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Letter to the Editor: Prevention is THE Priority

A letter from Candlewood Watershed Initiative Director Jim McAlister.

The politically correct call them “aquatic nuisance species.” The disengaged refer to them as Eurasian watermilfoil, didymo, zebra mussels, quagga mussels and the like — and indeed they are fouling and muscling their way across the region. Those who have firsthand experience with them call them by far more descriptive, far less printable names.

Suffice to say that these aquatic invaders, be they plants or animals, risk over-populating and overwhelming waters near us and may soon become all-too-familiar and very unpopular names. That is, unless and until we all wake up to the threat, unite in our own defense and seriously commit to keeping these marauders at bay. Candlewood Lake‘s destiny and our recreational and property values could rest in the balance. Prevention is the priority.

Zebra mussels are now atop the hit parade list and for good reason. While thankfully there is no evidence of their arrival yet… they have invaded nearby waters, they are prolific and, if and when they do arrive and colonize, it could be too late for the Lake — chances of extricating them are slim to none. Given that the larval form of these zebra mussels will soon be drifting in infected waters and that the season for unwittingly transporting these critters — by boating and fishing and kayaking and waterskiing and canoeing and wake boarding and water crafting of all types — is now upon us, the time to motivate is now. Fortunately concern and plans are coming together to try and preempt their entry here, but this will be no cakewalk, no time for naysayers nor pussyfooting. It’s a time for all to become informed, engaged, and serious in preventing their arrival. Half-a-loaf won’t hunt.

Here’s what we and others are urging be instituted now for this season: that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) staff high-risk boat ramps during all boating hours and that others control their boat ramp access; that First Light commit not to pump up from the Housatonic River when zebra young are active; that a solution be found and soon to prevent zebra mussels from exiting their spawning ground in Massachusetts; that all organized fishing tournament sponsors and participants comply with event rotation requirements, plus accepted decontamination and dry-time protocols; that approval of the regulation making it illegal to possess zebra mussels and other named invasive species be fast-tracked; that a universal boat self-certification form be instituted, complemented by operator interviews and boat inspections; that all media channels be actively utilized throughout the season to inform and urge compliance with sound protective guidelines.

Here’s what you, your family members and boating visitors need to do now and going forward: become informed on the threat (candlewoodlakeauthority.org; Candlewood Lake United’s site on Facebook; Army Corps of Engineers guide; or simply search online); review video of “Don’t Move a Muscle” (CLU’s FB site; Channel 17/ATT Channel 99); know which waters are infected (see CLU’s FB updates); avoid infested waters as the only sure-fire way to prevent carriage; comply with boat decontamination instructions without fail if your craft has been exposed; volunteer to be an ‘Invasive Investigator’ by helping to man area boat ramps (contact CLA); pass the word, proactively practice and urge compliance. Our principal objective must be “zero zebras.” Prevention is the priority.

Jim McAlister

Candlewood Watershed Initiative

Steven DeVaux April 26, 2011 at 12:02 PM
The problem with this approach is that out of the millions of people that enjoy Candlewood Lake, it is going to take only one.....single....solitary....event for the Lake to have the Zebra mussels. I think it would be more prudent and productive with the limited resources that the community has to prepare a way to deal with them and to have a plan in place to do so. Wishing they won't be here won't stop geese from flying over from Lake Lillinonah with the eggs in their feathers or some other crazy way that the lake is introduced to Zebra mussels. Nothing is 100%.

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