Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

New season, new weed harvester

Munching its way through both domestic and invasive aquatic weeds, the weed harvesting program on the local bays has been necessary for decades. All that weed chewing takes a toll on machines. This past week, the Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District retired the old workhorse, Boat #1.

In its place, Boat #4  of the Aquatic Vegetative Control Program  has started service this summer. The Alpha Boat FX7 Aquatic Weed Harvester, will join the other  three harvesters in the continuing effort to control vegetation on five embayments.

The reason for all the weed removal? If allowed to grown unchecked, vacationers, boaters, swimmers on the Wayne County bays would soon be inundated in aquatic weeds.

Wayne County is one of the five Soil and Water Conservation Districts in New York State that has an operating Aquatic Vegetative Control Program known as weed harvesting.

In order to continue with the program, a renewal of equipment is necessary every 10 to 12 years. Each year, the three harvesters go through a rotation of either maintenance or retirement. In the case that a weed harvester is retired, a new one is purchased. According to Executive Director of Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District, Lindsey Gerstenslager, the cost of the new weed harvester was $114,000.

Funding for the new harvester came from various sources that set aside money for the last three years. Efforts came from the Towns of Wolcott, Huron and Sodus, Finger Lakes – Lake Ontario Watershed Protection Alliance, Assemblyman Robert Oaks and Senator Mike Nozzolio, who all assisted with efforts to increase funding for the Environmental Protection Fund and the NYS Budget. The remaining money came from the Weed Harvesting District’s income from annual fish and tree sales and conservation supplies.

Gerstenslager stated that attempts  are made to have the harvesters last as long as possible, even though that are continuously run 40 hours a week from May until November. It comes to a point where ‘fixes’ are monetarily unfeasible and replacements are required.

The weed harvesters are important for the removal of invasive plant species to maintain a healthy balanced ecosystem. There is a set of criteria that determines when and where aquatic vegetation is to be harvested. The criterion includes climate, funding, plant species and no-cut areas.

The program runs prep in May and begins harvesting operations from June until October with equipment maintenance and clean up through November. The five embayments that are served include Maxwell Bay, Sodus Bay, East Bay, Port Bay and Blind Sodus Bay. The Aquatic Vegetative Control Program has removed over 26,000 tons of nutrient material from 1988 throughout the 2013 season.