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Norwood hires divers to tackle milfoil

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NORWOOD — Divers will take to Norwood Lake soon to try to eliminate the invasive plant species Eurasian watermilfoil.

U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, attended an informational meeting with Norwood residents Monday to discuss the problem.

Milfoil is an aquatic plant that, if left unchecked, can choke out life in a lake and make boating nearly impossible. Milfoil plants were found in Norwood Lake last year.

Mr. Owens said invasive species like milfoil are a problem throughout the state.

“We need to find ways to eradicate it, and one way to do this is to get information out there,” he said.

Norwood will hire Aquatic Invasive Management LLC, Au Sable Forks, to eliminate the problem.

Completely eradicating milfoil is often impossible, according to Aquatic Invasive Management co-founder Andrew S. Lewis. So far, the plants found in Norwood Lake have been sparse, and it may still be possible to completely eliminate the problem before it becomes permanent.

“The idea of eradicating it is something that we really hope for,” he said at Monday’s meeting.

His team will survey the lake to find the plant, then divers will remove all of it by hand.

Milfoil plants reproduce by growing and dividing. A single plant can create 10 more within a month, and once they take over the lake, the plants can create a thick blanket, rendering it useless for boaters, anglers and swimmers.

Clearing a densely packed body of water by hand can cost nearly $4,000 per acre, according to Mr. Lewis. In Norwood, where the milfoil has not had time to spread, the cost will be much lower, from $70 to $235 per acre.

The lake is about 400 acres, but only a few areas are affected by milfoil. The village has not yet agreed on a cost with Aquatic Invasive Management.

Mr. Owens said he has worked with Mr. Lewis before and has seen results.

“I’ve seen firsthand what Andrew’s group has done, and it is very effective,” he said. He told Mayor James H. McFadden that he would help the village if he could and would possibly find grants to help cover the cost of cleanup.

The Norwood Lake Association, the town of Potsdam and Brookfield Energy will also be asked to contribute to the cleanup.

“It’s quite an undertaking, but we want to do it,” Mr. McFadden said.

The results of Norwood’s cleanup efforts will be watched by other communities along the Raquette River, and if the milfoil removal is successful, others may attempt similar projects. This is important, according to Mr. McFadden, because milfoil upstream can drift down and spread down the entire river.

“It’s going to be done systemwide, otherwise it will fail,” he said.

Those at the meeting were warned not to try to remove milfoil themselves. Small fragments of the plant left behind are capable of growing and spreading, and well-intentioned but untrained people who take matters into their own hands may accidentally end up spreading the plant faster.

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