A survey of Lake George is needed to determine the actual threat posed by invasive species. That’s the assessment of Dr. Dean Cook of Ticonderoga, a member of the Lake George Park Commission, in discussing the spiny water flea — one of five invasive species now confirmed in Lake George — during a meeting of the LGPC aquatic invasive species committee in Ti recently.
A survey of Lake George is needed to determine the actual threat posed by invasive species.
That’s the assessment of Dr. Dean Cook of Ticonderoga, a member of the Lake George Park Commission, in discussing the spiny water flea — one of five invasive species now confirmed in Lake George — during a meeting of the LGPC aquatic invasive species committee in Ti recently.
“It points out the need for a lake-wide survey,” Cook said of the spiny water flea discovery. “Every invasive species found in Lake George in the last two years was discovered accidentally, including the spiny water flea.”
The spiny water flea was found near Mossy Point in Ticonderoga in August. It has now been confirmed in 10 locations in Lake George, according to David Wick, LGPC executive director.
“It’s pretty much throughout the lake,” Wick said. “We suspect the spiny water flea has probably been in the lake for a couple years and we just found it.”
Wick said the Lake George Park Commission has no management strategy for the spiny water flea at this time.
“Our next step is to do no more than monitor it,” he said. “There’s no human health impact. We’ll watch to see the impact it may have on fisheries.”
The state Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed in August water fleas were found in Lake George by an angler in Ticonderoga. It was almost certainly inadvertently brought in by boaters from already-infested waters elsewhere.
A native of Asia, the flea, which is actually a tiny crustacean, can out-compete native fish for food sources, and swarms in such large numbers that masses of fleas can foul fishing lines.
“DEC has worked with its partners on the Lake Champlain Basin Task Force to stop and slow the spread of the spiny water flea,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a statement. “The discovery of spiny water flea in Lake George is not welcome news.”
The spiny water flea is the fifth confirmed aquatic invasive species to reach Lake George. The others are zebra mussels, asian clams, eurasian watermilfoil and curly-leaf pondweed.
The Lake George Park Commission spends more than $1 million a year to battle invasive species, Wick said. So far, it’s a battle with mixed results.
Asian clams, which have already been confirmed in the lake near Million Dollar Beach in Lake George village and in Bolton, have been discovered in four new locations, Wick said.
Wick declined to identify the sites of the new clam discoveries, saying a survey of the lake is being done to determine the full extent of the clam population.
There are also concerns about a new threat, quagga mussels.
Walt Lender, executive director of the Lake George Association, told the committee two boats checked at Norowal Marina in Bolton were found to be carrying quagga mussels, an eurasian mollusk that has infested parts of the Great Lakes.
Lender said lake stewards prevented the quagga mussels from reaching the lake.
“It was a big save,” he said.
Quagga mussels breed rapidly, and can colonize a lake bottom up to 100 feet deep, Lender said. The mollusks can encrust surfaces like boat hulls, propellers and docks. Quagga mussels can foul water with excretions, which could damage the quality of drinking water from the lake.
Not all the news is bad, Wick noted.
Eurasian watermilfoil, while a still a problem near Hague, is at historic lows in Lake George, he said.
“It’s a real success story,” Wick said of milfoil eradication efforts.
The Lake George Park Commission is considering regulations to fight the spread of invasive species in the lake — regulations that could include mandatory decontamination of boats prior to launching, designated hours at public launches and new fees.
“There are still a lot of questions to be answered,” Wick said. “No decisions have been made. We’re meeting with people and exploring options.”
Invasive species are reaching the lake, Wick said, from boats that have been in other bodies of water and carry the unwanted hitchhikers.
The committee is meeting every two weeks in communities around the lake as it prepares to make recommendations on how to best deal with the problem of invasive species. Wick expects the LGPC to decide on possible regulations this fall and implement them in 2013.
Wick said the LGPC has four options:
— It can do nothing.
— It can ask boaters to participate in voluntary inspections.
— It can require mandatory inspection and decontamination of boats.
— It can rely on self-certification by boaters themselves.