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Sun., Oct. 4
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Army Corps of Engineers releases Black Lake study


MORRISTOWN – The Army Corps of Engineers has released a study of the Black Lake’s excessive weed growth that recommends further study aimed at the proper management of the lake.

The study was funded by a $100,000 grant from the federal government, and was conducted last year.

In particular the study, directed by St. Lawrence University biology professor Brad Baldwin, was focused on the invasive Eurasian watermilfoil weed and how to regulate further growth.

The study notes that excessive weed growth can restrict the recreational use of the lake, gives off foul odors and can reduce real estate values.

On the other hand, Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager Sophie Fitek Baj said the lake has “always been a very weedy place, which is good for fish,” adding that the weeds play a role in the lake remaining a popular fishing destination.

Going back in the historical record, Ms. Baj said, she’s found reports from the 1930s describing mats of weeds clogging channels and making it difficult for boaters to navigate the lake’s shallow bays.

“The problem is never fixed; it’s just managed. The weeds are here to stay,” she said.

The study recommended several courses of action, each of which would require additional funding and research.

The first option is to do nothing, though the study notes this option would result in excessive weed growth continuing on the lake.

Other options include manually harvesting or trampling the weeds, introducing new species into the ecosystem that prey on the weeds, using herbicides and reducing the nutrient levels in the lake.

Ms. Baj said that after consulting with residents, any chemical options of irradiating the weeds are essentially off the table.

Any further action will require an estimated $324,000 feasibility study.

Half percent of the cost would be shouldered by the federal government and the other half would come from the St. Lawrence County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Conservation District Manager Dawn C. Howard said they’ve already informed the Corps they are interested in pursuing the feasibility study.

Ms. Baj said yet to be determined is whether the federal government can come up with the funding.

She said the project is not a high priority.

In addition, Ms. Baj said, the actual implementation of any action plan could cost millions. The combination of annual upkeep, maintenance and annual testing would put a strain on local governments that would be relied upon to foot the bill, she said.

But that doesn’t mean the community should stop attempting to control the weeds, Ms. Baj said.

The Corps study, along with an assessment of the health of the lake written by Mr. Baldwin, are intended to inform the public about ways they can contribute to the lake’s health, even without federal funding.

Mr. Baldwin said lake tourism has an estimated $7 million annual economic impact, thanks largely to fishing.

Ms. Baj said a balance needs to be struck between the growth of weeds – which shelter fish and allow their populations to grow – and other uses of the lake.

“It’s always been a very weedy place which is good for fish, but it’s not good for boaters. There’s always a trade-off,” she said.

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