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Brightwaters battles to rid invasive species from lakes

Brightwaters Mayor John Valdini, seen on Tuesday, wants

Brightwaters Mayor John Valdini, seen on Tuesday, wants to clean invasive plants out of village lakes, such as Lagoon Lake. Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Seaweed and lily pads are invading lakes in Brightwaters, and Mayor John Valdini is trying to get to the root of the problem.

Valdini said the village is in the early stages of figuring out how to best tackle the matter. He said ridding the plants from the lakes is his “number one priority.” Valdini is also forming a committee of residents to focus on the problem.

“The growth of these invasive weeds has exploded in a couple of areas. The northernmost lakes are filled with these weeds, where two years ago, they might have just been a handful. You look out in the lakes and it has this mucky look,” Valdini said. “It affects the water flow. It affects the wildlife and the lakes themselves. It’s just going to end up choking up the whole lake, so you’ll have no lake. The lakes will disappear and you’ll have a muck bog — not a lake.”

Staff with the state Department of Environmental Conservation visited Brightwaters last month and documented the lake problem.

Robert Marsh, a natural resources supervisor with the DEC, said biologists noted “a lot of different plant species” were growing out of control because the lakes are high in nutrients.

“There are high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus. Even native plants can become a nuisance with excess nutrients,” Marsh said. “Heavily excessive growth of plants can choke out the water body, and it makes it difficult for fish or turtles to navigate in the water. … When the vegetation starts to decay, it uses oxygen. A drop in oxygen levels can kill fish.”

Valdini last week pointed to the seaweed that clustered in Lagoon Lake near lily pads. He said wildlife is unaffected, but shorelines are eroding and trees have sunk into the waters.

The problem is more serious in Nosrekca and Lagoon lakes, but the invasive species continue to spread south to other bodies of water, Valdini said.

David Thomsen, 53, who lives near Lagoon Lake, said residents are “pretty conscious” of lake management. They are eager to solve the problem, he said.

“It’s a concern that we don’t allow it to take over and choke out the wildlife and the fish,” Thomsen said.

Marsh said DEC officials have not figured out what the invasive species are because they have not been sent samples of the vegetation. The agency will work with Brightwaters to secure the proper permits to remove the plants.

The DEC has outlined some potential removal methods, including purchasing sterile grass carp fish to eat the plants, introducing chemicals into the lakes and placing mats at the bottom of the lakes that will smother and kill roots.

Valdini said the village of about 3,000 residents with a $2.6 million budget will most likely go with a frugal option: lining up “an army of volunteers” who are willing to get their feet wet and pull out the weeds with their bare hands or by using tools.

“I don’t want to bankrupt the village,” he said. “Any other option involves expensive testing and removal.”

Brightwaters lakes

  • Lagoon Lake
  • Lower Cascade Lake
  • Mirror Lake
  • Nosrekca Lake
  • Upper Cascade Lake

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