A Lake George environmental group is asking residents to “Adopt a Bay” to help win the war against Eurasian water milfoil, the most prevalent of five invasive plant andanimal species currently impacting the lake.
The Fund for Lake George has hired Au Sable Forks-based Aquatic Invasive Species Management LLC, whose divers in 2014 handharvested more than 74,500 pounds
of milfoil in the first year of an aggressive three-year program to bring the nuisance plant under control.
“The goal is not eradication,” said Eric Siy, the Fund’s executive director. “It’s to establish lower maintenance levels.”
The effort is patterned after the one done previously at Upper Saranac Lake from 2004-07. In the first year of that program, divers worked approximately 14,000 hours to remove more than 40,000 pounds of milfoil
However, from 2008-14, divers have worked fewer than 5,000 hours each year to extract less than 5,000 pounds of milfoil, indicating that the initial investment made maintenance much less costly in the long run.
“The harder we hit back, the more effective it will be,” said Chris Navitsky, the Fund’s Lake George Waterkeeper program leader.
Year one of the Lake George program cost the Fund about $140,000. Eighty percent of the milfoil harvested was from five specific areas - Dunhams, Harris, Huddle and Warner bays and the village of Lake George basin.
The Fund expects to spend about $166,000 this year, but is making an appeal to lake residents, whom they hope will contribute about half of this amount. The Lake George Park Commission is providing $150,000 this year, too.
“The more money we raise, the longer divers can stay in the water,” Siy said.
Last year’s program involved one three-person team - two divers and a third person on the surface - who worked well into autumn. With increased funding, a second three-person team can be hired, basically doubling last year’s efforts, Siy said.
Last summer, Lake George adopted a first-of-its-kind mandatory boat inspection program to prevent invasive species from entering the lake.
“We’ve closed the doors,” Siy said. “Now we’ve got to clean up what’s in the lake. Harvesting is the second part of a double-barreled, two-fisted strategy.”
Milfoil harvesting in Lake George is done strictly by hand, as divers pull plants up by their roots. No chemicals or mechanical harvesters are used, tactics that have
been employed elsewhere, such as Saratoga Lake.
Eurasian watermilfoil forms thick, heavy mats near the surface that entangle boat propellers and clog swimming areas.
In addition to milfoil’s environmental and recreational impacts, Siy said heavy infestations can reduce property values by up to 20 percent. “So there’s a personal
investment here,” he said. “By contributing, people are protecting their properties.”
The other four invasive species currently found in Lake George are Asian clams, zebra mussels, curly leaf pondweed and the spiny water flea.
The Fund is asking individuals and corporations to make donations ranging from $50 to $5,000 for “Adopt a Bay.”