State of Lake Champlain report released

A report released last week by the Lake Champlain Basin Program on the state of Lake Champlain is a bit of a mixed bag.

The organization released the 2012 State of the Lake and Ecosystem Indicators Report was released last Wednesday.

The report, which is produced every three to four years, informs citizens and resource managers about Lake Champlain’s conditions and is intended to provide a better understanding of threats to its health.

“We use scientific data to determine what kind of progress is being made on the management of Lake Champlain water quality and habitat health,” said Bill Howland, the group’s program manager. “Again, in 2012, we share both good and not so good news, depending on which issue and which lake segment is being discussed.”

The report revealed substantial declines in mercury levels in the tissue of several popular game fish, including walleye, lake trout and yellow perch. And there is reason to believe those levels will continue to drop in light of new Environmental Protection Agency regulations limiting mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The rates of lake trout and Atlantic salmon wounded by sea lamprey has dropped to the lowest levels since monitoring began in 1985, and more than 1,900 acres of wetland habitat has been restored or enhanced since through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife program since 2009.

Also, water chestnut populations in the southern portion of the lake have been reduced to their lowest point since 1999 and more than 200 acres of the invasive species were harvested and removed from the lake in 2011.

 

Bad with the good

Not all the findings, however, were so positive.

Phosphorus levels remain too high and flooding in the spring and fall of 2011 combined to boost levels of the nutrient in most sections of the lake to their highest annual average since monitoring began in 1992.

Zooplankton populations are also declining, causing changes in the food web which could have a ripple effect on other aquatic species. State and federal surveys also indicate that native rainbow smelt populations are declining while alewives are becoming more abundant.

Nesting populations of double-crested cormorants have also declined by 50 percent.

And despite success in combating water chestnut, other new invasive species, such as round goby, Asian clam, and the spiny water flea, are knocking on the doorstep and threaten to invade the lake.

The Lake Champlain Basin Program works in partnership with government agencies from New York, Vermont and Quebec, private organizations, local communities and individuals to coordinate and fund efforts which benefit the Lake Champlain Basin’s water quality, fisheries, wetlands, wildlife, recreation, and cultural resources.

The program is headquartered in Grand Isle, Vt.

A full copy of the report is available at www.lcbp.org. The report link is on the right-hand side of the home page.

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