Hydrilla in Cayuga Lake Inlet- Two Year Anniversary

by Kirsten Goranowski, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Assistant

Kirsten Goranowski, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Assistant
Kirsten Goranowski, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Assistant

This mid-August marks the two-year anniversary of the Hydrilla verticillata detection in the Cayuga Lake Inlet by a staff member of the Cayuga Lake Floating Classroom (Cornell Cooperative Extension Invasive Species Program, 2012). The Cayuga Lake Inlet is located between Treman State Marine Park and the Route 89 Bridge in Ithaca, New York.

For those of you who are are unfamiliar with Hydrilla verticillata, or commonly known as ‘hydrilla,’ this is an extremely aggressive aquatic invasive that is considered to be one of the world’s worst invasive species. In fact, infestations are capable of altering the physical and chemical characteristics of lakes, as it causes impacts such as producing in extremely thick mats that obstruct recreation, block sunlight for native plants, and decrease waterfowl feeding areas (Cornell Cooperative Extension Invasive Species Program, 2012). Figure 1 illustrates a close up look at this extremely hardy aquatic invasive plant that makes recreation in a waterbody nearly impossible once it has become established. Try swimming through that! Gross!

Figure 1: Taken from www.nyis.org. Close-up of Hydrilla. Photo: Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, Bugwood.org
Figure 1: Taken from http://www.nyis.org. Close-up of Hydrilla. Photo: Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, Bugwood.org

Native to Southeast Asia, hydrilla was first imported into the United States as an aquarium plant, which was later believed to have been released into the wild through an aquarium dump during the 1950’s in Florida (Cornell Cooperative Extension Invasive Species Program, 2012). Hydrilla has been listed as a noxious weed since 1979 on the USDA’s Federal Noxious Weed List and is illegal to sell/buy in the United States (Menninger, 2011).

Soon after its discovery in 2011, the Hydrilla Task Force formed to research the risks and possible responses of this invasive, involve agencies at all levels of government and interested parties, make recommendations to those that could carry out action, and to provide extensive outreach and education in the Cayuga Lake Watershed. A follow up survey in late August 2011 by aquatic biologist Robert Johnson found roughly 6-8 acres of dense hydrilla mats located in high boat traffic areas of the Cayuga Inlet (Menninger, 2011).

This location represented a concern for the potential of increasing the spread of Hydrilla due to recreational disturbance, as fragments are easily caught on boat propellers and further dispersed. In Fighting Hydrilla in Cayuga Inlet 2011, the City of Ithaca declared an emergency and the decision to use herbicides was not made lightly (Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County). The Inlet remained closed for about two weeks to conduct the October 2011 herbicide application of Endothall, as well as reduce disturbance by boat traffic. Use of the Inlet for drinking water was restricted for 14 days within 600 feet of the application site. Endothall levels were continually monitored until they were undetectable by the Tompkins County Department of Health as well as the City of Ithaca.

With its first year, it was found that the Endothall application, which was applied 4 different times, killed approximately 95% of the plants biomass above the soil level (which is very good). This bought some time as the Hydrilla Task Force continued to meet throughout the winter months as they drafted an initial 2012 Hydrilla Work Plan. The 2011 herbicide proved to be successful, so they continued a reapplication of Endothall on June 26th, 2012. To increase the effectiveness of eradication in the second year, another herbicide known as Fluridone was applied from July 12th to October 31st in 2012 at very low levels. This additional herbicide assisted in hindering plant growth by killing the roots and tubers. Combined with these efforts, trained volunteers and professionals helped monitor the infestation for any new populations before, during and after these applications.

Figure 2: Invasion Curve (image from Southwest Montana Science Partnership's Module on Plants and Pollinators
Figure 2: Invasion Curve (image from Southwest Montana Science Partnership’s Module on Plants and Pollinators

When infestations such as these are analyzed for action, the Invasion Curve is used by organizations to determine the most sensible action. This Invasion Curve (Figure 2) illustrates introduction of an invasive plant, animal, or insect and its feasibility of eradication over time. As you can see, the longer an invasive species is established over time the eradication feasibility continues to decrease. Fortunately, this hydrilla infestation was detected early enough where eradication was still possible and feasible. There was no sign of Hydrilla in the south end of Cayuga Lake, as the infestation just reached to the mouth of the Inlet (Menninger, 2011).

This past July 16th 2013 was the first Endothall treatment of the 2013 season and was applied in the Cayuga Inlet, the Flood Control Channel, the Treman Marina, and the lower reaches of Cascadilla and Six Mile Creeks. After 24 hours they reopened the Cayuga Inlet on July 17th, 2013 at 8 am, and the first water quality results have since been published. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Tompkins County Soil and Water Conservation District, Tompkins County Health Department, and the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility will continue to work together in the Enthodall Water Quality Monitoring over the next few weeks. Be sure to sign up and receive hydrilla email updates if you are interested.

So, although this eradication is claimed to be still feasible, how much did this treatment cost you may ask? The Endothall treatment this year was contracted to cost $104,140, and the proposed herbicide Fluridone is contracted to cost between $234,267 and $309,109 according to James Balyszak, Program Manager of the Hydrilla Task Force. The expenses for the treatments will be covered by a mix of federal and state funding. He said that these estimated numbers are high due to the inlet’s flow that disperses the herbicide more quickly (Casler, 2013). However, left untreated the problem would cost even more.

So How Can You Help?
It is extremely important to become part of the solution by taking the necessary precautions in Cleaning, Draining, and Drying your boat! Also, properly dispose of water weeds away from the watershed on dry land to prevent fragments or seeds making their way back into the lake.

You should also become familiar with the characteristics of Hydrilla, and report Hydrilla suspects to the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, and to attend future Hydrilla events and volunteer opportunities!

Lastly, strike up a conversation with your local FLI Watercraft Steward! Visit Alex who is working this summer at Taughannock Falls State Park and Allen Treman Marine State Park boat launches to help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species such as Hydrilla!

Upcoming Hydrilla Trainings-
Aquatic Invasive Species Trainings:
The Cayuga County Department of Planning and Economic Development along with Watershed Assessment Associates, LLC and the Finger Lakes Institute will be holding five aquatic invasive species identification training workshops for the public across the Finger Lakes in July. These trainings are free, open to the public, watershed associations, watershed officials and agency personnel. Participants will learn how to identify invasive aquatic plants and animals through presentations and hands-on activities. They will also learn what to do if they find a species of concern. Details

  • July 22nd: 6 pm, Cayuga Lake Watershed Network Offices, 2nd Floor, Zabriskie Hall, Aurora
  • July 23rd: 1 pm, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, Meeting Room A, Ithaca
  • July 23rd: 6 pm, Finger Lakes Institute, Geneva
  • July 24th: 10 am, Yates County Office Building- Auditorium, Penn Yan
  • July 24th: 6 pm, First Presbyterian Church, Skaneateles

Hydrilla Hunt Webinar: On Friday, July 26 The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the New York Federation of Lake Associations (NYSFOLA) will present a webinar to instruct volunteers on the skills needed to identify Hydrilla verticillata (hydrilla). The webinar will kick off the Hydrilla Hunt on Friday, July 26, at 2:00 pm. Participants can join the webinar. Sign in with your name and email.  The password is Hydri11a (using the number 1 not the letter l).

Works Cited
Casler, A. (2013, July 7). Problematic plant threatens lakes. Democrat and Chronicle , p. 1b & 7b.

Cornell Cooperative Extension Invasive Species Program. (2012, October 3). Hydrilla. Retrieved July 10, 2013, from The New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse: http://www.nyis.info/?action=invasive_detail&id=16

Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County. (n.d.). Herbicides In Use. Retrieved from Cornell Cooperative Extension: http://ccetompkins.org/environment/invasive-species/herbicides-use

Menninger, H. (2011). Hydrilla verticillata in the Cayuga Inlet: A science-based review to guide management actions. NY Invasive Species Research Institute, Cornell University, 1-11. Ithaca, NY, USA. Retrieved from The New.

Summer Survey To Show Public Familiarity with AIS

by Sarah DePillo, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Intern

Sarah DePillo WS '14
Sarah DePillo WS ’14

This summer marks my second season working with the Finger Lakes Institute on their remarkably successful Watercraft Steward Program. The Watercraft Steward Program, which has recently kicked off for the summer, places trained stewards at boat launches throughout the Finger Lakes region and on the southern shore of Lake Ontario in an effort to educate boaters on aquatic invasive species issues and prevent the spread of invasive species by physically removing them from boats.

As an educational efficacy assessor for the Watercraft Steward Program, I will be spending this summer designing and administering a survey at several of the boat launches both on weekdays and weekends during the month of July. The survey is intended to measure public perceptions, attitudes towards, and knowledge of invasive species, as well as amenability and support for various management techniques and policy approaches for the overall issue of aquatic invasive species.

Some of the things that the survey is asking are attempting to understand whether the person is familiar with invasive species issues. If they are, where they are getting their information, and what their motivations are for preserving the well-being of the lakes? The survey is also asking questions regarding specific invasive species management techniques, such as transport laws that require boats to be inspected and fines for non-compliant boaters; cleaning stations at launches; the use of herbicides; and more. The survey aims to understand where the public stands on some of these issues and potential actions to resolve them.

Any person who is approached at a boat launch and asked to complete the survey may voluntarily do so as long as they are of 18 years of age. All participants will be greatly appreciated for contributing to our research, and all opinions are valued. Hopefully, the information collected about the users of Finger Lakes boat launches will be valuable both to improve the efficacy of our own Watercraft Steward Program, and also to inform local policy makers and stakeholders of the public opinion and level of involvement or interest regarding these issues.

These are our waterbodies to preserve and protect; help us to understand how we can continue to do so by indicating what you are and are not willing to support in terms of solutions!

Launch of 2013!

by Hilary Gove, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Intern

Hilary Gove, WSP Intern
Hilary Gove, WSP Intern

The Finger Lakes Institute is pleased to announce that the Watercraft Steward Program has successfully begun its second season! The boat stewards began last week with two days of training at the Finger Lakes Institute. They were trained in how to properly inspect and clean boats of aquatic life and how to identify the most harmful aquatic invasive species (AIS) known to the Finger Lakes, such as Hydrilla, Asian Clam and Round Goby. They also learned about the devastating environmental and economic costs associated with the spread of aquatic invasive species.

After training, the stewards took to the boat launches. Stewards, in the rain and shine, have been working hard since last Friday inspecting boats for aquatic invasive species and informing boaters about the consequences of aquatic hitchhikers. Their goal is to stop the movement of aquatic invasive species, which are frequently carried on watercraft and boating equipment to different launches across the Finger Lakes. In addition to cleaning boats of aquatic life, stewards have been providing interested boaters with educational materials to increase awareness of identification of AIS and encouraging self inspections to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

This season is already proving to be a great success! In just the first week of work, stewards have inspected over 1,500 boats and have reached out to over 3,600 boaters! They are actively helping prevent the spread of harmful invasives, such as Curly- Leaf Pondweed, Eurasian Watermilfoil and Zebra Mussels, by removing them from watercraft.

Throughout this 2013 season, stewards will be present on all eleven Finger Lakes as well as Irondequoit Bay and Braddock Bay, located on the southern shores of Lake Ontario. Stewards will be located at 20 boat launches across the lakes at variable times, collecting valuable data on aquatic invasive species and educating the public. Throughout the summer, stewards will attend local events, such as fishing derbies and festivals, to help further facilitate community outreach about invasive species.

Next time you are at a boat launch in the Finger Lakes, look for a steward in a red shirt and hat! Remember to STOP AQUATIC HITCHHIKERS by inspecting  (clean, drain and dry) your boat, equipment, pets,  and fishing gear!

If you are interested in learning more about aquatic invasive species identification, click here. Five free, public workshops will be offered in July across the Finger Lakes region.

Invasives Making Headlines

The Finger Lakes Institute’s Watercraft Steward Program is just the beginning of what the Finger Lakes Times May 29 (pg. 5A) article describes as “a comprehensive, multi-year strategy to combat the plant’s [hydrilla’s] presence.”

The spread of hydrilla, as well as other aquatic invasive species, is an issue that everyone has a stake in; environmentalist or not. Not only does the spread of these plants and animals upset the balance of an invaluable ecosystem, it also inhibits recreational lake uses and costs millions annually to control if not eradicated or controlled early on.

Programs like the Finger Lakes Institute Watercraft Steward Program can greatly aid in the fight against aquatic invasive species both by ensuring that boats are not transferring potentially harmful species from one lake to another and by generating awareness surrounding the issue. Finger Lakes and Great Lakes monitoring programs are funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. However, the wait for this funding has been long and as a result, problematic for lake users, the ecosystem, and the economy.

Take a look at this Finger Lakes Times article by David L. Shaw detailing Senator Charles Schumer’s role in the fight for this crucial federal funding. Read the entire article.