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Great Lakes Article:

DEC Grants Available for Eradication of Aquatic Invasive Species
News from The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
For more information: Maureen Wren, (518) 402-8000
Deadline for Applications is February 28, 2006

ALBANY, NY -- (12/01/2005; 1500)(EIS) -- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Denise M. Sheehan today announced the availability of $1 million in grants for projects to help eradicate aquatic invasive species. Applications for the Aquatic Invasive Species Eradication Grant Program will be accepted until February 28, 2006.

"Control and management of invasive species, both in the water and on land, is one of the most critical and challenging environmental problems facing New York State today," Commissioner Sheehan said. "DEC recognizes the need to help communities and protect our natural resources by funding eradication projects that combat the spread of aquatic invasive species."

Aquatic invasive species are plants and animals that have been introduced, either accidentally or intentionally, into the waters and wetlands of the State from other parts of the United States or from other countries. Some aquatic invasive plants, such as the water chestnut, were introduced by individuals who observed them in foreign habitats, and brought them back because they thought they would be attractive additions to New York's aquatic plant community. Invasive animals such as the zebra mussel and the round goby "hitchhiked" to North America in the ballast water of transoceanic shipping vessels, and spread through interconnected waters such as the Great Lakes.

Regardless of how they were introduced, such non-native species are considered "invasive" because when released into New York waters, serious ecological or economic problems have resulted. For example, invasive Eurasian watermilfoil can grow in thick dense beds to the top of the water. These thick beds block boating and swimming access and make fishing difficult. Zebra mussels can plug the water intake pipes used for drinking water and cooling water by power plants and other industries. Keeping zebra mussels out of water intakes requires expensive treatments or system modifications.

A total of $1 million is being made available to municipalities and not-for-profit organizations for projects that eliminate infestations of aquatic invasive species throughout the State. State funds can be used to pay for up to one third of the total costs of a selected eradication project. Individual grants will be awarded for a minimum of $10,000 and maximum of $100,000.

The power of invasive species to rapidly and dramatically reshape the landscape of New York can readily be seen simply by driving along New York's highways and observing the large stands of purple loosestrife and common reeds (also known by its Latin name, Phragmites) that have replaced cattails, bulrushes, and other native wetland plant species. The purple loosestrife's bright purple flower is attractive in late summer, but this invasive wetland plant spreads rapidly and crowds out native wetland plants.

Currently, the primary burden for reducing or eliminating infestations of such aquatic invasive species has been borne by impacted communities, such as lake associations. The goal of the Aquatic Invasive Species Eradication Grant Program is to make it easier for affected communities to undertake projects to eradicate these invasive species.

Application materials for Aquatic Invasive Species Eradication Grants have been mailed to each municipality in the State. Copies are also available by calling DEC at (518) 402-8970, and will soon be posted on the Department's Aquatic Invasive Species Eradication Grant Program website at: Copies of the application materials in PDF format can be downloaded from that web page. All project applications must be postmarked by February 28, 2006.

DEC also recently released the Final Report of the New York State Invasive Species Task Force to Governor George Pataki and the State Legislature. Over the past two years, DEC and the State Department of Agriculture and Markets jointly led a team of other State agencies and a variety of stakeholders in exploring the issue of invasive species in New York State. In July 2005, the Task Force issued a draft report and solicited public comments, which were later reviewed and incorporated into the Final Report.

The report explains the problems that can and do happen when species invade; discusses the many things that government, industry, conservation groups, homeowners, academia, and others are doing to prevent or control invasive plants and animals; and makes recommendations on how New York can improve its defenses against invasive species. Copies of the report can be obtained by calling DEC's Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources at (518) 402-8924, and also will soon be posted online at on DEC's website.

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