Milfoil was a dire issue for the community in Skaneateles, in part because the lake provides drinking water to the city of Syracuse. Were a drastic change in the plant-life in Skaneateles Lake to occur, a water-filtration system would likely need to be installed, which could cost millions of dollars, Werner said. Skaneateles Lake is a rare case of a water source that is disinfected (with ultraviolet light), but not filtered or processed in any other way.
To deal with the milfoil problem, the Skaneateles town board created a committee to investigate the problem in 2006. This led to the Milfoil Eradication Corporation being founded, a private group which was able to operate with private donations solicited from the Skaneateles Lake Association as well as funding from the town of Skaneateles, Onondaga County Health Department and New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
The group worked to eradicate all milfoil from the lake largely by using boats with sonar equipment to find patches of milfoil and scuba divers who went in to pull it out. The milfoil team is still at work today though they are mostly performing maintenance now after the triumphs of their earlier work, Werner said.
“We have knocked it back very significantly, we’re probably at less than 5 percent of what it would have been at this time if we had done nothing,” he said.
Due to the size of the lake, complete eradication is unlikely, so maintenance must continue on an annual basis, Werner said.
Another aquatic plant that could become a serious nuisance is hyrdilla, which comes from India and Sri Lanka. Similar to milfoil, hydrilla spreads quickly and can out-compete native species of plants and wreak havoc on ecosystems in local lakes and rivers, according to the state DEC.
Hydrilla has already been found in Cayuga Lake and parts of the Erie Canal and could spread if people are not careful.