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hydrillaDave Heck is getting the word out about the hydrilla infestation in southern Cayuga Lake.  Heck has been distributing printed information to help boaters identify hydrilla, keep their boats clean, and to inform them on the correct actions to take when they find hydrilla.  Over the past few weeks he visited both the Lansing Town Board and Village of Lansing trustee meetings to thank the municipalities for their cooperation in helping to get the message out to the public.

"Dave is our leading Hydrilla Hunter along Cayuga Lake's east shore," says Cayuga Lake Watershed Network Steward/Executive Director Hilary Lambert.  "He has been checking for hydrilla along the Lansing shoreline now for three or more years, and has made it his summertime mission to educate lakeshore residents, visitors and town governments about why we do not want hydrilla to spread up the lake."

hydrillaid400Dave Heck has distributed displays like this one in the foyer of the Lansing Town Hall

Lambert calls Heck a 'Hydrilla Hero.'  He is part of the Public Outreach Committee of the Hydrilla Task Force.  The committee is tasked with informing  governments and boaters along the lake from Ithaca to Aurelius. Additionally, the Floating Classroom is offering hydrilla I.D. lake cruises in Seneca and Cayuga counties.  The Cayuga Lake Watershed Network and Heck then follow up by sending Hydrilla I.D. kits to cruise participants.

The I.D. sheet that Heck developed has pictures of hydrilla and plants that look like hydrilla so observers can figure out whether plants they are seeing are really hydrilla.  The other side offers more details about hydrilla and tips for dealing with it if you find it.  The sheet is laminated so it is suitable for use on boats.

"If hydrilla takes hold, it can fill water from bottom to top up to 30 feet deep with a thick green impenetrable mass that makes present-day lake plant growth problems seem like open water," Lambert says.  "For example, if treatment had not been started quickly in Ithaca's Cayuga Inlet after it was first found there in 2011, the city would be mowing boating lanes through the hydrilla, like they do in Florida and other places where it has taken over."

Village of Lansing Mayor Deputy Lynn Leopold thanked Heck, noting that  getting the word out is effective in identifying hydrilla and getting rid of it.

"It's going to take a lot of us to keep people aware," she said.  "It has been found up a little ways from the southeast corner.  It's under treatment but we have to be incredibly vigilant.  The treatments are doing very well in the inlet, but not so much in Fall Creek.  So much water comes through Fall Creek it's difficult to keep the concentration levels (of the treatment chemicals) up, so they may end up treating it again."

Heck has distributed the ID kits to boating neighborhoods including his own lakeside neighborhood of Ladoga Park, and this year to municipal offices.  Heck said Town officials including Highway Superintendent Jack French, Parks Superintendent Steve Colt and Town Clerk Debbie Crandall have been helpful in placing DEC signs at Myers Park and Salt Point, boxes of ID kits, as well as creating and installing a sign on Ladoga Landing.  Colt also provided Heck with a mailing list of about 80 boaters who entered the lottery for a slip in the Myers Park Marina this year.  He also thanked Village Clerk Jodi Dake for displaying I.D. sheets in the foyer of the new Village Office.

Lambert says that the efforts to eradicate hydrilla have been successful in the inlet, but new outbreaks have been spotted.  No hydrilla has been found beyond the south end of Cayuga Lake.

"It was first found in August 2011 near the Ithaca Farmers Market in Cayuga Inlet," she says. "But it has crept out of the Inlet, eastward around Newman Golf Course and the Stewart Park outlet of Fall Creek, to several spots in shallow water just offshore of the Tompkins County Visitors Bureau."

hydrilla_heckDave Heck

Heck said a new law that tasks marina owners with enforcing hydrilla removal from boats is scheduled to go into effect next year.

The hydrilla infestation got a lot of press in Ithaca when it was first discovered in the Ithaca Inlet.  Three years later it continues to be a serious concern.

"Some fishermen believe that hydrilla provides good habitat for bass and other species, but studies show that once hydrilla gets too thick, even the fish can’t penetrate it," Lambert says.  "Hydrilla strangles outboard motors, and brings an end to swimming."

Lambert says that identifying and removing hydrilla early is the most effective way to eradicate it, even though chemical treatments were successful in the inlet.

"We think that a better way is to find and remove it early, and save tens of thousands of dollars in treatment and removal costs," she says. "That's why we need hundreds of trained eyes - folks who know what it looks like (it's easy!) and to report it to . It is likely that hydrilla will show up further north along the lake sooner or later - boats and trailers can carry the plants, and it may be that birds are also carriers."

Thanks to Heck and others like him, more people are learning how they can help to rid Cayuga Lake of one of the world’s most invasive plants.

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