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Black Lake Association looks to stop the spread of more invasive species

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HEUVELTON — The Black Lake Association is taking a proactive approach to making sure the lake is clear of invasive species.

For 30 years, the not-for-profit’s mission has been to preserve, protect and enhance the Black Lake ecosystem. This boating season, the organization is reaching out to the six townships that surround Black Lake-Oswegatchie, Hammond, Morristown, Macomb, DePeyster, and Rossie - and asking them to help the spread of invasive species by posting signage warning people to wash their boats and trailers at its public boat launches.

“Our communication lacked from time to time and we are trying to get better integrated with the towns. We’re trying to let you know we are here and what our focus is,” Black Lake Association President Karen Winters said at the town of Oswegatchie meeting Monday.

Invasive species like Eurasian watermilfoil which has already been found in the lake can “choke our waterways and kill off native plants and animals,” Ms. Winters said.

“Our goal is to try to keep new invasive out of the lake. The lake is already under strain from Eurasian watermilfoil, but there are some that are much worse than Eurasian watermilfoil, like Zebra mussels and water chestnuts,” Ms. Winters said.

Ms. Winters said the association estimates that 75 percent of invasive species that come into the lake are “hitchhikers” or brought in from unwashed boats or trailers.

“Next year, we will try to see if there is a monitoring program where we will actually be able to check boats before they enter and before they exit the lake,” Ms. Winters said. “We’re also trying to get people who use the lake to be more responsible.”

The loss of fish, plants and other wildlife from an invasive species could lead to a loss of real estate values and losses to tourism and recreation-based industries, Ms. Winters said.

“We know the economic impact that Black Lake has on the surrounding community,” Ms. Winters said. “It would be devastating. So it is important to try to keep the waters as clean as we can, and to look at collaborative ways to get the word on out to stop invasive hitchhikers.”

The association is working to post signs on all public boat launches to remind people to check their boats and trailers before and after they go in the lake to prevent the spread of “hitchhikers” or invasive species.

The association has also asked towns to hand out informational leaflets to fishermen and women who sign up for fishing license.

Another goal of the group is to promote environmental stewardship of the lake to the Black Lake community through resources and education.

St. Lawrence County is currently conducting an environmental review for a $400,000 Community Development Block Grant to help low-and moderate-income, year-round residents of Black Lake with their septic systems.

The money probably will help about 35 households in the towns of Morristown and Macomb.

In conjunction with the recent septic system improvement grant in the towns of Macomb and Morristown, the Black Lake Association is making available self-testing septic system kits available free of charge to any property owner on Black Lake.

“We want to do whatever we can to lower the amount of phosphorus in the lake,” Ms. Winters said.

“On Indian River there are also cottages that have outhouses too close to the water,” association member Harriet Barlett said. “We want to educate residents on how to take advantage of programs that provide financial help to get indoor plumbing.”

The Black Lake Association is looking for new members. To join the Black Lake Association or to pick up a free septic system self-testing kit, contact blacklakeassoc@gmail.com.

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