September 10, 2013

Water level affects lamprey treatment


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Officials have postponed this year’s opening lamprey-treatment session by two weeks due to low water in Putnam Creek in Crown Point.

However, treatment scheduled for Sept. 18 on the Saranac River is expected to begin without delay.

The Putnam Creek operation was originally slated for today but has been moved to Sept. 24.

“The water level is way too low for treatment at this time,” said Bradley Young of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which conducts lamprey treatment of rivers, streams and deltas in the Lake Champlain basin each year.

“We’re hoping the water flow will come up by some means before that date.”


Significant rainfall before the rescheduled treatment date would be ideal for officials, but Young noted that streams often rise later in September when surrounding trees stop removing water from the soil as they prepare for their winter dormancy.

“It’s a phenomenon we see every September,” he said of the forests’ ability to affect stream flows.

Officials are not as concerned about the low water levels in the Saranac River, he added. As a much larger river, the Saranac will disperse lampricide chemicals more readily during treatment. 

Since Putnam Creek is very small, officials are fearful of a slow dispersal during treatment.


Working with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, Young’s agency treats the lake’s tributaries to reduce the number of lamprey larvae living in sediment along the river bottom.

Concentrations of lampricide are chosen and monitored to ensure effective elimination of the larvae while protecting non-target species living in the treated areas.

When larvae transform into adult lampreys, they enter the open lake and feed off the bodily fluids of such species as lake trout and Atlantic salmon.


Treatment, which has been occurring on a regular basis for well over a decade, has proven to reduce the number of lamprey attacks on the lake’s fish populations.

In 2007, for instance, an average of 99 out 100 lake trout had lamprey wounds, but only 40 out of 100 had wounds by 2012.

Salmon wounds also dropped from 70 per 100 in 2003 to 21 per 100 in 2012.

Treatments are held on specific body waters every four years to respond to the four-year life cycle that lamprey larvae spend developing in river sediment.

However, the Saranac River has not been treated during the past several cycles because of low larvae levels there.

“The rivers are routinely checked (for larvae), and we had not really seen anything (in the Saranac),” Young said.

But recent tests on the Saranac have revealed a large population has returned to the river, he added.

Treatments will begin just below Imperial Dam.


Officials will also treat Stone Bridge Brook and the Lamoille River in Vermont during this cycle.

The process will be modified next year as officials look to fine-tune their treatment plans. Rather than continue with the four-year cycle that saw streams and deltas in New York and Vermont treated during the same year, officials will tackle larvae according to geographic location.

“Next year, we will treat everything in New York from the Great Chazy River south to the Boquet River (except for the Saranac River),” he said. 

“We’re trying to coordinate water deliveries (for residents of affected areas), posting signs and water advisories.”


In 2015, treatments will be concentrated in New York and Vermont rivers along the southern edge of the lake, while northern Vermont will be the focus in 2016. 

None will be performed in 2017, but treatment will return to northern New York in 2018, when the Saranac River will be included in the schedule.

This year, water-use advisories will be in effect for each treatment area. Officials recommend that treated water not be used for drinking, swimming, fishing, irrigation or livestock while precautions are in effect.

Local television and radio stations will broadcast the dates when advisories begin and expire.

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For more information on the lamprey-treatment schedule, progress report, updates on treatments and water-use advisories, call (888) 596-0611.