RAY BROOK - In what's being called a precedent setting move, the Adirondack Park Agency Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a project that will allow the use of a chemical herbicide in the park for the first time.
With the agency's blessing, the town of Lake Luzerne will be permitted to use 1,560 pounds of the herbicide Renovate OTF to combat a widespread Eurasian milfoil infestation in the southern part of Lake Luzerne.
Chemical means of combating invasive flora have never been allowed in the park before and the significance of the decision was not lost on Commissioner Frank Mezzano.
"This could be the equivalent of the first cell tower in the Adirondacks. In other words, we will be seeing more of it because it's a serious problem," Mezzano said. "And if it's a good solution, that's good for everybody."
Adirondack Council executive director Brian Houseal told WNBZ that although the green group isn't totally against the practice of using chemicals to fight invasives, it is keeping a close eye on how carefully the process is being conducted.
"We are concerned that this could be a precedent for the park. Water is one of our most precious resources," Houseal said. "We should be careful about chemicals and be sure that all the conditions are clear in this project so it can be used as a guide in the future."
Houseal said that issues of water quality top the councils list of concerns and that using chemicals in the park's lakes must be done properly.
The council is also concerned about the potential impact that Renovate OTF could have on non-target plants, especially the endangered freshwater marigold.
A member of the Triclopyr acid family of herbicide, it is specifically designed to only target broad-leaved dichotic plants. Like Eurasian milfoil, the freshwater marigold is also a dicot and could potentially be affected by the chemical.
An APA staff analysis concluded that of the 33 known indigenous plant species in Lake Luzerne, eight are dichotic and could suffer from the application if it is not properly conducted.
APA aquatic biologist Ed Sniznek said that in order to combat these pitfalls, the application would take place in mid-May, when the indigenous plants have yet to sprout.
Eurasian milfoil, he said, is an opportunist and tends to begin growing well before the other plants.
Sniznek wasn't afraid to also point out the potential paradigm shift that the approval could represent if all goes well.
"This project could serve as a model for the lakes in the Adirondacks," Sniznek said.
The 11-acre treatment area is only about 10 percent of the total land area of the lake. The agency is requiring the town and its consultant to construct a temporary sequestration wall to keep the herbicide from spreading throughout the lake.
The concentration levels of the herbicide will be monitored within and outside of the treatment area, he said.
Over the last three years, the town has spent $49,500 on more traditional methods of combating milfoil, like hand picking and matting. But it has only been able to effectively fight the plant in 3.75 acres with that sum.
In contrast, town officials said the one-time Renovate OTF application is expected cost between $15,000 and $20,000 while thinning the dense milfoil population in nearly triple the area.
The APA had previously denied an application to use more a toxic chemical in Lake George several years ago.