Milfoil History

The Skaneateles Lake Milfoil Project

Line Drawing of Milfoil

The first record of Eurasian watermilfoil in Skaneateles Lake was in a 1974 report to the NY State Legislature on lake vegetation by Baston & Ross. Virtually nothing was said about milfoil during the next quarter of a century until the late 1990’s. At that time the owners of the Skaneateles Sailing Club, Dick & Janet Besse, raised concerns about a large patch of weeds around their mooring area. Concurrent with that a second large patch was noted just east of the village jetty. Based on these sightings, the Tri-County Skaneateles Lake Pure Water Association and the Syracuse Water Department conducted a lake-wide survey in 2001 to determine the extent of the milfoil population. The approach was to circumnavigate the entire lake at about the 10-12’ contour interval in late summer. At that time milfoil is quite well developed and patches appear as large masses of vegetation very near the surface. The survey located 39 large patches in 2001. The survey was repeated 5 years later in 2006 and we discovered 111 large patches. This was nearly a tripling in the number of patches in a 5-year period.

Most invasions involve a pattern similar to what has occurred with milfoil in Skaneateles Lake. They begin with a small inoculum that remains under the radar for an extended period of time while the invader is becoming established. After establishment there is a period of rather rapid growth and expansion when the invader is discovered and recognized as a problem. Later after it has filled all of the suitable habitat the population tends to level off and growth plateaus. If you want to control the invader you need to take action early in the rapid growth phase. That is why the rapid increase between 2001 and 2006 raised red flags. The Skaneateles Town Board established an Aquatic Invasive Species committee and charged them with identifying the invasive species in the lake and evaluating the threat to the lake that these species created. Larry Rothenberg and Bob Werner co-chaired the committee. After reviewing the non-native species known to be present in the lake at that time which included: Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussel, quagga mussel, carp, rudd, & rainbow trout, the committee concluded that the most serious threat by far was Eurasian watermilfoil.

Based on that work the committee recommended that a Milfoil Eradication Corporation be established to develop and oversee an effort to gain control of milfoil in Skaneateles Lake. This group researched the various ways to remove milfoil used in other lakes. After deciding on an approach they began work in the summer of 2007. They initiated a fundraising campaign in the winter of 2006-7. This was facilitated with the cooperation of Tri-County Skaneateles Lake Pure Waters Association a 501c3 entity. (Tri-County later changed its name to the Skaneateles Lake Association.) Eventually the effort was completely taken over by the Skaneateles Lake Association and the corporation disbanded. Crews have been working on the lake since 2007.