By Joe Mahoney
The Daily Star
---- — Surrounded by rolling hills, Canadarago Lake in northern Otsego County is getting fresh attention as environmental experts and property owners work together to fight nettlesome invasive species and to formulate a watershed protection plan.
The Canadarago Lake Partnerhsip will meet at 6 p.m. on Feb. 26 at the Richfield Springs Veterans Club to discuss the impact of invasive species on lake health and other environmental concerns.
The speakers will include: Paul Lord, an adjunct professor of biology at the state University College at Oneonta; SUCO researcher Tim Pokorny; and Ryan Fagan of the Canadarago Lake Improvement Association.
Scott Fickbohm, manager of the Otsego County Soil and Conservation District, said once a watershed protection plan is developed, it can enhance the ability of groups advocating for the lake to win funding for the fight against invasive species.
Zebra mussels, which can upset a lake's ecosystem and pose a threat to native wildlife, has been one of the non-native species documented in the lake. Another is Eurasian milfoil, which can pose problems for boaters and crowd out native aquatic plants needed for a healthy fishery.
A recent survey of those living near the lake has determined that invasive species ranks as one of the biggest concerns, he noted.
Lord, who is also affiliated with the Catskill Regional Invasive Species Partnership, said the problem with many invasive species is that they can spread from one water body to another quickly, often by watercraft that has not been cleaned off before being launched again.
"There is hydrillla (an invasive aquatic plant) now in the Erie Canal and in the Binghamton area," Lord said. "If hydrilla got into the lake, it would make Eurasian milfoil look like a fond memory."
Willard Harman, a SUCO biology professor who is director of the college's Biological Field Station in Cooperstown, said it is important that the Canadarago Lake stakeholders focus on common goals.
Presenting a unified front after resolving differences through compromise significantly betters the chances that state financial backing will be won for projects, he said..
Harman recalled that such a compromise helped Otsego Lake improvement projects advance several years ago when a compromise was struck between local residents who wanted no motor boats on the lake and those who owned such boats.
The presentations given at the Feb. 26 meeting are to be followed by a question and answer period and public discussion
"This sort of public input into the current drafting process of a Canadarago Lake Watershed Protection Plan is critical," said Fagan. "The partnership is developing the plan to address issues that concern people in the watershed and invasive species rank right at the top."