NEW YORK — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, in partnership with the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) and the non-Federal sponsor, New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) announces the completion of the Champlain Canal Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Barrier Phase 1 Study.
The Lake Champlain Basin is threatened by a large number of non-native aquatic invasive plant and animal species and pathogens. One pathway for these invasives to migrate to Lake Champlain is through the Champlain Canal, which has been identified by natural resources scientists and managers as a major pathway by which non-native and invasive species can invade Lake Champlain. Once these harmful aquatic invasive species become established, they compete with and displace native species, severely impacting water quality, the lake ecosystem and the local economy.
The purpose of the Phase 1 Study was to compare the costs, benefits, and effectiveness of different management alternatives that could best prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species between the Hudson and Champlain drainages via the Champlain Canal. The study’s objectives were to examine alternatives to prevent the transfer of Aquatic Invasive Species between the Hudson River Basin and Lake Champlain Basin and recommend an alternative with a favorable cost to benefit ratio.
The Phase 1 Study concluded that the Alternative 2 Physical Barrier Plan provides the most effective method for preventing the transfer of non-native aquatic invasive plant and animal species between the Lake Champlain and Hudson River Watersheds. Alternative 2 includes several measures to limit the transfer of non-native aquatic invasive plant and animal species including: a physical barrier across the canal, a large vessel lift, a vessel ramp, a cleaning station located north of the Glens Falls Feeder Canal and repairs to the existing lock seals. The estimated cost of Alternative 2 is approximately $20,000,000.
United States Senator from Vermont Patrick J. Leahy said “This announcement is important news for the Lake Champlain watershed, and it comes not a moment too soon. I have worked to protect the watershed from invasive species for decades and am proud to work with the staff of the Lake Champlain Basin Program, who have been key to moving this necessary project forward. I am also pleased that the Great Lakes Fishery Commission was able to provide the cost share dollars to help the New York District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers safeguard the Lake Champlain Basin from invasive plant and animal species and pathogens.”
“The Corps’ study results are critical in the fight to protect Lake Champlain from invasive species. The lake has ecological, historical, and economic importance to Vermonters. But invasive species threaten the Lake Champlain ecosystem, water quality, and economy. We must act as soon as possible to protect this important natural site. I thank the Corps and the Lake Champlain Basin Program for their work and look forward to beginning the next phase of this project and ensuring Lake Champlain remains safe and protected for generations to come.” Said Peter Welch, Member of Congress, At-Large, Vermont.
Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, NY-21, added “The completion of the first stage of this study is a great first step in further protecting the Lake Champlain Basin, and this initiative will greatly benefit our region”. I have been proud to advocate for the funding of these projects to protect our waterways from invasive species, preserve important ecosystems, and keep Lake Champlain as a source of nature-based recreation and tourism, which are essential to the North Country economy. I will continue to deliver for these programs that will support the vibrancy of the Lake Champlain region.”
Colonel Matthew Luzzatto, Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District added, “This is an important milestone in moving forward towards a more healthy ecosystem for the Lake Champlain and Hudson River Watersheds. These two watersheds are vital to the lives and wellbeing of millions of residents of New York and Vermont. This study will have a positive impact on the overall economic and ecological health of the Lake Champlain Region, this is a win-win-win for all interested parties”
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species is a top priority for New York State, especially for important resources like Lake Champlain. We appreciate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Lake Champlain Basin Commission for advancing this evaluation of potential engineering solutions to mitigate spread through the Canal system and look forward to working with all partners as we continue efforts to educate the public about actions to protect these waters and prevent the spread of destructive invasive species.”
Brian U. Stratton, Director, New York State Canal Corporation added, “We value the contributions of the Army Corps of Engineers and Lake Champlain Basin Program on this report as we continue to assess ways to combat the spread of aquatic invasive species while ensuring the Canal system remains a driver of economic development and a tourism destination for the next generation of users.”
“This study is a critical first step in evaluating options for preventing invasive animal, plant, and pathogen species from moving between the Lake Champlain and Hudson drainages. It addresses the single greatest pathway for invasive species movement to and from Lake Champlain.” Said Dr. Eric Howe, Director, Lake Champlain Basin Program.
The next steps will be the Champlain Canal Phase II Study and Design. Phase II activities include detailed engineering studies, vessel traffic studies, required real estate needs, detailed cost estimates and environmental compliance.
The Champlain Canal Barrier Study (Phase I) Final Report and Appendices can be found on the New York District Web page: https://www.nan.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Projects-in-New-York/Lake-Champlain-Watershed/