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Invasive Eurasian watermilfoil in Saratoga Lake. Photo: Janice Painter, CC some rights reserved
Invasive Eurasian watermilfoil in Saratoga Lake. Photo: Janice Painter, CC some rights reserved

Beating invasive water milfoil, year by year

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New York state's first-ever Invasive Species Awareness Week is drawing to a close.

There's been a slew of public outreach and education initiatives - all to help educate the public about invasive species on land and in water, and ways to stop their spread.

One took paddlers to Upper Saranac Lake to learn about a successful and ongoing 10-year campaign to rid the lake of Eurasian watermilfoil.

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Reported by

Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

It's cloudy and windy just before 10 o'clock Monday morning. Guy Middleton, lake manager for the Upper Saranac Lake Foundation, paddles his solo canoe around an outcrop of milfoil in Fish Creek Ponds.

Ten years ago, Middleton said milfoil was one of the most prominent plants on Upper Saranac, a 5,200-acre lake with 44 miles of state and privately owned shoreline. "It was overrunning shallow areas," Middleton said. "It was prohibiting recreation, cutting down on property values. It was just a big environmental impact on the lake."

In 2004, the Upper Saranac Lake Foundation pooled its resources and raised $1.5 million to launch a three-year program to combat milfoil. That year dive crews removed 18 tons of milfoil.

Ten years later, Middleton said the foundation has cut down on the amount of money it's spent on dive crews because less milfoil is being found. Last year, crews removed just 760 pounds.

"It's to a point now where we feel that it's almost hard to find on the lake," Middleton said. "We've been very successful. But with that said, it's important that we continue to manage it because we know the minute that we stop, it will come right back to where it was in 2004."

The trip to Fish Creek was one in a series of events that are part of Invasive Species Awareness Week, which is being held statewide for the first time this year. It comes as those who have been battling invasives for years say momentum finally seems to be building.

"There are just so many different initiatives working in a coordinated way at different scales in the state that we haven't seen before. I'm really encouraged." Hillary Smith of Saranac Lake directs the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program and chairs the statewide Invasive Species Advisory Committee. She said some of the big steps have included formation of state agency and non-government advisory groups, management partnerships around the state and a statewide invasive species mapping database. New state regulations took effect last month requiring boats using DEC boat put-ins to be cleaned and drained before they're launched. Two invasive species were passed by the Legislature last month and are awaiting the governor's signature.

"Certainly there's much more to do, but I think we have a great understanding among the public, the Legislature, our state agencies and the governor's office that we can all work together and get the job done," Smith said.

Invasive Species Awareness Week runs through Saturday.


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