Money Flowing to Yank More Milfoil

Amanda May Metzger
February 4, 2015
 
The second year in a three­year push to get Lake George out of the weeds when it comes to Eurasian watermilfoil is bringing what is shaping up to be a record amount of funding to hand­harvest the non­native nuisance plant. Eurasion watermilfoil, first found in the lake in 1985, can damage ecology and property values when its density impedes swimming, boating and fishing.
 
This year, Lake George Park Commission Executive Director Dave Wick said the milfoil fighters hope to have $200,000 from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund to spend on the effort. That would be double what was allotted for 2014. Some extra funding Sen. Elizabeth Little, R­Queensbury, helped secure last year rolled over to this year. “She was able to put some additional funds in through the EPF last year, but it was too late in the season for us for that money so we’re rolling it over to the 2015 season,” Wick said. Funding won’t be assured until this year’s state budget passes, he added.
 
The Lake George Association is also increasing its funding to harvest milfoil, from $10,000 to $50,000. The Fund for Lake George plans to allocate $166,000 toward Eurasion watermilfoil treatment this year, with $82,000 in support for an “Adopt­a­Bay” program and an $84,000 management grant to the Park Commission for treatment.
 
“This year promises, I think, to be the most aggressive milfoil program probably in history in terms of the money for it. This is going to be the second year of our hopeful three­year program to eliminate all dense beds if we can,” Wick said. 
 
Total eradication of the plant in a 32­mile lake is unlikely, although that probability increased with a mandatory boat­washing program. “Eradication is unlikely, but a low maintenance level is possible and that’s our goal,” Wick said.

Last year, the Park Commission, a state agency, teamed with two nonprofits with the goal of reducing milfoil to a low­maintenance level.
 
The Park Commission’s board voted Tuesday to contract with Aquatic Invasive Management to harvest the plants using trained dive teams. The firm has been doing work on Lake George and more than 20 other waterbodies since its 2007 founding. The harvesting typically happens from June to mid­September. Sites are categorized as dense, moderate, sparse (high priority and low priority), clear and semiclear.“The proposal outlined by AIM talks about the strategy for hitting moderate beds, dense sites and scattered sites around the lake. I think we have a pretty good prognosis within a couple years for really getting milfoil under control like it hasn’t been in decades,” Wick said.
 
In 2014, Aquatic Invasive Management diver hours hit a new high of 2,640 hours as contracted by the Park Commission and two nonprofits, up from fewer than 1,000 man hours in 2013. The company removed a total of 74,534 pounds of milfoil last year, totaling 2,981 bags compared with fewer than 1,500 bags the year before.
 
“I think this is going to be a big year for milfoil,” said LGA Executive Director Walt Lender. “I think if we can get ahead of it and get it down to a maintenance level of management, that’s the way to go. That’s the direction the Park Commission is heading in, and I’m very supportive of that.”
 
The Fund for Lake George oversees efforts at the dense areas, while the Park Commission oversees efforts at moderate and sparse sites.
 
“The number of milfoil sites goes up every year, but a number of those sites haven’t had milfoil in them for three years. The previous mantra was ‘once a site, always a site.’ I don’t subscribe to that,” Wick said.
 
Going into the 2015 season, the Lake George Park Commission can remove 44 sites from the 213 sites flagged for active management of Eurasion watermilfoil. “Active management” refers to the use of dive team time to inspect or harvest a site. Some ares are more challenging than others. There was significant progress in ares such as Huddle Bay, Harris Bay and Dunhams Bay, Wick said. The benthic mats there were removed because they were actually allowing sediment to collect and plants were growing in the mud. Other areas are more challenging.
 
Harris Bay had no management in 2013 and the milfoil became denser, but after aggressive harvesting it’s expected to be clearer going into the 2015 season.
 
“In the village of Lake George it’s a chronic problem. It’s difficult to manage because all the boating activity. Getting divers there in mid summer is dangerous. Warner Bay right now is the largest patch of milfoil,” Wick said.
 
 
Bags removed
The following is the breakdown by location of bags of milfoil removed (bags average 25 pounds) and total diver hours in 2014 for dense milfoil project sites in 2014:
Area bags pounds divers hours acreage pounds per acre
LG Village 573 14,325 400 14 1,046
Dunhams Bay 122 3,050 180 13 230
Harris Bay 855 21,375 440 14 1,527Warner Bay 621 15,513 340 8 2,002
Huddle Bay 196 4,900 160 21 239
Totals 2,367 59,163 1,520 69 5,043
 

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