June 7-13 is the seventh annual New York State Invasive Species Awareness Week. In honor of this week, we are going to discuss hydrilla. Hydrilla is an invasive aquatic plant that threatens Cayuga County lakes, rivers and streams. It grows rapidly to form choking green mats in water up to 30 feet deep, making boating, swimming or fishing in those areas practically impossible. If action is taken quickly when hydrilla is first found in a water body, before it creates an infestation, there are treatment options that are available that can eradicate this plant before it becomes a permanent menace.
Hydrilla was first discovered in the inlet to Cayuga Lake in 2011 near the Ithaca Farmers Market. It has since been found in Fall Creek and in the shallow waters of Cayuga Lake offshore of Stewart Park in Ithaca, the Finger Lakes Marine Service marina in Lansing, and the southwestern corner of Cayuga Lake. It was found in Cayuga Lake offshore of Aurora near Wells College in 2016 and at Don’s Marina in King Ferry in 2018.
The ongoing fight against hydrilla growing in Cayuga Lake in areas near Cayuga County has been underway since 2017. In the Aurora location, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has taken the lead in treating hydrilla with the aquatic herbicides fluridone and chelated copper. Treatment is planned for this year starting on June 25. The ongoing treatments have reduced the hydrilla plants greatly, by approximately 99%, but there is still a trouble spot in the Paines Creek area.
Don’s Marina in King Ferry was dredged in early 2019 to try to remove all the hydrilla. After the dredging, weekly monitoring was carried out by staff of the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and they found a small patch of hydrilla plants in that area that spring. During the summer of 2019, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers applied endothall in a granular form. This year, the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges will monitor the site for regrowth and, if found, will coordinate with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for spot treatment with chelated copper.
The infestation at the Finger Lakes Marine Service marina at Myers Point in Lansing was found in July 2019. The entire enclosed marina area was heavily infested. It was treated in fall 2019 under the leadership of the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges working with SOLitude Inc. Monitoring, and follow-up treatment will take place in 2020.
Information regarding hydrilla treatments that are occurring offshore of Cayuga County can be found on the Cayuga County Health Department website at cayugacounty.us/467/hydrilla.
It seems highly likely that hydrilla will be found in the future at additional sites around Cayuga Lake, carried and dropped by boats and birds, and taking root quietly in shallow backwaters, ready to proliferate uncontrollably. If we can find it early, we can take steps to prevent this from happening. We also want to prevent its movement to other area lakes and rivers.
This is where the public can play a tremendously important role. To help us find any new patches of hydrilla, you can become a hydrilla hunter. Information on how to identify and report hydrilla can be found at stophydrilla.org. There are also hydrilla information boxes managed by the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network at approximately 65 launches, marinas and parks around Cayuga Lake that have information on how to identify hydrilla.
If you really want to get involved, the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network has lake rakes for you to use off your dock or boat to check the lake water for the presence of hydrilla. This is especially important from July into late autumn, when hydrilla plants are at their full extent. Please contact Jenn at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive information and arm yourself with a lake rake.
Finally, the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network has set up two-way hydrilla communications with leaders of the 19 municipalities on the Cayuga Lake shoreline. This will help keep them up-to-date on new hydrilla discoveries, and provide answers about hydrilla if and when it appears in their area.
Michele Wunderlich is an associate planner with the Cayuga County Department of Planning and Economic Development. Hilary Lambert is steward and executive director of the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network. For more information, visit cayugalake.org.
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