LAKE GEORGE — Crews this year have already removed more than 20 tons of Eurasian watermilfoil from Lake George, and thousands of pounds more of the invasive species are expected to be harvested before crews finish work in September.
A total of 42,500 pounds of watermilfoil had been removed throughout Lake George as of Wednesday, including Sawmill Bay, Gull Bay and near Million Dollar Beach, said Walt Lender, the executive director of the Lake George Association, a nonprofit organization that works to protect the lake.
“We’re quite a bit ahead of where we were last year,” Walt said. “We expect this to be one of our biggest years getting milfoil out of the lake.”
A total of 82,960 pounds of milfoil were removed from the lake last year.
Work to eradicate the plant from the Lake George basin has been ongoing since it was first discovered in Lake George more than 30 years ago. Eurasian milfoil is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa.
As the plant grows, it steals resources from native species, which negatively impacts the lake’s biodiversity. Once the plant reaches the surface, dense mats form, which jam boat propellers and make it difficult for paddle boat operators to navigate.
Lender said four crews from AE Commercial Diving have been working 40 hours a week to harvest milfoil in what is one of the biggest operations to remove the species from the lake’s waters to date.
The LGA is allocating $100,000 to the project, but is fronting $500,000 in diver costs. The organization expects to be reimbursed through a series of state grants awarded to Warren County and the Lake George Park Commission.
The Park Commission, as well as The Fund for Lake George, also are working on the project.
“It’s a team effort,” Lender said.
But eradicating the plant is no easy task.
Milfoil fragments break off because of the lake’s current and spawn new roots and plant elsewhere. Crews must ensure that not only the current roots are removed from the lake’s bed, but that no additional fragments are left behind.
Still, Lender believes significant progress has been made in fighting the invasive species.
“I think we’re beating it back quite successfully,” he said.
Chad Arnold is a reporter for The Post-Star covering the city of Glens Falls and the town and village of Lake George. Follow him on Twitter @ChadGArnold.