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Boaters warned to avoid hitchhiking pests

Lake stewards will be on duty all summer at Saratoga Lake, performing courtesy inspections.

Lake stewards will be on duty all summer at Saratoga Lake, performing courtesy inspections. Photo by Julie Cushine-Rigg.

— You might think a clump of weeds gathered at the back of a boat after a day of fun and sun on a nearby lake is nothing remarkable. But there are plenty of folks who make targeting such hitchhikers their job.

Such clumps are most likely Eurasian watermilfoil, a particularly invasive species present in Saratoga Lake and many other waters in the region, including Lake George.

“Eurasian watermilfoil is present throughout New York,” said John Bennett, pesticide program manager for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. He added that sources for species like the milfoil go back to Europe and Asia.

Saratoga Lake is home to the milfoil, zebra mussels and curly leaf pond weed — all species the DEC would like to keep from spreading. The presence of an invasive species can have a number of effects on an ecosystem, including displacing or stifling native species.

To help control the spread of these invaders and to inform boaters of their presence, organizations like Saratoga Lake Protection and Improvement District (SLPID) have implemented a Watershed Stewardship Program. Theirs is contracted through Paul Smith’s College in Brighton and was started in2009.

“SLPID has done an integrated approach, tried to educate users and boaters and work together to prevent the spread of invasive species,” said Bennett.

Saratoga Lake is the southernmost body of water included in the Watershed Steward Program, which is directed by Eric Holmlund of Paul Smith’s College.

Stewards at Saratoga Lake include Cody Rickman and Greg Redling. They monitor boats entering and exiting the lake at the state boat launch off the Route 9P bridge and collect data that are later submitted to the program director. Data are later shared with the Lake Champlain Watershed Program.

Most of the invasive species grow in the littoral zone, or “the zone of light” according to Redling.

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