Lakes facing new threat

2011-10-04T03:30:00Z 2011-10-04T08:44:50Z Lakes facing new threatJustin Murphy / The Citizen Auburn Citizen
October 04, 2011 3:30 am  • 

The Cayuga County Water Quality Management Agency may create another task force in response to proliferating invasive species in Owasco and Cayuga lakes.

A vote on the issue is scheduled for the agency’s meeting Thursday morning.

The idea comes in the wake of news that hydrilla, a fast-spreading invasive weed, has been found in the Cayuga Lake Inlet in Ithaca.

“This hydrilla is a real emergency down at the south end of Cayuga (Lake),” Cayuga Lake Watershed Steward Hilary Lambert said. “It’s really knocked a lot of people sideways.”

The big story in Owasco Lake, meanwhile, is the presence of Asian clams, malicious mollusks that have established themselves in the sandy shallows near Deauville Island.

The city of Auburn plans to lower the lake level by an extra foot this winter in an effort to freeze the clams.

Those two are the headliners in an ever-growing band of unwelcome aquatic visitors including zebra mussels, blue-green algae, Chinese mystery snails, bloody red mysids, water chestnuts and Eurasian milfoils.

“We have more than one thing on our plate,” WQMA Chairman Bruce Natale said. “There’s a lot of work to do on a lot of issues.”

The WQMA already has a dedicated task force for Asian clams. When that was created earlier this year, some board members argued that the task force should be broad enough to address all invasive species and all bodies of water in Cayuga County.

Those voices were overruled initially, as a majority believed that Asian clams pose a unique threat. Now, both sides may get their way -- in a sense.

“If the (WQMA) wants to form another task force, that’s good, but if it’s actually just the same people doing the work, it’s just another meeting,” Natale said.

Lambert, who is helping organize informational meetings on hydrilla and invasive species in general, said the most important thing is to get all water quality groups working together.

“Maybe another task force is extraneous, but it’ll help reach out and bring all the groups working on these issues together,” she said. “People think, ‘Another invasive, so what?’ But it’s provided a renewed sense of urgency that we’ve got some big changes coming with the big swings in climate.”

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