Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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June 23, 2014

Meet an unwelcomed guest

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — NORTH TONAWANDA — Federal, state and local authorities are launching campaigns to eradicate the onset of a dangerous invasive species. 

Hydrilla, an aquatic plant from Southeast Asia, is now clinging to the banks of area waterways, mostly through a 14-mile stretch between Robinson Road in the Erie Canal and Bear Ridge Road, Amherst, in Tonawanda Creek, officials said. 

The plant, which has been a problem for years in the United States, was first discovered locally by a  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employee in 2012. Since then it has quickly spread. 

Michael Greer, project manager for the Corps, said the hydrilla found in Western New York is less common than another strand that has been prevalent in the southern states since the 1940s. The aim of the program is to prevent the plant from spreading into lakes Erie and Ontario via watercraft, the vehicle on which it likely ended up in the canal. 

"It really hasn't been in the Great Lakes Basin at all until a few years ago," Greer said, adding that the first evidence of hydrilla was recently discovered in Cayuga Lake, in central New York. "We don't know for sure how it got there but people speculate it was by boat. That's a pretty common mechanism."

As the Corps prepares to use pesticides to kill the plant in late July, the City of North Tonawanda and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have set up checkpoints at two boat launches in Gratwick-Riverside Park and at Service Road. 

A boat steward has already been set up at the launching points for three weeks, and will remain there for much of the summer Thursdays through Sundays. Federal funding was obtained through the Great Lakes Restoration initiative, said Patricia Brosius, who heads the city's Parks and Recreation Department.

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