Saratoga Sewage Spill!

by Jared Reed, Saratoga Lake Boat Steward

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Saratoga Lake Boat Launch. Photo by Jared Reed, Saratoga Lake Boat Steward

Recently, 5,000 gallons of untreated sewage spilled into Saratoga Lake. Untreated sewage is comprised of two types of wastewater: greywater (water used for cleaning and bathing), and blackwater (containing human and animal waste, such as fecal matter). Sewage spills are not uncommon, but can greatly impact the local environment. While it may be difficult to imagine sewage being anything but ‘gross’, raw sewage is actually packed with nutrients that algae and filter-feeders thrive upon- which is not always a good thing.

An excess of nutrients, or eutrophication, in an ecosystem can lead to Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). HABs, often referred to by their color (such as Green Tide, Red Tide, or Brown Tides) are an explosive population growth of harmful bacteria. HABs are not restricted to one type of bacterium, and different bacteria often result in different color HABs (example: cyanobacteria create a’ Green Tide’, while Dinoflagellates create a ‘Red Tide’). If ingested, these bacteria can lead to serious illness, paralysis, or even death. Bacteria, being aerobic (breathing Oxygen), and anaerobic (creating their own oxygen), consume and deplete the levels of Oxygen dissolved in the water to a point where the water is not inhabitable for fish. This results in an anoxic event, which can lead to major fish kills.

Saratoga is not alone in this dilemma, as it is a frequent occurrence in large bodies of water near major cities. The western end of the Long Island Sound, and the New York City Harbor, experience yearly anoxic events, due to eutrophication (from both city runoff, and sewage spills). This is also partially due to insufficient wastewater treatment facilities, that overflow after heavy rainfall, and the mouth of the Hudson River, which carries nutrient rich runoff from upstate.

Lake George has also had many problems in recent years with sewage spills near the south end of the lake, temporarily closing several of the beaches near the Village of Lake George. A 7,000-gallon spill in 2014 was caused by line blockages, and mismanagement by local resorts, but was quickly contained and rectified. In 2009, however a 10,000-gallon spill resulted in Shepard Park Beach closing for the season.

HABs can be identified by cloudy or discolored water, and looks like spilled paint, or even pea soup. If you think you see a HAB, do NOT swim or drink the water (including any pets or children), and avoid fishing, paddling, and any watersports, and please contact your local DEC office.

Go to www.dec.ny.gov and search for ‘swimming’ to choose a safe place to swim, learn which waterbodies near you have HABs, and to sign up for text alerts about sewage spills.

 

Sources:

http://www.saratogian.com/article/ST/20090828/NEWS/308289997

http://poststar.com/news/local/dec-sagamore-sewage-spill-was-gallons/article_88b06644-45e6-11e4-b0a0-1bd1f36b2321.html

http://wnyt.com/news/saratoga-lake-untreated-sewage-spill/4190277/

http://longislandsoundstudy.net/about/our-mission/management-plan/hypoxia/

Industry Standard: Aquatic Invasive Species

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Irondequoit Bay Marine Park boat launch. Photo: Dan Reude, NYS OPRHP

by Dan Reude, Irondequoit Bay Boat Steward

I recently accepted a job with New York States Park, Recreation, and Historic Preservation department, spending my summer as a Boat Steward. You may be wondering, what is a boat steward exactly? My daily job duties entail, but are not limited to, teaching the public about aquatic invasive species and their effects on the environment, taking samples of aquatic invasive species for research, and performing boat inspections, removing any aquatic vegetation and animal life and giving the public the tools and knowledge so they can do so themselves in the future.

Although there are Boat Stewards located throughout New York, my site is located up on the beautiful Irondequoit Bay, part of Lake Ontario by Rochester, NY. With it’s vast size, Lake Ontario gives an impression like that of an ocean, more so than a lake. Located in the town of Sea Breeze, people flock to this area to enjoy the coastal village atmosphere. With places like Margie’s, a beach themed bar where you can enjoy a nice cold beer while digging your toes in the sand, or taking the boat out for a spin with the family, perhaps indulging in the great fishing opportunities. It didn’t take long to realize I was part of a special place, a place that depends on the overall health of its natural resources.

With this position, and other teaching opportunities in my past, I am aware of the power of education and the passing of knowledge. After a couple weeks on the job, I began to see a pattern of those who were already aware of the preventive measures of invasive species, and those who didn’t know that aquatic invasive species are even a serious issue or that even such a thing existed. Unfortunately, the people who appreciate and partake in activities, like boating and fishing, can sometimes be the contributors, if proper preventive measures aren’t taken. But how can you point the finger at someone, if they aren’t aware of the effect of their actions? I wanted to see if the industries that are involved with these recreational activities, that act as carriers of aquatic invasive species, provided any kind of information or awareness. So on my day off, I went and did some investigative work.

That morning, I made my rounds to several boat distributors, fishing gear retailers, and a couple of local pet stores. I acted as an interested customer, and asked questions like, “so what is all this talk about aquatic invasive species?”, and “do you have any information pertaining to such issues?” What I found was the same contradictory pattern each time: those who had an idea of what I was asking or those who had no clue. I also looked for informational literature or notices within the establishments. The few times I actually saw something regarding this serious issue, it was often small and easy to overlook. My first question was, if invasive species is such a big concern and is as detrimental to our economy and environment as its made out to be, why is this information and awareness not standard practice with all related industries? My next question is, how do we all get on the same page and inform those purchasing goods and participating in such activities, and become aware of the implications? And what are the implications of aquatic invasive species?

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A NYS OPRHP Boat Steward learning about Aquatic Invasive Species with NYS OPRHP Environmental Analyst Karen Terbush. Photo: Matt Brincka, NYS OPRHP

Weeks prior to the start date of my job, I attended a two day educational workshop at Paul Smith’s College, where we received Regional Watershed Steward Training. We were introduced to the aspects of what this job entailed and why our service is so important. When I was informed that invasive species are the second leading cause to the loss of biodiversity, the first being habitat loss, my eyes grew wide with concern. Another alarming fact that was mentioned, that I validated through the National Wildlife Federation, “Invasive species are one of the leading threats to native wildlife. Approximately 42% of Threatened or Endangered Species are at risk primarily due to invasive species.” Other devestating effects of aquatic invasive species on our environment include, impacting drainage, altered nutrient cycles, and food cycles. What happens is that invasive species come here from other places, thus lacking native competition, like predators and diseases. These non native invasive species thrive due to this, and our ecosystems can’t adapt to the changes quick enough. Before this training, I thought I knew about invasive species and the havoc that they bring, but not to the severity. For some, this “environmental” issue may not seem to directly affect them. If the environmental strategy doesn’t work, I suggest this: try telling them that it could ruin their boat, raise taxes, and ruin the local economy. I’m sure those previously in doubt will suddenly be “all ears.”

As I mentioned before, I am located at Irondequoit Bay, in the town of Sea Breeze, where seasonal tourism seems to make up a significant portion of the local economy. The beaches and the fishing seem to be a major attraction. Massive populations of zebra mussels and asian clam shells can easily cut up the feet of the those trying to enjoy themselves by the Lake, with the potential to close down beaches. Native fish species declining due to the replacement by invasive species, hinder the fishing market. Those who love and care for their boats should know, according to the the Lake George Park Commission, “,…zebra mussels can get in the cooling system and ruin the boat.They clog the cooling systems of oat motors, causing them to overheat, clog up exhaust pipes, clog bilges, live wells, and ruin props and entire motors.”

Taking out a couple minutes of your time to inspect your boat and trailer (anything that comes in contact with the water) and remove any visible plant, animals or debris, clean and drain anything that contains water, and dry anything that comes into contact with the water may seem like silly, pointless procedure required by the State but, as you have read here, has major benefits both for the environment and for our boats. With towns like Seabreeze, and resources like Lake Ontario, we have a responsibility to conserve our environment for future generations, and for nature itself.  We all have a special place, whether it’s Irondequoit Bay, or a favorite fishing spot; it’s special because it has provided us with an experience, making it personal. Like any healthy, long lasting relationship, both parties must be available and willing to give their all.

 

For more information check out

http://www.ProtectYourWaters.net

http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/48221.html

 

 

“Invasive Species – National Wildlife Federation.” Invasive Species – National Wildlife Federation. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2016.

 

“LAKE GEORGE PARK COMMISSION Zebra Mussel Alert.” LAKE GEORGE PARK COMMISSION Zebra Mussel Alert. N.p., 16 Feb. 2000. Web. 09 June 2016.

The Northern Snakehead: A Credible Threat

 

by Noelle Hatton, Thousand Island Boat Steward

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The invasive northern snakehead (Channa argus) is of the family Channidae.  Also known as the amur snakehead, eastern snakehead, and the oscillated snakehead, it is a native of China, Russia and Korea.  More specifically, it is found in the Amur River basin (hence the nickname).  The fish are long and thin, with a relatively flat head.  The dorsal fin is long and runs along the length of the fish, from the base of the pectoral fins to the caudal fin.  The anal fin is also elongated and is more than half the length of the dorsal fin.  They are obligate air breathers, which make them very capable of living in oxygen-depleted environments.  Snakeheads prefer to live in shallow, muddy streams or swamps, but they utilize deeper waters in winter months, which makes them perfect candidates for the Great Lakes.  They are highly adaptable and at low temperatures, their metabolism rate and oxygen demand decrease which allow them to survive the ice cover during winter months.

Usually, snakeheads reproduce after 2-3 years of age, but are capable of making young after only a year of growth.  The fish can spawn up to five times during the year (usually from April to August) and each time can produce 1300-1500 eggs.  They can hatch within three days and grow at a rapid rate.  Initially, the fry eat zooplankton and work their way up to small insects, crustaceans, small fish, beetles and frogs.  As adults, snakeheads have a large diet and can consume fish up to 33 percent of its body length.  The fish can survive out of water for four days, and as juveniles, they can migrate overland because of their horizontally flat body.

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Snakeheads’ mouth are filled with many sharp teeth. Photo: U.S. Geological Survey Archive, U.S. Geological Survey, bugwood.org

This invasive species was established in the United States via live fish markets and aquarium dumping.  They have been found in many states, but only have documented populations in the states of Arkansas, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and southern parts of New York.  In smaller lakes and streams where specimens have been found, eradication attempts were made with the pesticide/piscicide rotenone.  Snakehead are currently on the watch list for the Great Lakes to avoid establishment, as they could survive and out-compete native fish species for food and habitat.  Under the Lacey Act, the importation and cross-border transplant of the species was banned in the U.S. in 2002, and subsequently banned in Ontario.

The northern snakehead has a striking similarity to two kinds of native fish in New York State.  These fish are the bowfin (Amia calva) and the burbot (Lota lota).  There are differences in the fish that can help the angler or observer tell which fish is which.  The first difference is in the anal and pelvic fins.  Bowfins have a much shorter anal fin and the pelvic fins are more towards the center of the fish.  Like the snakehead, burbot have a long anal fin, but the pelvic fins are directly beneath the pectoral fins.  The next clue is the dorsal fin.  All three species of fish have a long dorsal fin, but you can tell the burbot apart from its two counterparts because there is a very noticeable break towards the front of the fish and makes two distinct dorsal fins.  The heads of the 3 types also look different.  The snakehead has a long, flat head (kind of like a snake), while the bowfin’s is round and broad and the burbot’s is slightly flat and they have a chin barbel.  If none of these pop out to you, you can always look at body color.  The snakehead is usually dark brown in color, with a coloration pattern that looks something like “old school” army uniforms.  Bowfins usually have a green tint and most of the time (but not all, so cannot always rely on this) possess a black “eye spot” on the tail near the caudal fin.  Burbot also have a dark brown color, but their color pattern is more spotted, kind of like a northern pike.

The northern snakehead has the potential to decimate rivers, streams, lakes and their tributaries with their high appetite for just about anything, high fecundity rate and adaptability to many kinds of environments.  They are not yet established in the Great Lakes or its tributaries, but they highly resemble the native fishes bowfin and burbot.  Any transportation or release of the snakehead is highly prohibited in the United States and Ontario for fear of them entering the lakes.  NYS anglers are asked that if they catch a fish that looks like a snakehead, to first check with the simple picture above.  If you are still not sure what the species is, take pictures, lengths, and weights of the fish and contact the nearest fish and game agency or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as soon as possible.  If you are sure it is a snakehead, do not release the fish back into the water or throw it on the bank (they can live by breathing air and can wriggle back into the water).  Freeze the fish or put it on ice for a length of time to ensure the fish is dead.  If you catch one in an area where they are not known to live, contact the USFWS.  Always remember, it only takes a few individuals to establish a highly invasive population.  Keep yourself informed on these kinds of invasive species, and never release fish from your personal aquarium into an open waterway.

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Works Cited:

Fuller, P.F., A. J. Benson, G. Nunez, A. Fusaro, and M. Neilson. 2016. Channa argus. USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL.
http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?speciesid=2265 Revision Date: 9/22/2015

Aquatic Weed Harvesters

 

by Jared Reed, Saratoga Lake Boat Steward

 

Much like tending to weeds in your lawn, one way to combat invasive plants in lakes and waterways is by mowing them. Pictured above is an aquatic weed harvester that was recently seen in Saratoga Lake. The harvester spent several days along the shoreline, reaping Eurasian watermilfoil and Curly-leaf pondweed, two prominent AIS in Saratoga lake. Aquatic weed harvesters are interesting machines, and it is rare to get a close up look at how they work.

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Aquatic weed harvester mowing Eurasian watermilfoil and curley-leaf pondweed at Saratoga Lake Boat Launch. Photo: Jared Reed, NYS OPRHP

The front of the harvester is a conveyer-belt ramp, the bottom of which one horizontal cutter bar and 2 vertical cutter bars. This ramp can be raised or lowered, depending on depth. Once a plant is cut, it falls onto the conveyer belt and is dumped into a holding well on the ship. The paddle wheels on each side of the barge function as propulsion, and move the vessel, allowing for movement in shallow waters without worrying about weed entanglement. Back at the docking station, the harvested weeds are disposed of.

Aquatic weed harvesters are an imperfect science for they do produce plant fragments, which can help spread certain species (i.e.,  Hydrilla and Eurasian Watermilfoil) if not managed properly. Harvesters still can play an important role in the management of aquatic weeds in shallow water. It is advisable to keep a wide berth if you encounter one of these while boating.

Parrot Feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum)

 

 

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Photo: Andre Karwath (commons.wikipedia.org)

By David Newell, North-Eastern Lake Ontario Steward

Introduction:

Parrot feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum), also called Brazilian watermilfoil is an invasive aquatic plant in lakes, ponds, and streams throughout New York State. Parrot feather is a close relative to the more aggressive invasive species Eurasian watermilfoil and sometimes gets mistaken for Eurasian watermilfoil. Parrot feather is native to most of South America. Parrot feather was brought into the United States in the 1800s by the aquarium industry, it’s a very popular indoor and outdoor aquatic garden plant. Parrot feather got into the local waterways by escaping from its outdoor ponds or being spread by aquarium owners when they dump their aquarium and all of its contents into a waterway. Once in the waterway it can spread rapidly and take over.

Species Description:

Parrot feather gets its name for the very bright green leaves that look like a feathers, the leaves are arranged around the stem in whorls of four to six leaves per whorl. Parrot feather can have both submersed and emergent leaves. The submersed leaves are commonly mistaken for Eurasian watermilfoil. The submersed leaves are a less dark green and less stiff than the emergent leaves. The emergent stem and leaves resemble a parrot feather tail hence the name parrot feather. The emergent stems can grow up to a foot out of the water and extend out several yards over the water’s surface. The submersed leaves on the other hand are usually limp and appear as if they are decayed. The flowers are inconspicuous and are found on the emergent section of the plant. The flowers are white and only 1/16th of an inch long.

How Parrot feather spreads and its preferred habitat:

Only female Parrot feather plants are known to occur in the United States, therefore typical plant reproduction does not occur with the parrot feather. Thus the only way for new plants to grow is by plant fragmentation. The fragmented bits of plant material can create new plants. This means that boat propellers going through patches of Parrot feather can increase the patch size and their spread. The plant can also spread by flooding, fragments stuck on birds, watercraft, and plant fragment floating downstream. Parrot feather prefer shallow slow-moving nutrient rich water. It is common in shallow water as a rooted plant.

Ecological and economic impact:

Parrot feather offers some cover for aquatic organisms, but offers little food value for wildlife, and alerts the aquatic environment. The dense patches of Parrot feather shade out native plants and algae which serves as aquatic food. After the dense patches of Parrot feather dies off, there decompose and can create a low oxygen conditions which can harm aquatic organisms. The large vegetation mats that Parrot feather forms can cause economic impact as well. The mats make it difficult to navigate and are restricting to recreational activates such like boating, fishing, and swimming. Parrot feather can also decrease aesthetic value, thus decreasing property values.

Control Methods:

With chemical control of Parrot feather there has been some success but it is difficult to achieve complete control. Repeated chemical treatments are needed to produce some type of success. Many herbicides have been tried on Parrot feather, but one go to herbicide hasn’t been found yet. A wetting agent is required to penetrate the waxy emergent leaves. It is more effective when applied to young plants. There has been no biological control found yet for Parrot feather but there are some that are being looked into such as the use of beetles or other insect species. Mechanical control is to not be used unless it is needed to break up the dense mates to let sunlight enter waterway. This is because mechanical harvesting create plant fragmentation, and thus makes the infestation worse than it already was.

What can you do:

Always make sure to clean off your boat, trailer, equipment from hanging plant material, this will help stop with the spreading of Parrot feather. Make sure to always drain the bilge or live wells, along with any compartment on that has water in it. Lastly make sure dry the watercraft, and any equipment that was used before entering a new waterway.

Remember to always Clean, Drain, Dry

 

Sources:

“Non-native Invasive Freshwater Plants.” Washington State Department of Ecology, Official Homepage. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2016. <http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/plants/weeds/aqua003.html&gt;.

 

https://seagrant.psu.edu/sites/default/files/Parrotfeather2013_reduced_0.pdf

Cloudy with a chance…

 

By Jared Reed, Saratoga Lake Boat Steward

On the water it’s easy to lose track of time and get so caught up having fun that you end up getting caught in a storm. Summer often brings with it sudden thunderstorms, and in just a few moments, a bright sunny day can become a dark rainy one. There is often poor cellphone reception on the water, and many boaters forget to bring a radio, or any sort of device that may warn them of impending storms.

One easy way to prevent this, is to learn how to read the sky… in particular, clouds. There are many different types of clouds, but which clouds will ruin your day? Let’s look at a couple key players:

cloud diagram

Fair Weather Clouds:
Cirrocumulus– Look like lines in the sand, or ripples on a lake
Altocumulus – bright white puffy cotton clouds
Cumulus – Large, white, and fluffy
Cirrus – high altitude, look like feathers, often called “mane tale” for resembling a horse’s tail

All of these clouds indicate good weather, and are useful to provide some shade on a hot sunny day! However, Cumulus – the large fluffy clouds- can develop into heavy rains. Watch to make sure it does not grow bigger, or develop more ‘heads’ as that can indicate storms.

Poor Weather Clouds:

Cumulonimbus – characterized by the flat ‘anvil’ top. These are thunder clouds and bring rough weather. They often appear dark grey due to the amount of water vapor saturated within the cloud, preventing sunlight from illuminating it. Watch for ‘tall’ clouds.
Stratus – low clouds, resembling fog, often bring rain with them
Cumulus – Listed twice, these clouds can quickly develop into rain storms, even on a fair weather day.

Storms are often immediately preceded by a drastic drop in temperature, a sudden shift in the winds, and a sudden strong cent (known as petrichor). If you think there is a storm approaching, start heading to the dock immediately, as storms are particularly dangerous on open waters. If you are caught on the water during a storm, immediately put on a life jacket, and immediately head towards the dock. If on a fishing skiff or speedboat, or can otherwise cannot make it to land, drop anchor, remove all metal jewelry, and get low in the center of the boat – lighting will strike the highest point. Do not go in the water and stow the rod and reel. Thunderstorms typically do not last longer than 30minutes.

Stay safe… and avoid boating during inclement weather!

 

Sources:
http://sectionhiker.com/predicting-the-weather-using-clouds/
http://www.boatingmag.com/surviving-lightning-strikes-while-boating