Ithaca, N.Y. — Local efforts are recommencing to beat back the invasive aquatic plant Hydrilla that has rooted in the Cayuga Inlet, Fall Creek and a small portion of Cayuga Lake. And fighting it isn’t cheap.

Hydrilla (Photo courtesy of Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, Bugwood.org)

Around $800,000 has been spent combating the pest so far, and, in 2014, another $350,000 is expected to be spent on treatment.

Hydrilla verticillata is a highly invasive aquatic species that was first discovered in the Cayuga Inlet in August 2011 by a volunteer on the Floating Classroom. Hydrilla is a dense plant that can grow a foot a day and reach up to 25 feet, which can pose a threat to native plants and fish.

Local officials will begin administering the first herbicide, Endothall, around late June or early July in the Cayuga Inlet and Fall Creek, according to James Balyszak, Hydrilla Program Manager for the Hydrilla Task Force of the Cayuga Lake Watershed.

Four to six weeks after that, in late July or August, Fluridone, a system herbicide, will be administered through liquid injections and pelletized applications until October.

Balyszak estimates treatment costs this year to be between $300,000 and $350,000. Since 2011, the total costs are estimated to be between $755,000 and $800,000.

This total includes “in-field herbicide treatment applications, extensive plant community monitoring and sampling, water quality sampling and monitoring, permit applications, education and outreach, and in-kind/match contributions from Task Force Stakeholders,” according to Balyszak.

Though costly to beat back, efforts have been effective since it was discovered in 2011. Balyszak said the Hydrilla Task Force has seen great results in the Cayuga Inlet and this season the Fluridone herbicide treatments have been scaled back.  He said it was an “unwelcome surprise” to find Hydrilla in Fall Creek in August 2013, but since it was detected early on, the task force was able to respond rapidly to deal with it.

Funding for the treatments comes from federal, state and local sources. Those include  the Fish and Wildlife Service: Aquatic Nuisance Species Grant, New York State Parks, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the City of Ithaca.

This year, the Nature Conservancy is also pushing legislation aimed to prevent the spread of invasive species that would target transportation. Members of the non-profit are hoping the bill will be picked up by Senator Tom O’Mara, (R-Big Flats) and Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D/WF-125th District). The legislation would have implications on boat cleaning and launches in New York, expanding from requirements that are currently just in state parks and DEC launches.

Timeline for 2014

Late June/Early July — Endothall treatment will begin in Fall Creek and the Cayuga Inlet. This is expected to kill Hydrilla vegetation in the water bodies and prevent further growth and fragmentation.

Late July/August to October — Four to six weeks after the endothall treatment, workers will begin to administer sustained low-dose fluridone (systemic herbicide) through liquid injections and pelletized applications in specific shallow/low-flow areas of the Cayuga Inlet and Fall Creek.

Funding Breakdown

Source: James Balyszak, Hydrilla Program Manager

Fish & Wildlife Service (Aquatic Nuisance Species) Grant (FEDERAL FUNDING):

FY11: $380,380 (fully expended)

FY 12: $304,000 (Almost fully expended)

FY 13: Contract not yet received

National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (Pulling Together Initiative Grant) (FEDERAL FUNDING):

2014-2015: $75,000 (contract in place, will use funds during 2014/2015 seasons)

NYS Parks (State Parks funding on local level, STATE FUNDING):

2012: $60,600 (almost fully expended)

2013-2014: $60,000 (received, will be used during 2014 season)

2015- : $60,000 (committed, not yet requested)

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (STATE FUNDING):

$775,000 (not yet utilized, anticipate using portions of this funding during 2014 season).

Other Funding:

City of Ithaca: $25,000 (aid to localities contract between NYSDEC and City of Ithaca, used in 2011 treatments)

City of Ithaca: $5,000 (to be used during 2014 season)

Town of Ulysses: $2,500 (used for education and outreach during 2013 season)

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.