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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 few weeks.

According to Sophie Fitek Baj, project manager, the study has been completed and the report is 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 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 a result of $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 OK,” Mr. Baldwin said.

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

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 motors.

Additionally, the Eurasian watermilfoil population is growing so fast that it is harming native weeds and, according to 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 because wastewater runoff is contributing additional nutrients to the lake and exacerbating the Eurasian watermilfoil invasion. The study also will 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,” she said, and the study will highlight how to help good fishing conditions remain.

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