STOP the Invasion! Cortland County’s AIS Prevention Program

Keeping cool in Cortland County can be easy with our many lakes and rivers. With the increasing summer temperatures activities like swimming, fishing, and boating in our local waters are on the rise. Imagine this: It is a nice summer day, you take your family out to the lake, the kids are swimming, some of the adults are fishing and everyone is enjoying the sun with a nice picnic. That is until one of the kids starts yelling, running out of the water with milfoil tangled on their legs or worse yet a cut on their foot from a zebra mussel.

Like all bodies of water, Little York Lake, Tully Lake, and the Tioughnioga River are all susceptible to aquatic invasive species (AIS). There have been many programs brought to light to help combat these harmful species. Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District, Cortland – Onondaga Federation of Kettle Lake Association (C-OFOKLA) and SUNY ESF were awarded a 3-year, $100,000 grant from New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation to help slow and stop the spread of AIS. This turned into the “Stop the Invasion!” initiative.

This initiative, through the Soil and Water Conservation District, has already employed many sub-programs to help stop the spread. Conservation Aides have outreach and education programs to spread awareness in the community; Watercraft stewards sit out at local boat launches around the county to collect data to track the spread via a voluntary inspection of watercraft being launched. The stewards are a personable way to help boaters and anglers prevent AIS from further spreading and to comply with DEC regulations. These regulations state that boaters cannot launch, or transport their watercraft from a launch with any aquatic plant or animal attached to the watercraft or trailer. Boaters must not launch or leave a launch without draining bilge areas, live wells, bait wells and ballast tanks. Our water has a lot to offer to the public; however, AIS have been and will continue to be a threat to any  

activity in these areas, especially without your help.

To follow the regulations, watercraft stewards ask boaters to complete 3 simple steps: Clean, Drain & Dry. When leaving a launch, boaters should always remove all visible plants, animals and “muck” from their boat, trailer and other equipment. Then what is removed should be disposed of in a trash container, on dry land at least 30 feet from shore or in an AIS disposal. It is recommended that you go through a car wash or use a pressure washer to ensure that no invasives hitch a ride to your next launch. Additionally, drain the boat’s bilge, live wells, and any area that holds water, blow out the cooling intake on Jet-Skis and pour water from kayaks and canoes before and after launching to help prevent the spread of AIS. When moving watercraft from one waterbody to another, let the watercraft dry for two weeks between launches to ensure that unseen aquatic invasive species are dried out and no longer able to establish new colonies. Pressure washers and steamers are the best way to remove aquatic invasive species from your boat if you plan on going to different lakes within two weeks of each other.

Here’s what to look out for and where according to the New York State Federation of Lake Associations:

Cincinnatus Lake – Water chestnutSolon Pond – Eurasian watermilfoil
Goodale Lake – Eurasian watermilfoilSong Lake – Zebra mussel
Melody Lake – Eurasian watermilfoilWest Branch Tioughnioga River – Zebra mussel
Otselic River – Asian clamSkaneateles Lake – Eurasian watermilfoil, Curly leafed pondweed
Tully Lake – Eurasian watermilfoil, Starry stonewort, Curly leafed pondweedUpper Little York Lake – Zebra mussel, Eurasian watermilfoil, Variable leaf watermilfoil, Starry stonewort, Curly-leaved pondweed

How to identify them –

Water Chestnut: Triangular leaves with toothed edges, sharp-edged seeds, dangerous to step on and can form dense beds of plant matter.

Eurasian Watermilfoil: 3 to 10 ft. pale pink to reddish brown stems. Feathery leaves occur in whorls. Each leaf has 12-21 leaflet pairs. Commonly confused with native northern watermilfoil has 5-10 leaflet pairs.

Variable Leaf Watermilfoil: Each leaf has 5-14 leaflets. As a stem surfaces its growth pattern changes and becomes a stout emergent flower-spike carrying an entirely different type of leaf. These emergent leaves are stalkless, wedge-shaped, stiff, and pointed, with variably-toothed margins.

Asian Clam: Rounded-triangular shell, light brown with numerous rings on outside of shell. Inside of the shell is light blue or light purple in color.

Starry Stonewort: Long uneven-length gelatinous branches that are angular at each joint. May have one cream colored bulb at the base of each branch cluster.

Curly Leafed Pondweed: Branched and somewhat flattened stems. Reddish-brown oblong leaves, 3 inches long. Leaves are stiff, crinkle and have finely toothed edges.

Zebra Mussel: Shell “D” shaped usually with dark and light colored, zigzag, stripes.