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Plan will target harmful invasive species in LI, state waterways

A state environmental agency Friday released a new statewide action plan to address the threat from nonnative aquatic species through such measures as increased use of disposal stations at waterway-access sites and an expanded network of boat stewards.

With an "increased unwanted presence" of harmful species, the state's ecosystems, water quality and outdoor recreation are being threatened, Joe Martens, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said in a statement accompanying the release of the agency's new Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan.

The plan provides a framework for addressing that threat, according to the agency.

Other priority actions in the plan include a public-awareness campaign, regional first-responder teams and initiatives for identifying and studying the ways the species enter and move around within the state.

The DEC has recently hired an aquatic invasive species coordinator and will begin an assessment of which efforts will get the earliest attention, agency spokeswoman Lori Severino said.

Though there have been localized initiatives targeting the problem, this plan will include "a universal, statewide" education program to focus on "best practices to prevent the spread of aquatic invasives," said Polly Weigand, senior soil district technician with the Suffolk County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Weigand also serves on an advisory committee that gives input to the state's Invasive Species Council.

Among the major concerns for Long Island's fresh water is the invasive hydrilla, Weigand said.

That aquatic plant, like most other invasives, functions like a "superplant," reproducing quickly and in volume and outcompeting other species for "sunlight, space and nutrients," she said.

Waterways in the state are especially vulnerable, the plan says, because of the ports in the Great Lakes, the Hudson River, the Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Species such as zebra mussels and the spiny water flea are transported in ballast water from oceangoing vessels, the release said.

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