By Dan King
The town of Dresden has started its annual effort to remove invasive water chestnuts from Lake Champlain, something officials see as vital to water quality.
“We’ve been contracting with DEC on this project for about 10 years now,” said Supervisor George Gang. “We do South Bay, Dresden Station and Ottenburg Ramp, all of the parts of Lake Champlain that are in the town of Dresden.”
Gang said the contract between the Department of Environmental Conservation and the town allows the town to spend up to $80,000 each year removing the prolific weeds and when the process is completed DEC reimburses the town, as long as town officials “prove what we’ve done.”
The removal process requires the town to get two boats from the state Canal Corporation, Gang said.
“One boat cuts the weeds and the other harvests them once they’re cut,” he said.
According to both New York and Vermont environmental officials, water chestnuts are of particular concern in the southern portion of Lake Champlain, and that causes problems for boaters, fishers and natural wildlife.
“Uncontrolled, it creates nearly impenetrable mats across wide areas of water,” says the Vermont DEC website. “In South Lake Champlain, many previously often-fished bays are now inaccessible and floating mats of chestnut can create a hazard for boaters. This noxious plant also severely limits the passage of light into the water, a critical element of a well-functioning aquatic ecosystem, reduces oxygen levels which may increase the potential for fish kills, out competes native vegetation and is of little value to wildfowl.”
The DEC website says the process is expensive but worth it because it prevents a drop in property value for shoreline properties and ensures the two states will continue to make recreational revenue off the lake.
DEC data indicates that since 1982, $10.5 million has been spent between the two states and the province of Quebec to control water chestnut infestation on Lake Champlain. In 2013 alone, $670,335 was spent on Lake Champlain water chestnut control. The project also receives annual assistance from federal entities including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps.