats that could be charged $40 each time their boat has to be inspected.

Lake George has been dubbed the Queen of American Lakes because of its beauty and pristine waters. Are our political leaders going to risk the health of the lake’s ecosystem for the sake of protecting their own careers and the reputation of the state?

Diana Denner is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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