Posted at: 07/29/2012 12:42 AM
| Updated at: 07/29/2012 12:53 AM
By: Dan Levy
SCHUYLERVILLE - A growing number of scientists, fishermen, and elected officials in Vermont are calling for New York's Champlain Canal to be shut down. A scientist by the name of Timothy Mihuc, the coordinator of the Lake Champlain Research Institute at SUNY Plattsburgh, says spiny water fleas are threatening Lake Champlain's ecosystem and he believes something needs to be done about it -- not in a matter of weeks -- but in a matter of days.
The 60-mile long Champlain Canal links the Hudson River with Lake Champlain. For many years, Vermont officials have complained that the boats passing through the canal have invasive species attached to their hulls or are carrying them in bilge water. The latest species is the spiny water flea.
"What I can tell you that's happened in 26 years is that there always seems to be an invasive species du jour," says Judy Dean, owner and operator of the Schuyler Yacht Basin and RV Park in Schuylerville. "There is always one species after another whose getting carried along into lakes out of lakes via boats."
Some scientists believe once the water fleas make it through the canal and up into Lake Champlain it's too late. The theory is that the fleas will be able to move freely and it would be impossible to eradicate them at that point.
Spiny water fleas look like bristly gobs of jelly with black spots on them. They can attach to fishing lines or anchor ropes, and in some lakes they can lead to the decline or elimination of some fish species, disrupting the food chain, and perhaps, also rendering sport-fishing much less desirable.
"With the lake bordering New York State on one side and Vermont on the other, you may have differing opinions over what is actually happening in the lake," Dean suggests.
Dean believes the scientific evidence is inconclusive. She also points out that at the north end of Lake Champlain lies the Saint Lawrence Seaway where ocean-going boat traffic is much more formidable.
Most importantly to her, if the Champlain Canal was shut down, it would jeopardize jobs and businesses.
"We would be overnight out of business," she says. "So would many of the businesses along the Hudson River and actually all up and down Lake Champlain themselves because we all rely on this travel, we all rely on the people moving their boats up and down this waterway."
Our media partners at the Post Star Newspaper, quoting an aide to U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D - Vermont), are reporting that Leahy is expected to call for the closure of the Champlain Canal on Monday, or else seek another drastic measure to curb the free flow of water into Lake Champlain.
News Channel 13 reached New York State Canal Director Brian Stratton on Saturday night. He had no comment.