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The invasive Eurasian water milfoil
The invasive Eurasian water milfoil

Homeowners on St Lawrence prepare to spend $100,000 fighting invasive plant

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Invasive species have been wreaking havoc across northern New York for decades now. Foreign fish, plants and insects--many carried by freighters plying the St Lawrence River--threaten native species, the environment and the use of waterways and woodlands.

People living on Goose Bay on the St Lawrence, east of the town of Alexandria Bay, are banding together to fight Eurasian water milfoil. The plant's green fronds can fill up lakes and rivers, essentially choking the water and all that lives in or uses it.

Bill Skvarch with the non-profit Goose Bay Reclamation Corporation tells Jonathan Brown this is what's happening in his bay.

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Residents of GooseBay have banded together to fight yet another invasive species, Eurasian water milfoil. According to Bill Skvarch with the non-profit Goose Bay Reclamation Corporation, the milfoil is so pervasive that it routinely occupies the entire north and south ends of the bay and restricts recreational use of the water.

"The bay has always been really popular with people who want to water-ski," said Skvarch. "When it's windy and choppy out on the river you can come into the bay and it's a lot calmer. And now you're skiing through weeds, basically. If you fall down off your water-skis and get back up you're covered with weeds."

As the summer wears on, says Skvarch, the milfoil becomes unmanageable. "By midsummer the people at the north end can't get their boats down to their docks. They just get clogged up in the weeds. And pretty soon no matter how many times you back up and go forward, you can't force your way through the mats of weeds."

On Saturday, June 26th, Goose Bay Reclamation Corporation is holding a meeting to discuss potential ways to rid the area of milfoil. The group is considering three solutions, among them the utilization of a milfoil-killing chemical, the introduction and use of weevils to consume the weed, and a mechanical harvester which operates like a mowing machine underwater. The corporation will introduce the possible solutions to the public and perhaps soon reach a consensus. "Hopefully, says Skvarch, "we'll get enough people from around GooseBay that can decide what combination or what type of method they'd like to see used to try to eliminate the milfoil."

It's unlikely that a decision will be reached on Saturday, says Skvarch. And all the possible solutions are expensive, requiring the organization to raise funds and then clear their actions with the DEC. Luckily the corporation can follow the example of other New York towns in the fight against milfoil: "Several of the methods have been already done in New York state in places like Cazenovia Lake, Saratoga Lake, some lakes up in the Adirondacks where they've been fighting this for more years than we've been at it," Skvarch said.

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