May 22, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Cazenovia lakeside residents soon may be able to rent from the town specialty mats designed to contain and kill lake weeds — both invasive and native — on their property in Cazenovia Lake.
The board unanimously approved at its May 13 meeting a resolution to establish a benthic mat rental program for the town, as well as a resolution setting the rules and regulations for the program.
While the mat rentals will not go forward until the town receives a letter of understanding from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, town board members are hopeful that letter may arrive soon and the program begin within a few weeks — although that is not a certainty, said Town Councilor Bill Zupan, who has been spearheading the mat rental program for the town.
“The town board has always been — as long as I have been on it — really sensitive on the health of the lake and this is just one more tool for us to use,” Zupan said. “This hasn’t gotten a green light from the DEC yet, so we might not be doing it until next year.”
Benthic barrier mats cover a portion of the lake bottom and prevent plant growth by blocking the sunlight required for plants to grow. They also provide a physical barrier against the spread of macrophytes, or, more specifically for Cazenovia Lake issues, Eurasian water milfoil.
Milfoil’s dense stands often reach the water’s surface and create floating mats of vegetation that hinder swimming and boating. Once established, there is no known way to completely eradicate the plant from a lake. The best management strategy is to control existing stands and limit spreading to other areas and waterways, according to information from Cornell Cooperative Extension Onondaga County. Benthic barriers are most appropriate for control of Eurasian water milfoil in small, localized areas such as swimming areas, boat launches, around docks and along boat lanes, according to CCE.
The intention of the mat rentals is not only to help remove milfoil but also native plants that have been thriving in recent years and choking up the lake as the milfoil population has diminished from years of lake renovation treatments, Zupan said. The town board wants to give lakeside property owners the opportunity to clear lanes from their docks to the middle of the lake, he said.
The benthic mats are most effective when they are placed early in the season, after ice is gone but before plants get established, said Town Councilor Liz Moran, who is also a water resources expert and president of EcoLogic, LLC, Aquatic, Terrestrial and Wetland Consultants.
The mats to be used by the Cazenovia program — obtained from a contractor from Skaneateles who works with the Skaneateles Lake Association — will measure 12.5-by-50 feet each (or 625 square feet). Only two mats per property owner will be allowed per year, at an annual rental cost of $125 per mat, which includes installation, removal, pickup and storage by the town.
Mats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis and are limited this year to a total of 60 mats, so there is no guarantee of availability to everyone who wants to rent them, Zupan said.
Installation and removal of the mats will be done by contractors hired by the town, at a cost not to exceed 80 cents per square foot of installation. Installation and removal also will be scheduled on dates and times designated by the town and its contractor.
The town is coordinating its rental program with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, who will give guidance on the program and the mat installations, and will also approve the lake properties who apply for the program. The DEC wants to approve the specific areas for mat installation to prevent the mats from harming certain endangered species in the lake, especially at the north end, said Zupan.
“I think it’s a positive move for the town to initiate this program, primarily because of the physical challenges associated with installing and removing the barriers. There are many regions of the lake, especially in the north end, where chemical treatment was not permitted. We want to provide property owners in these areas some relief,” Moran said.
The program is another avenue being pursued by the town in its efforts to protect and restore lake water quality, aesthetics, recreational use and aquatic habitat. For decades, the town has attempted to manage the spread of excessive weed growth in the lake through harvesting, chemical treatment programs and, most recently, a storm water management program, with varied results. The benthic matting is “a promising alternative and supplemental control measure” for addressing Eurasian Watermilfoil in Cazenovia Lake, according to the town board resolution.
The town’s benthic mat program became effective when it was approved by the board on May 13, but it will not be operational until the town receives the DEC letter of understanding, Zupan said. If the letter arrives after lake weeds have already started growing, the program will most likely not be implemented until next year, he said.
For more information on the benthic mat rental program, contact Barbara Houghton, administrative assistant to the town supervisor, at 655-9541.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.