While Lake George officials plan for mandatory boat inspections to keep future invasive species out of the region’s most famous lake, the fight against a current boat-borne invader hasn’t gone well.
The prolific Asian clam is being found in new locations, even after plastic mats put over their colonies last winter were declared successful in killing thousands of them.
Divers doing a survey last month found the tiny clams at four new locations, including one off Million Dollar Beach, one of the ventricles in the heart of the region’s tourist economy.
The discoveries will mean gearing up to fight the clams again this winter, continuing an effort that has already cost $1.5 million since they were first discovered in the lake in 2010.
“It was a little discouraging at first,” acknowledged Walt Lender, executive director of the Lake George Association, a private lake advocacy group. “We need to figure out how they spread when we know we killed them in a bunch of places.”
The most likely scenario is that the offspring — which are microscopically small — were released and spread in the late summer of 2012, before last winter’s matting of known clam infestations even started.
“We’re putting mats down on the adults and successfully killing them off, while the juveniles are successfully growing a few hundred yards away,” Lender said.
The new colony off Million Dollar Beach is within torpedo range of where the clams were successfully killed off at Shepard Park, but one of the new beds is at the far northern end of the 32-mile lake.
Clams were found at Glenburnie — not far from Lake Champlain, which doesn’t yet have the clams. The two lakes are linked by the LaChute River at Ticonderoga.
The Glenburnie site is near a private boat launch. That’s probably not a coincidence.
“We think it is directly related to the boat launch, which is small and unmanned,” Lender said.
That further emphasizes the need for boats entering the lake to be inspected — and possibly decontaminated — before they launch, to keep out more Asian clams and to prevent the arrival of new invasive species.
Asian clams are just one of five invasives found in Lake George, though they are the primary focus of current eradication efforts.
Asian clams are potentially so prolific that they could overwhelm the lake. The clams are hemaphroditic — in other words, it only takes one to tango, and one tangoing clam can release hundreds of offspring.
One ray of hope: A new in-depth research program should yield detailed information about the lake and how clams move around in it.
The Jefferson Project at Lake George, announced with much fanfare this summer, is a partnership involving Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, IBM and the Fund for Lake George. It will spend millions of dollars for advanced computer technology to study what goes on under those mysterious but clear waters.
“This latest news demands targeted research,” said Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, director of the Darrin Fresh Water Institute, the RPI program that oversees scientific research at the lake.
Invasive species aren’t the only threat to Lake George, of course. Just by living around it in large numbers, people could love it to death.
The salt content of Lake George more than doubled from 1980 to 2009 — and the most likely culprit is winter runoff from the roads around the lake.
Algae levels have risen 50 percent in that time and water milfoil has spread, probably because of failing septic systems and lawn fertilizer runoff.
Communities had the chance to run sewer lines around the southern basin 40 years ago and didn’t, thanks to opposition.
People came and built motels, cottages and homes on the slopes around the lake anyway, and now we’re seeing the result.
Stephen Williams is a Gazette reporter. The opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.