Newsletter of the Finger Lakes Chapter, ACBS

Volume 17, Issue 4 Newsletter of the Finger Lakes Chapter, ACBS December 2007

UPDATED December 25th 2007 page 11


page -2















Milfoil - A Serious Problem in the

Finger Lakes

Eurasian watermilfoil - a very aggressive and invasive lake weed - has taken hold and is growing at an alarming rate in many areas of the Finger Lakes. Without prompt intervention, it will continue to spread throughout the lakes.

The milfoil plant grows in 8 to 15-ft. of water until it reaches the surface where it then spreads across the surface forming a thick entangled mat of vegetation. Boats become entangled in it, swimming in it is nearly impossible, water quality is adversely affected, and the natural beauty of the lakes is compromised. If left unchecked, the lakes' ecosystems will be dramatically changed.

To contend with the problem, some marinas have acquired "floating harvesters" which cut the weeds a few feet below the waterline, and then haul them aboard for later disposal. But the relief is short-lived as the weed quickly grows back. To combat the problem in Skaneateles Lake, a non-profit corporation was formed in 2006 - the Skaneateles Lake Milfoil Eradication Corp. Drawing on the experience of a pilot project and the success of efforts in Upper Saranac Lake and Lake George, the eradication process involves hand-removal of individual milfoil plants by divers working on the lake bottom, lifting them to the surface through a powerful suction system, and collecting them for later disposal. (Harvested milfoil is frequently composted and used in organic farming.) The corporation is committed to removing all milfoil patches from Skaneateles Lake over the next two summers, followed by a maintenance program designed to eliminate any small patches that may reappear. Fortunately, incubation of new plants is relatively slow, making a long-term maintenance program feasible.

With diver safety issues carefully worked out, eradication was begun at the north end of Skaneateles Lake where a little over four acres were cleared, out of a total of 15 acres identified around the lake. To date, three pontoon boats have been outfitted with suction equipment and compressors. But because one diver can clear only 120 sq. ft. per hour, three more pontoon boats are planned for next year.

As the only paid full-time staff, John Menapace of Skaneateles is responsible for outfitting the pontoon boats and overseeing on-site operations. Divers are largely college students who are paid at "student rates" for actual time on the job. Larry Rothenberg, a Skaneateles resident, is president of the Skaneateles Lake Milfoil Eradication Corporation and works in that capacity without compensation.

So far, $400,000. has been raised to support the Skaneateles eradication program, but the three-year project is estimated to cost three million dollars. The Chapter has voted to make a $1000. donation, but more support is needed.





Anyone who would like to donate to the milfoil eradication effort, can make tax-deductible contributions to the Tri-County Skaneateles Lake Association, and forward them to:

Skaneateles Milfoil Box 862 Skaneateles, NY 13152

The corporation plans to pass on the techniques learned and the knowledge gained, to other organizations which are also contending with the milfoil problem in the Finger Lakes.