Town of Chester to treat Loon Lake chemically for milfoil

CHESTER – Environmentalists say they won’t challenge the state Adirondack Park Agency’s approval of a chemical application to control Eurasion milfoil in Loon Lake.

The town of Chester plans to have a Massachusetts firm treat 15 acres of the 580-acre lake on May 13, before native plants start to grow.

The Adirondack Council wanted the park agency to hold public hearings before acting, charging that two years ago an application at Lake Luzerne caused a massive snail die-off and harmed non-invasive plants, too. That marked the first time that chemicals were allowed in the Adirondack Park for milfoil control.

“Step one should be to stop the reintroduction of Eurasian milfoil into Loon Lake with an effective inspection and cleaning program at boat launches,” said Diane Fish, acting council executive director. “Then, non-toxic methods, such as hand-harvesting and temporary sunlight barriers, should be exhausted before we use chemicals.”

However, the Park Agency board has unanimously approved letting Chester apply the chemical Renovate this spring.

“Scientific studies have determined that triclopyr, the active ingredient in Renovate, is slightly to practically non-toxic to aquatic fish and invertebrates,” APA spokesman Keith McKeever said.

“For this project the proposed application rate is many times lower than the toxicity thresholds. Renovate has been used successfully numerous times in New York state, including Saratoga Lake. It is highly selective and very effectively controlled infestations of Eurasian water milfoil while leaving large areas of native vegetation unharmed,” he said.

Milfoil starts growing before native plants, so Renovate is applied early in the season to prevent harming beneficial plants, McKeever said.

Lake Luzerne Supervisor Eugene Merlino said his town’s one-time use of Renovate was “95 percent successful” in eliminating milfoil at the most heavily infested areas. Hand-harvesting is still done to control the weed, he said.

Chester has spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to control milfoil by hiring divers to harvest the plant, Supervisor Fred Monroe said.

“We’ve got most of the lake under control, but there’s one bay that’s heavily infested,” he said. “It’s hazardous for divers because it’s near the boat launch.”

Plans call for a one-time chemical application, followed by continued hand-harvesting in the lake, he said.

“In the fall, milfoil fragments and starts new plants,” Monroe said. “It spreads. We’ve gone from one site with five plants to 40 (infested) sites.”

Monroe said he believes the snail die-off in Lake Luzerne was part of that species’ natural life cycle and not related to Renovate, which he said didn’t affect other snails.

APA Commissioner Richard Booth, while voting to approve Renovate’s use, also asked the board to consider holding a legislative hearing before allowing its further use.

“We are considering this option,” McKeever said.

Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan said, “We have no plans to intervene further in the Loon Lake decision. We plan to meet with science advisors this spring and hope to have specific recommendations for the APA soon.”