The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District has a highly skilled workforce that has been completing hydrilla surveys and herbicidal treatments in multiple locations since 2012 when hydrilla was initially found in the Finger Lakes region and the Erie Canal in Western New York (WNY).
Hydrilla is a non-native invasive aquatic plant that if left untreated will crowd out native vegetation, diminish the habitat available for fish and wildlife, and impede boating and recreational use of the waterway. Invasive species management of hydrilla within Buffalo District and neighboring areas is especially important to control hydrilla in localized areas within the Great Lakes basin, and reduce the risk of new introductions from adjacent watersheds occurring.
The Corps of Engineers Aquatic Plant Control Research Program is authorized to treat hydrilla under Section 104 of the River and Harbor Act of 1958.
Buffalo District spends at least 60 days per year monitoring or treating the hydrilla sites within their designated area of responsibility. Each trip is a big effort that requires extensive planning, multiple days in the field, numerous district staff, and coordination with multiple federal, state, and local agencies including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, WNY Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM), Finger Lakes PRISM, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), NYS Canal Corporation, County Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD), to name a few.
In an effort to raise awareness, Buffalo District subject matter experts have been actively surveying and assisting/educating sister districts and other agencies in the control of hydrilla at Pymatuning Lake which borders Pennsylvania and Ohio, and at Raystown Lake in south central Pennsylvania.
“We have developed a lot of technical experts on hydrilla,” said Michael Greer, Buffalo District Regional Technical Expert. “Outside of Jacksonville and maybe New Orleans districts, Buffalo has become a leader with the capabilities and know-how to eradicate the invasive plant.”
Several technical experts from Buffalo District and Baltimore District surveyed aquatic plants in Raystown Lake with a focus on hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) in early October.
Raystown Lake is managed and was constructed by the Corps of Engineers Baltimore District. It is an approximately 8,300 acre lake dammed up in the Juniata River with a surrounding 21,000 acres of forested mountain slopes serving as a multi-purpose lake for flood control, recreation, fish & wildlife preservation, and, mitigation/augmentation of water quality.
When hydrilla was found in Raystown Lake, the Corps of Engineers National Invasive Species Team decided it was best to utilize the Buffalo District’s technical experts coupled with their collaborators at U.S. Army Engineering Research and Development Center and the University of Florida.
Buffalo District performed the first aquatic plant survey on Raystown Lake in the fall of 2017 to determine the extent of the hydrilla infestation and provide a baseline for the species richness of submerged aquatic plants and their relative abundances. In addition, hydro-acoustics were collected which provide detailed bathymetry and enable quantification of the volume of plants in these nearshore areas. All of this information will be helpful in developing an invasive species management plan for hydrilla.
The 2018 Raystown Lake aquatic plant survey was not only to document the types of plants currently living in Raystown Lake, but was also used as a means to empower multidisciplinary teams by sharing technical expertise. Buffalo District was educating Baltimore District Park Rangers and Juniata College students and professors so they can perform the aquatic plant surveys and data collection independently.
“Establishing that long-term relationship with the college and the Corps of Engineers as a whole, not just Buffalo District, is important,” said Greer.
Buffalo District’s education and assistance to multidisciplinary teams in the region will be more effective and improve regional processes to efficiently prevent the spread of hydrilla.