News Release: Army Corps of Engineers to View Watershed Restoration Projects in the Lake Champlain Basin
Grand Isle, VT – Commander Thomas D. Asbery and support staff from the New York District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) will visit several project sites this week where work is underway to help improve the health of the Lake Champlain ecosystem. The two-day tour in New York and Vermont will highlight projects that improve water quality in Lake Champlain and prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species across the lake’s basin.
On September 4th, the Army Corps will visit the Champlain Canal with staff from the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) and New York State agencies. The partners will discuss the ongoing Champlain Canal barrier feasibility study, which will evaluate options to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species through the canal. This study will review nonphysical and physical barrier options such as a hydrologic barrier that would restore the separation of the Lake Champlain and Hudson River systems. The report is expected to be released in the summer of 2020.
The visitors will then observe a water chestnut mechanical harvesting operation in the South Bay of Lake Champlain. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and the LCBP will review the long-term effort to manage the invasive plant, which forms dense floating mats that hinder boating and swimming. These partners, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy, have worked for more than two decades to reduce the extent of water chestnut.
On day two of the tour, USACE and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation will renew a contract to continue water chestnut control work in the future. The $1 million agreement commits funding for the successful program for additional field seasons.
ACOE staff also will inspect the Gordons Landing breakwater on the second day of the tour. The structure near the Grand Isle ferry landing in Vermont is part of the ACOE navigation program on the lake. They will assess settling of the western end of the structure and work with the Lake Champlain Transportation Company and the Coast Guard to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the current breakwater. They will consult with University of Vermont fisheries scientist Ellen Marsden to include consideration of lake trout spawning habitat. Significant numbers of lake trout can be observed each fall at the Gordon’s Landing breakwater, using the rocky substrate for spawning habitat.
While in the islands, LCBP boat launch stewards will demonstrate the decontamination station at the Vermont FWD John Guillmette public access in South Hero. The “decon” station treats high-risk watercraft with a high-pressure, hot-water wash to sanitize boats and equipment to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
The final stop of the tour will be at Black Creek Marsh near St. Albans to highlight additional water chestnut management efforts in the lake. Vermont DEC staff also will showcase an upcoming cooperative project with ACOE that will evaluate methods for reducing excess phosphorous delivered to the marsh from Jewett and Stevens Brooks. Waters from the marsh drain to St. Albans Bay, where harmful algal blooms have been common in recent years.
Commander Asbery said, “The New York District Army Corps of Engineers has been partnering in the Lake Champlain basin with the states of New York and Vermont, their municipalities, the Lake Champlain Basin Program, and other organizations for decades. The New York District and our Partners have expended tens of millions of dollars on projects to combat invasive species and improve water quality in the Lake Champlain basin. I am extremely excited to experience firsthand the work that is being conducted and to visit many of our successful projects and to continue coordination and collaborative efforts to further studies and build these vital projects.”
Eric Howe, LCBP Director, said, “The projects highlighted on this tour demonstrate the power of partnerships. Whether it is AIS spread prevention, phosphorus reduction, or habitat conservation, we can make great strides when we coordinate our efforts, and pool and leverage our respective resources and expertise.”
Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York State has emerged as a national leader in invasive species prevention efforts. We are pleased to be working with Colonel Asbery, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Lake Champlain Basin Program to bolster New York’s efforts by exploring innovative approaches to preventing invasive species movement through the Champlain Canal. DEC is committed to working with our partners to manage the invasive water chestnut in South Lake Champlain and excited to see the steady progress being made in reducing this population.”
“To effectively control aquatic invasive and nuisance species we need a suite of approaches including education, spread prevention, and control—and a full team on board,” said Emily Boedecker, Commissioner of the Vermont DEC. “We are fortunate to have both the Corps and the Lake Champlain Basin Program partnering with the Department, lake associations and lake advocates across the state to maintain and improve the health and quality of Vermont’s lakes, ponds, river and wetlands.”
“As we continue to take land-based steps to control phosphorus loading, we recognize that phosphorus that has already reached the lake is affecting water quality in locations like St. Albans Bay,” said Angela Shambaugh, VT DEC’s Lake and Ponds Acting Program Manager. “Through this project, the Corps’ knowledge and experience around the country will help us identify possible management options that make sense for Vermont and meet our environmental goals.”
The Lake Champlain Basin Program coordinates and funds efforts that benefit the Lake Champlain Basin’s water quality, fisheries, wetlands, wildlife, recreation, and cultural resources. The program works in partnership with federal agencies, state and provincial agencies from New York, Vermont, and Québec, local communities, businesses, and citizen groups. For further information about the program, contact the Lake Champlain Basin Program, 54 West Shore Road, Grand Isle, VT at (802) 372-3213 / (800) 468-5227 or visit www.lcbp.org.