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Milfoil still a top priority in invasive fight

September 6, 2012

New invasive species entering the Adirondacks continues to be a regular storyline. In recent years, the threats posed by the emerald ash borer, Asian clam and spiny water flea have been well documented.

But leaders in the battle against invasives haven't forgotten about one that already has deep roots in some water bodies of the Adirondacks - Eurasian watermilfoil.

On Aug. 16, the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, Adirondack Lake Alliance and Lake Champlain Lake George Regional Planning Board hosted the Adirondacks' first ever conference on the aquatic weed. "The "Eurasian Watermilfoil Management Summit: Lessons Learned from the Adirondack Region," was held at the Horicon Town Hall in Brant Lake.

"It became obvious, even though the Adirondacks is continually facing new invasive species, that lake communities are still struggling with the old, familiar one, which is Eurasian watermilfoil," APIPP Director Hilary Smith said.

The conference featured presentations on the status of the milfoil invasion and its management in the Adirondack region, control options, planning considerations, case studies from various lakes, permitting, financing, lake-friendly land-use recommendations and ways to prevent spreading. Speakers included scientists and policy makers from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and state Adirondack Park Agency, along with elected officials, nonprofit representatives, shoreowners and lake managers.

Smith and several of the participants interviewed by the Enterprise characterized the conference as a big success, in large part because of the amount of information that was shared between participants.

"There's a real need to connect the lake communities in the Adirondacks, who are sharing similar challenges with lakes or they have similar commitments to lake protection," Smith said. "Rather than reinvent the wheel each time, they can really learn from one another and share lessons learned and strategies. ... The goal was to connect people that are fighting (milfoil)."

A big part of that fight is keeping milfoil out of water bodies where it hasn't been introduced, which includes most Adirondack waters. Smith said that only 56 of the more than 220 Adirondack waterways surveyed by volunteers have milfoil.

Once it does get into a lake, it becomes very costly, and that price tag is often paid by shore owners. Mary Johnson of the Chateaugay Lake Foundation said it has cost more them $300,000 to battle milfoil on their two lakes - Upper and Lower - in recent years. She said private donations have paid for about 70 percent of that bill.

She called the recent conference a "tremendous resource" for lake associations.

In many ways, the first summit on Eurasion watermilfoil represents how much the fight against it has developed in recent years. Bill McGhie was one of the conference organizers and president of the East Shore Schroon Lake Association and Adirondack Lake Alliance.

"I think we've come a long way in fighting milfoil," McGhie said. "We're never going to get rid of it, but we can get it down to a point where on Schroon Lake we're not spending $50,000 a year to handle it. We may get it down to $20,000, but it's going to be an ongoing situation."

Smith was definitely optimistic after the conference.

"It's exciting," Smith said. "I really feel there is momentum building and a public consciousness around invasives right now. I'm definitely encouraged."



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