Ithaca (WSYR-TV)- Herbicide may be the only way to eradicate hydrilla, an invasive plant species, in the Cayuga Lake Inlet.
Workers in the City of Ithaca say measures taken last summer, like sending divers in to pull up the plant, could actually make hydrilla spread more quickly as pieces break off and take root.
The Ithaca Watershed Coordinator, Roxanna Johnston, said hydrilla “looks pretty innocent right now, but it could completely clog up the waterway.”
“It’s in the inlet now,” Johnston said, “but that doesn’t mean it can’t grow in a pond or on someone’s farm or the headwaters of a stream. It can grow there.”
If hydrilla spreads into Cayuga Lake from the inlet it could continue on to the Great Lakes.
Johnston said if hydrilla is not stopped now, the inlet could be impassable in three to five years, and paths would have to be mowed in the lake for boats to get through.
Stopping hydrilla before it spreads could cost the city $1 million over the next five to eight years, but Johnston says it could be much worse.
“Florida spends $18 to $30 million a year, depending on the year, simply mowing and using herbicide just to manage and not eradicate” said Johnston. “So this is cheaper.”
Bill Foster, director of the Cayuga Lake Floating Classroom Project,
said the money that would be lost on tourism and boating recreation could be devastating.
“People come here to see the lakes,” said Foster. “If the appearance of the lake was extremely altered by these hydrilla beds growing from one shore to the other shore of the lake, it could be a huge problem.”
The city will be able to use herbicide on the plant once hydrilla is at a certain growth stage in mid-June. However, it is up to boaters to stop it from spreading before then.
“It's worth taking a little bit of extra time look at your boat and make sure you're not transporting pieces of this plant to another water body,” said Foster.
Johnston says the best way to identify hydrilla is a distinctive part called a tuber.
“It looks like a little potato,” says Johnston. “If you've got that the leaves and the spine, you've got hydrilla.”
And if you've got hydrilla, you need to dispose of it properly out of the water and contact the city immediately.
For more information on how to identify and dispose of hydrilla, click here.