PLATTSBURGH — A new sea-lamprey treatment used on the Saranac River delta this week proved extremely successful, with a high number of deaths confirmed.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, working with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Service, targeted sea-lamprey larvae living in the delta sediment. Officials used a granular lampricide, called Bayluscide, during the day-long application on Monday.
“We don’t like to estimate specific numbers (of larvae deaths), but I would say they were in the hundreds of thousands,” said Brad Young of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Everything went very well. We’re extremely pleased with the outcome.”
Lamprey larvae, which are non-parasitic, burrow into the muddy sediment of rivers and deltas, where they slowly mature over a four-year period. At that time, they transform into the parasitic adults that wreak havoc on fish populations living in Lake Champlain.
Treatments in areas like the Saranac River delta are scheduled once every four years to ensure a majority of larvae are killed before they transform into adults.
With this year’s low water levels, officials had less area to treat than in the past, Young noted. Although conditions were windy Monday, workers were able to apply chemicals without difficulty.
“It would have been too windy to treat if we were using the old technique,” Young said.
In the past, technicians used a converted salt spreader on a pontoon boat to spread the granular chemicals over deltas. Now, for the first time, they used a customized 25-foot lampricide spray boat that covers 30-foot sections at a time, compared to 14-foot coverage with the old technique.
“It has worked as advertised,” said boat operator Steve Smith from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We’re very happy with it. It’s helped us kill an awful lot of lamprey.”
“It’s hard to describe how much improved this technology is, but I’d say it’s like comparing a horse and buggy to a Ferrari,” Young added.
The boat, designed by Leistner Aquatic Services, is equipped with a computer system that programs how much Bayluscide should be administered based on how fast the boat is going at any given time.
Workers began preparing for the treatment at 7 a.m. and were finished by 3 p.m. At the height of the effort, countless seagulls and terns converged on the delta, attracted to an easy meal as scores of larvae succumbed to the chemical.
Bayluscide specifically targets sea lamprey without impacting other fish and animals.
Officials will next treat the Winooski River in Vermont before returning to New York with treatments scheduled for Mount Hope Brook at the southern tip of Lake Champlain, Mill Brook in Port Henry and the Great Chazy River, which will be done later in October.
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WATER ADVISORIES Temporary water-use advisories are put in place after lamprey treatment and are now set for Lake Champlain surrounding the Saranac River delta through today. Officials recommend that water from the area not be used for drinking, swimming, fishing irrigation or for livestock. Updated information on advisories related to Lake Champlain lamprey treatment is available by calling a special hotline at (888) 596-0611.