The spiny water flea, an invasive aquatic plankton, was confirmed in the Champlain Canal system this month. Scientists in the region are now asking New York State officials to close gates in the canal system to prevent its spread into Lake Champlain and other water bodies.
Within the last few weeks researchers confirmed the presence of the new invasive in the Feeder Canal and the Champlain Canal above Lock 11. To prevent the spiny water flea’s spread into Lake Champlain, Lake George, lake systems in the Adirondacks and in Vermont, more than 60 scientists, researchers and groups have signed on to a letter asking the NYS Canal Corporation to immediately close the Glen’s Falls Feeder Canal. They note that the gates are closed every fall, and shutting them down now would prevent the invasive from spreading. Green Mountain College Professor of Biology Mereil Brooks is Co-Director of the Lake Champlain Research Consortium.
The plankton has had severe impacts in other water bodies by disrupting the natural food chain. Lake Champlain Committee Staff Scientist Mike Winslow says once this organism enters Lake Champlain, there will be no stopping it.
Mike Winslow adds that the tiny invasive has a large potential to damage the lake’s ecosystem.
E-mail exchanges earlier this week between Tim Mihuc, who confirmed the presence of the spiny water flea in the Champlain Canal, and other scientists in the region, indicated that the Canal Corporation would not close the feeder canal because of navigation concerns, but the Rapid Response Team is assessing possible courses of action. Mihuc, who was unavailable for comment, is co-Director of the Lake Champlain Research Consortium with Meriel Brooks, who is frustrated by the lack of immediate action.
Calls to the NYS Canal Corporation were not returned in time for this broadcast.