State Turns To Local Volunteers To Help Protect Lakes From Invasive Species

Program Helps Fill Void In Staffing At DEEP

By JOSEPH ADINOLFI, jadinolfi@courant.com
The Hartford Courant

The state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has launched a new initiative that relies on local volunteers to help combat the spread of invasive plants and animal species in Connecticut’s lakes.

The Invasive Investigators program trains volunteers to examine boats arriving at lakes for signs of invasive species. The volunteers also educate boaters in their communities about how to properly clean their vessels so they don’t spread invasive species to other lakes.

The volunteers help fill a large void in DEEP staffing. The department employs about 20 seasonal boating assistants who are spread among 120 state boat launches. But hundreds of town-owned and private boat launches are outside the department’s jurisdiction.

In helping prevent the spread of invasive species, the volunteers perform many of the same duties that paid staff members do but potentially have a much wider reach. They are free to offer their services at town-owned and private launches.

The DEEP is hoping the effort will mitigate the damage that invasive species cause to Connecticut’s lakes. Although the program is meant to curb the spread of all invasive species, this year the DEEP placed special emphasis on the dangers posed by the zebra mussel, a tiny mollusk already found in four Connecticut lakes.

Zebra mussels cling to boat bottoms, the pipes of water treatment plants, hydroelectric assemblies and marina pilings. They destroy marine life by removing sources of food used by some fish and other organisms.

The zebra mussel, native to Eastern Europe, was first found in Connecticut in 1998 in Salisbury’s Twin Lakes, according to Gwendolyn Flynn of the DEEP.

By November 2010, two lakes in western Connecticut, Lake Lillinonah and Lake Zoar, had become infested with the mollusks — just one of 19 invasive marine plants and animal species found in Connecticut.

Members of the Candlewood Lake community are trying to stop zebra mussels from spreading to their lake from nearby Zoar and Lillinonah. Candlewood already has other invasive species, including Eurasian milfoil, a prickly aquatic plant that repels swimmers.

“We don’t have zebra mussels yet, but they’re knocking at our door,” said Larry Marsicano, president of the Connecticut Federation of Lakes and executive director of the Candlewood Lake Authority.

Zebra mussels can attach themselves to most living and non-living surfaces, including boats. Unwitting boaters traveling from lake to lake risk carrying the stowaways to new waters if they don’t properly clean their boats.

Since April, the Invasive Investigators program has trained more than 70 volunteers during five sessions held in sites throughout the state.

The volunteers, generally boaters themselves, learn how to identify common invasive plants and animals and how to teach the proper boat-cleaning procedure — “clean, drain and dry” — to those who use their lakes.

The volunteers work shifts at boat launches in their communities to inspect arriving boats for invasive species, with the boat owners’ permission.

Although volunteers can inspect boats, they cannot prevent them — even those harboring invasive species — from entering the water. They can, however, report such boaters to the DEEP, which will then refer the matter to the department’s area environmental conservation officers for possible investigation, Flynn said.

In Connecticut, boaters are legally obligated to clean all plant matter — invasive or otherwise — off their boats after they leave any body of water. Boaters found trying to enter a lake with any plant matter on their boats risk a $95 state fine. State law doesn’t similarly bar zebra mussels or other animal species, but such regulations are being considered, Flynn said.

Flynn said the department’s hope is that any lake visitor made aware that his boat is carrying an invasive species will take the time to voluntarily remove it — even if that means rescheduling boating plans.

In late May, for example, a volunteer at Candlewood Lake found zebra mussels on a boat that, according to its owner, had been purchased near the Hudson River. The boat’s owner left the lake, cleaned the boat and passed a follow-up inspection when he returned, Flynn said.

The volunteers are highly motivated because they work in their area communities. They have an intimate knowledge of their own lakes and the desire to protect them.

Phyllis Schaer of Sherman, chairwoman of the Candlewood Lake Authority’s invasive species subcommittee, wakes up early on Saturdays to begin her rounds at Candlewood Lake. She typically offers to inspect the boats of about 11 newcomers a day, she said. She also takes the time to teach members of the lake community how to take care of their boats to prevent spreading invasive species.

Schaer said that many boaters do not take the problem seriously because they feel no impact from a single pest they fail to clean from their boat. But over the long term, if the invasive species settles in their local lake, it is expensive for the community to contain it.

“It’s insidious because people think that if these things don’t bite you, they’re not dangerous. But they bite you in your economic pocketbook,” Schaer said.

For more information about invasive species in Connecticut and how to prevent spreading them, visit http://www.ct.gov/dep/invasivespecies

Action is needed on invasive species

By: West Central Tribune of Willmar, DL-Online

Kandiyohi County Commissioner Dennis Peterson is very concerned about the issue of invasive species and area lakes.

Peterson is frustrated about the lack of action by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Legislature on the invasive issue around the state.

Peterson and other Kandiyohi County commissioners are correct to be concerned.

Zebra mussels were found recently in lakes in the Alexandria area of Douglas County. That area is very close to Kandiyohi County. Peterson reported Tuesday that property values on those lakes have already dropped 30 percent.

If zebra mussels are not stopped from invading Green Lake and other county lakes, there will be a corresponding decline of real values on Kandiyohi County lakes. The same thing can happen in other counties in the region. This will, in turn, have an impact on every other property owner — homeowner or business.

A 30 percent decline on Green Lake and other county lake property would have a significant impact on the Kandiyohi County tax base.

As some property owners on county lakes have been saying, the threat of zebra mussels and other invasive species is not just an issue for lake property owners.

While Green Lake and other lake property owners in the county have been investing funding in prevention of the spread of invasive species into Kandiyohi County, their efforts only go so far. More significant and organized efforts are needed to prevent the spread of invasive species into Kandiyohi County.

Interested Kandiyohi County citizens are encouraged to attend a meeting at 1 p.m. Friday at the Douglas County Library in Alexandria, hosted by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, chairman of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

We commend Peterson, the rest of the County Board and Green Lake and other lake property owners for their efforts thus far in preventing invasive species, especially zebra mussels, so far in Kandiyohi County.

The time has come for all Kandiyohi County citizens to recognize the danger of invasive species, especially zebra mussels. We must speak up and call for quicker action and better efforts in the battle against invasive species by DNR officials and the Legislature. — West Central Tribune of Willmar

Invasives: Some People Just Don’t Give a Damn

There have been some frightening interesting news stories lately dealing with some new ($$$) ideas for dealing with Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS).

Bass Parade referenced a Facebook post by Lindner’s Angling Edge, where the Linder’s talk about the potential implementation of “Boat Baths” to stop the spread of AIS.

Then there is the Star Tribune article about the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and how they are suggesting a system of Green / Red Sticker permits for boats. Green Sticker means you can put your boat on Non-Infested waters, a Red Sticker means you must have your craft professionally cleaned before launching on another body of water.

Look at the MN DNR map of Zebra Mussels they found in Lake Minnetonka in 2010. They first were spotted on the East side of the lake, presumably from the Grey’s Bay launch. Grey’s Bay is a notorious Recreational Boater launch. From there the Zebra Mussels are found moving westward to many of the popular Marina’s and Party Beaches.

Posted by Tom Harkman

Special Segment: Lake Invaders

Ron Magers

November 8, 2010 (CHICAGO) (WLS) — Researchers are sounding a warning that there is a threat to the Great Lakes that may be worse than the Asian carp.

The new threat is literally eating up the basic building blocks of life in the lakes.

“We really are seeing the collapse of one of the largest lakes, food webs, in one of the largest lakes in the world,” said Dr. Charles Kerfoot of Michigan Technological University.

Dr. Kerfoot has been surprised by what he and his team have found.

“We saw a ring of chlorophyl in southern Lake Michigan,” said Kerfoot.

That was the first surprise. Something like chlorophyl is supposed to be evenly mixed in the waters of the lake. But in the late 1990s the Michigan tech team, and numerous other researchers and agencies, used boats and mini-submarines, and sophisticated buoys and even satellite imagery, to prove that a kind of doughnut exists in southern Lake Michigan. The round swirl is a merry-go-round of phytoplankton and zooplankton, the basic building block of life in the lake. The doughnut is kicked up by winter storms and it swirls around a low spot in the lake. That was surprising enough, but there was more.

“Then came the quagga mussels. We picked them up near the end of the project in 2001,” said Dr. Kerfoot.

Think of the quagga as a cousin of the more famous zebra mussel. They probably arrived in the ballast water of foreign ships. The quagga now lives in the soft bottom of the Lake Michigan. Five years ago a one-square meter soil sample of lake bottom contained dozens of them. But more recent samples show as many as 15,000 per square meter.

Quaggas are multiplying very rapidly, and they are eating the doughnut.

“They eat all the building blocks out of that water column. They are sucking down all the particulate matter, and that includes the chlorophyl. So the primary producers are being literally sucked out of the lake down to the quagga layer,” said Dr. Kerfoot.

Starting in April of 2001 when researchers first found the quagga, they found an abundance of chlorophyl, phytoplankton and zooplankton. But by 2008, they found the doughnut had been eaten away.

Further evidence is how clear the water has become in southern Lake Michigan. Kerfoot estimates the quagga are already consuming four to seven times more of the basic food building blocks than the lake can produce. He fears the lake is losing the battle.

“There’s something wrong when you get water as clear as your bathtub water. There’s nothing living in it. What is happening is a collapse of the food chain,” said Dr. Kerfoot.

The research goes on, while Dr. Kerfoot and the Michigan tech team wonder why no one else seems to hear the alarm. He says research on how to control the Quagga is desperately needed but he doesn’t know of anyone who is doing it.

(Copyright ©2010 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)