Update: Spiny water flea confirmed in Lake George

Spiny water flea. Photo: National Park Service

UPDATE:  With the debate intensifying over strategies that might keep the spiny water flea from infesting Lake Champlain, state officials in New York confirmed on Wednesday that the non-native organism has been confirmed in Lake George.

“DEC has worked with its partners on the Lake Champlain Basin Task Force to stop and slow the spread of the spiny water flea,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. “The discovery of spiny water flea in Lake George is not welcome news and DEC’s efforts to slow the spread of this and other invasive species will continue.”

Communities in the Lake George basin have been battling with a rash of new invasives, including the Asian clam.

According to the Conservation Department, spiny water flea may now reach Lake Champlain via the La Chute River — which flows from Lake George through Ticonderoga into the big lake.


Last month, scientists discovered a nasty new invasive called the spiny waterflea in the waters of the Lake Champlain canal, which links the Hudson River to Lake Champlain.

A growing number of researchers and environmental activists have called on New York state officials to close the waterway, to prevent the tiny creature — infamous for fouling cables and fishing tackle — from reaching the big lake.

Yesterday, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy held a news conference on the waterfront in Burlington, where he called for the canal to be closed.  This from the Associated Press:

The spiny water flea “is likely to damage the aquatic food web that produces the fantastic diversity of life in the lake and that feeds our world-class fishery,” Leahy said. “The spiny water flea also can become a nuisance to boaters (and) fishermen as it attaches to equipment and tangles itself in fishing line.”

But New York officials have resisted closing the route, pointing out that it is used by more than 5,000 pleasure and cargo boats every year, contributing mightily to the North Country’s tourism economy.

Dan Weiller, spokesman for the New York State Canal Corp., told the AP that “it is essential to consider the economic implications of potentially closing the Champlain Canal.”

Scientists generally agree that once the spiny water flea reaches Lake Champlain, it will be nearly impossible to eradicate.

Researchers believe the canal is also a route used by other invasive species reaching North Country waterways, including the Asian clam which has now been found in nearby Lake George.


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8 Comments on “Update: Spiny water flea confirmed in Lake George”

  1. That’s weird… an article in the Post-Star, who’s been often critical of greens groups, quoted scientists who claim that closure of the canal won’t do any good.

    I can’t link to the article, since I’ve exceeded my quota of free page views (which has been reduced from 15 to 10 apparently without warning).

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  2. Pete Klein says:

    We all know the economy is more important than the environment, or so I’m told.

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  3. Pete’s right. It’s not like the Adirondacks’ environment has anything to do with its economy.

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  4. I know the Feeder Canal in Glens Falls has been mentioned as part of this. I see no problem closing that if necessary. I go by it all the time and I’ve NEVER seen commerical boats on it (it’s too narrow anyways) and even seeing recreational boats on it has been infrequent.

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  5. Mary Thill says:

    What gets overlooked is that closure to invasives does not necessarily mean closure to boats. Bureaucratic inaction by the New York State Canal Corporation appears to have narrowed short-term options, but in the long term a boat lift could bridge traffic over a dry separation. For four years there has been some support for this idea, but the Canal Corporation is reacting as if the discussion is brand new. I’ve been covering this issue for years for various publications, and here is a link to the latest Adirondack Life reporting: http://www.adirondacklifemag.com/blogs/2012/07/31/a-man-no-plan-a-canal/

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  6. Not essential says:

    It’s simple choice close it or armageddon.

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  7. I need to correct my above statement. The Post-Star article related only to the potential closure of the Feeder Canal, not the Champlain.

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  8. tootightmike says:

    Not essential, there’s no need to overstate it. It just one of these discussions that we and the media have about something we could do, something we should do, something that would have a very good chance of avoiding some predicted harm…but we don’t do it.
    Sometimes we actually believe we’ve done it…like ridding our homes of asbestos or lead, or at least taking those things off the store shelves to prevent further harm. We make a lot of noise about it, and our elected leaders discuss it, and the public comes to believe that the problem has been solved.
    Remember when CFCs were destroying the ozone layer?? Remember how our government banned certain chemical substances and how we averted disaster? Take a look at the wikipedia article on the ozone hole. Look at the way in which the industrial interests re-arranged their evil work and went right back into production. Look at the maps and projections of future ozone depletion and tell me what our children and grandchildren will have to endure.
    Big business, and the money interests own and operate this country. Politics is just window dressing.

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