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August 1, 2012

Team recommends immediate action to prevent invasive spread

PLATTSBURGH — Officials are recommending steps to prevent the spiny water flea from entering Lake Champlain, including redirecting the flow of water from the Champlain Canal.

But the New York Canal Corp. said it will not close the canal to boat traffic.

The spiny water flea, a tiny creature that feeds off plankton and can cause considerable damage to the ecosystem, was first identified in June near Lock 9 in the Champlain Canal, about 13 miles south of Whitehall on the southern edge of Lake Champlain.

That confirmation sparked the Lake Champlain Basin Program’s Aquatic Invasive Species Rapid Response Task Force into action to determine the best plan to meet this potential treat to the main lake.

NO QUICK FIX

“The Task Force has determined that it is not scientifically and technically feasible to contain and eradicate the spiny water flea in a rapid-response time frame,” said Meg Modley, coordinator for the Basin Program’s aquatic invasive-species management program.

“Even if we were to contain them, killing them all would not be feasible,” she added. “The Champlain Canal and Glens Falls Feeder Canal are complex systems. You can’t simply close the lock and stop the water flow. All parts of the system would have to be treated.” 

The team identified two options:

▶ Closing three locks on the canal and diverting the flow of water into the Hudson drainage to the south.

▶ Installing a hydrologic barrier to prevent the movement of the water flea and all other aquatic invasive species through the canal system at Lock 9. A boat lift would be required for this second option so vessels could continue to travel through the system.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

However, both options face significant obstacles. The New York State Canal Corp. is required by law to keep the waters of the Champlain Canal open and navigable. The Canal Corp. issued a statement this week saying that it would not consider that option, citing the economic impact such a move would have on marinas, restaurants and other businesses along the access route to Lake Champlain.

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