September 3, 2012

Lamprey treatments on Lake Champlain to commence soon

Annual program to control fish-damaging pest begins Sept. 10 on Saranac


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Officials are concerned that low water in Lake Champlain tributaries may impact this year’s sea-lamprey treatment program.

But they still hope to complete the scheduled treatments in several rivers and deltas.

The effort is slated to begin with the Saranac River delta Sept. 10, where weather conditions will be the deciding factor.

“Low water (in Lake Champlain) is actually better for treating the delta,” said Bradley Young of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the multi-agency program.

“The lake is so low that there are fewer acres of submerged delta to treat.”

Lamprey larvae living in the muddy sediment of a river delta will move from an area that dries up and back into the shrinking delta, Young noted, helping officials to target their treatment to a smaller area.

“The only thing that would impact the (Saranac delta) treatment would be weather, high winds or lightning storms,” he said.

The Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative, which includes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, treats the Saranac delta once every four years.


The delta continues to host a high population of lamprey larvae, despite successful treatments in the past.

“Female sea lampreys carry so many eggs, and it takes just one male to fertilize them,” Young said. “Even after successful treatments, it takes just a few individuals to replenish the population.”

Officials have not treated the Saranac River for many years because of low population numbers there, but recent surveys have suggested lamprey are increasing, and officials may consider treating the river in the future, Young said.

The Great Chazy River has traditionally been a hotbed of sea-lamprey activity, and more than 20 miles of the river from Mooers down to Champlain will be treated in October, if weather allows.

“We’re not concerned (about missing a treatment) yet,” Young said. “But if we had to treat tomorrow, we’d be concerned.”

A few rain showers between now and the Oct. 16 treatment date will be helpful, he added.

Treating late in the season is also beneficial since foliage growing along the river will not be taking up as much water as does during the warmer months.

The amount of plant growth in the water also impacts treatment on the Chazy.

Excessive plant growth causes fluctuations in pH levels, which can negatively impact lamprey-control chemicals.


Last year, the treatment program faced high water levels with the flooding conditions from the spring runoff and Tropical Storm Irene, but officials were able to complete all scheduled treatments with much success, Young noted.

Sea lampreys are parasites that feed on the bodily fluids of large fish in Lake Champlain. The lamprey-treatment program targets lamprey larvae that live in the sediment of rivers and deltas before they transform into adults and return to the open lake.


Assessments of Lake Champlain fish taken in 2011 recorded an average of 30 sea-lamprey wounds per 100 lake trout and 19 wounds per 100 Atlantic salmon, down from a high of 99 wounds per 100 lake trout in 2007 and 70 wounds per 100 salmon in 2003.

Temporary water-use advisories will be in effect for each of the treatment areas, which also include Mill Brook and delta in Port Henry and Mount Hope Brook at the southern tip of Lake Champlain.

Officials recommend that water from those areas not be used for drinking, swimming, fishing irrigation or for livestock while advisories are in effect.

Residents in the affected areas have received letters asking if they require an alternative water supply during treatments.

Local television and radio stations will broadcast the dates when advisories begin and expire and whether scheduled treatments have been postponed.

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For more information on the 2012 lamprey-treatment program and updates on the treatment schedule, call 1-888-596-0611.