State pro­gram to fight in­va­sive aquatic species

The News-Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Ka­t­rina Ko­ert­ing

Some sum­mers the Eurasian wa­ter­mil­foil was so bad at Can­dle­wood Lake that boats strug­gled to get through the in­va­sive weeds and the plants reached sev­eral feet to the sur­face.

Eurasian wa­ter­mil­foil has grown so much around res­i­dents’ docks around Lake Lilli­nonah, it has raised con­cerns that swim­mers could get en­tan­gled and pos­si­bly drown at bod­ies of wa­ter around the state.

Prop­erty own­ers worry the in­abil­ity to use the lakes could hurt their prop­erty val­ues.

Towns and lake au­thor­i­ties will get some much needed help in tackling the is­sue with the passage of a pro­gram that is ex­pected to gen­er­ate about $500,000 an­nu­ally to fight in­va­sive species. A one-time $50,000 cost would es­tab­lish the pro­gram.

“This is one way to not only pro­tect our waters but main­tain the en­vi­ron­men­tal bal­ance and pro­tect

prop­erty val­ues,” said Phyl­lis Schaer, chair­woman for the Can­dle­wood Lake Au­thor­ity.

Un­der the pro­gram, boat own­ers would pur­chase a boat stamp — $5 for Connecticu­t res­i­dents and $25 for those out of state. The bill passed by a wide mar­gin in the state House and Se­nate ear­lier this month and now heads to Gov. Ned La­mont to sign. It would go into ef­fect Jan. 1.

Schaer said the money will be great for lake main­te­nance, pro­grams to re­move in­va­sive species and ed­u­ca­tional ini­tia­tives.

“It’s a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity,” she said. “There’s def­i­nitely a short­age of funds and grant money.”

The lake au­thor­ity has been try­ing to start a boat de­con­tam­i­na­tion pro­gram to keep boats from bring­ing in­va­sive species into Can­dle­wood. It has the unit, but doesn’t have the money to hire the staff to run the pro­gram. Schaer said this fund could help and they could fi­nally make it op­er­a­tional.

Larry Mar­si­cano, a lake con­sul­tant with Aquatic Ecosys­tem Re­search and for­mer ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Can­dle­wood Lake Au­thor­ity, said fund­ing was the big­gest need iden­ti­fied by the mem­bers of the Connecticu­t Fed­er­a­tion of Lakes and lo­cal politi­cians last year, prompt­ing the bill.

“It’s not un­usual for (towns and lake au­thor­i­ties) to be spend­ing tens of thou­sands of dol­lars — and if you’re doing that an­nu­ally, that adds up pretty quickly,” he said.

This isn’t the first time fund­ing has been an is­sue, Mar­si­cano said. The state used to have a Connecticu­t Lakes pro­gram but it didn’t get money and so fell by the way­side.

A few years ago, then-state Sen. Clark Chapin, R-New Mil­ford, was able to get some money in the state Depart­ment of En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion’s bud­get for lakes, but that was only for a cou­ple of years.

That money helped the Can­dle­wood Lake Au­thor­ity start the ster­ile grass carp pro­gram in 2015 to eat the mil­foil, which is show­ing some success.

Mar­si­cano worked along­side sev­eral area leg­is­la­tors, en­vi­ron­men­tal groups and Bill Hy­att, the for­mer nat­u­ral re­sources bureau chief at DEEP, to help cre­ate the pro­posal. Mar­si­cano said state Reps. Steve Hard­ing, David Ar­conti, Ken Gucker and state Sens. Craig Miner and Julie Kush­ner, were all in­flu­en­tial in get­ting it passed.

“We had great sup­port from them,” Mar­si­cano said, adding lake mem­bers reached out to their leg­is­la­tors for sup­port and lo­cal lead­ers helped as well.

New Fair­field Select­man Khris­tine Hall tes­ti­fied in sup­port of the bill.

“If the qual­ity of the lake were to be de­graded, it could have a neg­a­tive im­pact on the financial vi­a­bil­ity of the town as well as on our com­mer­cial en­ter­prises,” she said in a state­ment. “Fund­ing is needed to study the lake, de­fine and mea­sure the ex­tent of the threat, de­fine so­lu­tions, and help fund ap­proaches to min­i­mize the threat.”

One of those threats is hy­drilla, which grows rapidly. Ze­bra mus­sels along the Housatonic River are also posing a risk.

“Peo­ple say hy­drilla makes mil­foil look tame,” Mar­si­cano said.

Mar­si­cano said it didn’t use to have a strong­hold in Connecticu­t but is now ram­pant in the Connecticu­t River, which is a pop­u­lar wa­ter­way and so the fund comes at an even more im­por­tant time as groups try to keep it in check.

“Peo­ple need help,” he said. “This is an ac­tual mech­a­nism that will keep re­sources avail­able.”

Hearst Connecticu­t Me­dia file photo

Greg Bug­bee, an as­so­ciate sci­en­tist with the Connecticu­t Agri­cul­tural Ex­per­i­ment Sta­tion, lifts a hand­ful of Eurasian wa­ter­mil­foil from Squantz Pond in New Fair­field in 2016.

Hearst Connecticu­t Me­dia file photo

Grass carp are taken off a truck to go into Can­dle­wood Lake at the New Fair­field Town Park in 2017. About 4,000 ster­ile grass carp were trucked in from Arkansas to eat the Eurasian wa­ter­mil­foil.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.