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Cayuga Lake has approximately 27 acres of hydrilla mapped off the shore of Wells College in the village of Aurora, but there's no money to do anything about it. 

Found in September and estimated at about four or five years old, the hydrilla is precariously close to the Wells College water intake pipe. So far experts with the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges have found the invasive in the bay area from the Wells College dock to north of Little Creek, extending about 250 feet from the shore, according to a release from the Cayuga County Health Department.

If it made it up to the north end, Hilary Mosher told members of the Cayuga County Water Quality Management Agency on Thursday, the lake would be done for. Mosher is the coordinator for the Finger Lakes Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management.

"It would be a great incubator for the rest of the Great Lakes Basin, and we would never get rid of hydrilla should it inhabit the north end," she said.

Hydrilla is a particularly nasty invasive species as it grows quickly and is known to choke out lakes. The health department said in its Friday release that if left unchecked, it can form a thick vegetative mat inhibiting swimming and boating and causing fish populations to decline.

One solution, Mosher said Thursday, is benthic matting that acts as barriers to weed growth. But to cover that size swath is estimated to cost $10 million. Chemical treatments would cost around $134,000.

"So you can see there's a couple of zeros that we're missing," Mosher said. "We don't have any funding at this point."

While Mosher has requested and received letters of support to get rid of the patch of invasive species from state representatives, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is helping with non-financial resources, Mosher and a newly created Cayuga Lake hydrilla task force are still pulling up empty pockets for any kind of treatment.

The task force, according to the health department, includes representatives from the Finger Lakes Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management, Wells College, the village of Aurora, the Inns of Aurora, the county health and planning departments, the Cayuga County Legislature, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the Cayuga Lake Floating Classroom and the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network.

Mosher said she and other task force members have applied for funds through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The health department added in its release that the group will develop a Hydrilla Management Plan specific to Aurora. Once that is developed, the public will be able to provide comments on proposed strategies sometime in the late spring.

"We're also looking for statewide support, which we haven't been able to secure at this point," Mosher said. "So at this point, nothing is being (done). There's no treatment available, but we will be looking to secure permits in case we all of a sudden get funding really quickly."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has an EPA-funded hydrilla collaborative in the Great Lakes Basin. Mosher has been working with that group, getting recommendations on which kind of chemical treatments may work best. 

Steve Lynch, director of the county's planning and economic development department, thanked Mosher for getting everything she could in line to attack the problem. In the meantime the county's Water Quality Management Agency passed a resolution Thursday requesting financial and personnel support from the state of New York to address hydrilla found in the village of Aurora. 

The health department said the task force plans to hold a public forum on a proposed hydrilla management plan in the future.

Staff writer Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (315) 282-2237 or Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.


County Government Reporter