Grand Isle, VT – The first of five Lake Champlain projects funded through an appropriation in the Great Lakes Fishery Commission budget was initiated this week. Senator Patrick Leahy secured a $500,000 appropriation to be transferred to the Lake Champlain Basin Program and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to improve water quality and fish and wildlife habitat and to remove hazardous materials from Law Island, a popular recreation area near Colchester, VT. This project, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will result in a preliminary barrier design to reduce the spread of the spiny water flea, a small predatory crustacean, from New York's Great Sacandaga Lake to Lake Champlain.
Senator Leahy in a statement said: “I am pleased that the Lake Champlain Basin Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are moving quickly to prevent the spread of the spiny water flea into Lake Champlain. Invasive species, like water chestnut and the alewife, can do massive damage and may be impossible to eliminate once they become established. This is truly a case where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
The spiny water flea was found in Great Sacandaga Lake in October, 2008. The invasion of Lake Champlain by this species would be ecologically harmful, because it competes with native species near the base of the food chain. They are also a serious nuisance in recreational fishing because their bodies collect on and foul fishing gear. Resource managers and anglers are very concerned that this species could spread to Lake Champlain from the Great Sacandaga Lake through the Champlain Canal.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation sampled for the presence of the spiny water flea in both the Champlain Canal and Lake Champlain several times through the summer of 2009. Fortunately, no specimens were found.
Dave Tilton, Manager of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Fish and Wildlife Management Assistance Program in the region, is pleased with the selection of a contractor. “Thanks to support from Senator Leahy and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, we're able to obtain bioengineering services to review the biology of the spiny water flea as it relates to its potential to travel from Great Sacandaga Lake, down the Sacandaga River to the Hudson, and through the Feeder Canal into the Lake Champlain Canal to Lake Champlain,” said Tilton. “Our engineering contractor will also assess design criteria for a filter or other facility and develop construction cost estimates.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is hiring HDR Engineering to complete the work. HDR Engineering, which has a branch office in Syracuse, New York, will determine advantages and drawbacks for each alternative to deter the spiny water flea. Work is expected to be completed early in 2010.
“We're working as quickly as possible to prevent the spread of the spiny water flea,” said Tilton. “We hope the results of this first contract will help prepare the cooperating State and Federal agencies to implement the chosen alternative in the next year or two.
For further information about the spiny water flea projects contact Dave Tilton, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 11 Lincoln Street, Essex Junction, Vermont (802) 872-0629. For information on additional projects scheduled for 2010, log onto www.lcbp.org<http://www.lcbp.org> or call (802) 372-3213.
Source: Hilary Smith, APIPP