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Black Lake weeds study readies for publication

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MORRISTOWN – The Army Corps of Engineers is scheduled to release the findings of a months-long study of invasive weeds in Black Lake within the next several weeks.

According to Sophie Fitek Baj, Corps of Engineers project manager, the study has been completed and the report is in the process of being finalized, with publication slated for mid-February.

The report will be a collection of data points and recommendations for further work, including enforcing sewage codes and educating area farmers about best practices to manage fertilizer and manure runoff.

The study was conducted by St. Lawrence University biology professor Brad S. Baldwin and was the result of a $100,000 in state and federal grants.

Funding has not been made available to carry out any of the recommendations. According to a Corps of Engineers fact sheet about the study, an additional $150,000 is needed to help solve the invasive weed problem.

Mrs. Baj said it’s unlikely any additional funding will be found.

“Generally the lake is still doing okay,” Mr. Baldwin said.

He declined to comment on the details of the study until after its final publication.

The 7,761-acre lake has been invaded by Eurasian watermilfoil weeds that have thrived in its nutrient-rich, shallow waters.

“The average depth is 10 feet,” Mrs. Baj said of the lake.

She noted that the weeds are growing best in the shallow bays of the lake with abundant sunlight, leaving the main channels largely clear.

Mrs. Baj also said that weeds, including the Eurasian watermilfoil, help ensure the fish population is protected.

“But it’s a fine line. [Anglers] have to get from their docks, past the weeds, to get to the main channel,” Mrs. Baj said, adding that weeds can get tangled in boat propellers and damage the motors.

Additionally, the Eurasian watermilfoil population is growing so fast that it is harming native weeds and, according to Army Corps of Engineering documents, threatens to spread to the Indian River and into the St. Lawrence River.

Mrs. Baj said the study will recommend reinforcing sewage codes along the lake, as waste water runoff is contributing additional nutrients to the

the lake and exacerbating the Eurasian watermilfoil invasion. The study will also recommend farmers get additional information about how to stop the runoff of fertilizer into the lake.

Black Lake is surrounded by “very steep slopes, so that water just runs right off,” Mrs. Baj said.

But Black Lake is still “great for fishing,” said Mrs. Baj, and the study will also highlight how to good fishing conditions remain.

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