Experts to discuss Candlewood Lake milfoil studies at forum
Panel of specialists to discuss research and policy on milfoil control on Dec. 10

DANBURY, CONN. — Specialists in natural resource management, biology and ecology will discuss recent research and offer policy views on strategies to control proliferation of the pest weed Eurasian watermilfoil in Candlewood Lake at a forum on Thursday, Dec. 10, at Western Connecticut State University.

The panel presentation, cosponsored by the WCSU “Science at Night” series and the Candlewood Lake Authority (CLA), will begin at 7 p.m. in Room 125 of the Science Building on the university’s Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury. Admission will be free and the public is invited to attend; a reception with light refreshments in the Science Building Atrium will follow the program.

CLA Executive Director Larry Marsicano observed that the panel’s broad representation of parties interested in effective management of Candlewood Lake — Connecticut’s largest lake and the Greater Danbury area’s primary fresh-water resource — will contribute to informed discussion of technical and public policy approaches to controlling the infestation of watermilfoil in shallows along Candlewood’s 60-mile shoreline. Seasonal growth of thick milfoil beds near or at the lake surface during summer and early autumn months has caused serious disruption to boating, water sports and other recreational activities, and has had a significant impact on the lake’s general ecological balance.

Joining Marsicano on the panel will be Dr. Thomas Lonergan, professor and chairman of the WCSU biological and ecological sciences department, who initiated a research project earlier this year with a team of WestConn students to determine whether watermilfoil roots will be killed when they freeze or dry out for defined periods of time. FirstLight Power Resources, which owns the manmade hydroelectric power reservoir, implements deep winter drawdowns in lake water levels on a biennial basis, in part as a means to expose weed beds to winter weather conditions. Significant variations in the extent to which milfoil has grown back after recent drawdowns have raised questions as to the effectiveness of this eradication strategy. Preliminary findings from initial studies conducted this summer suggest that milfoil roots suffer irreversible damage after relatively brief periods of freezing and drying, but Lonergan has cautioned further research is needed to study milfoil’s capacity to regenerate and assess actual winter temperature and moisture conditions in exposed shoreline soils during lake drawdowns.

Another WestConn participant in the panel discussion will be Professor of Biological and Environmental Sciences Dr. Mitch Wagener, who has coordinated the university’s participation in a pilot study of a biological strategy to control watermilfoil infestation through the implantation of a type of weevil known to damage and, in sufficient numbers, destroy milfoil plants. The Ohio-based ecological consulting firm EnviroScience, which has pioneered use of weevils in weed control at lakes in the Northeast and Midwest, donated an initial population of some 9,000 weevil eggs established during summer 2008 on milfoil stems at three underwater test sites in waters at the north end of Candlewood Lake near Sherman. Student research teams under Wagener’s supervision have revisited these sites to take samples and monitor weevil population trends, and the project will continue with an expected second round of weevil implantations in 2010.

Other panel participants will include: Chuck Lee, of the Connecticut Lakes Program, and Peter Aarrestad, of the Fisheries Division, from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection; Greg Bugbee, specialist for the Invasive Aquatic Plant Team of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station; Robert Gates, Housatonic Hydro Station manager for FirstLight Power Resources; and David Marsillio, of the Candlewood Lake Users and Boaters Association.

Dean of the WCSU School of Arts and Sciences Dr. Linda Vaden-Goad will offer welcoming remarks. The panel discussion will be moderated by Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Chris Kukk, who is a specialist in the public policy and political dimensions of environmental and water-rights issues.

For more information on recent Candlewood Lake research collaborations between WestConn and the Candlewood Lake Authority, visit the WCSU Web site at www.wcsu.edu/candlewood. For information on current CLA activities, visit the agency’s Web site at www.candlewoodlakeauthority.org, or contact Marsicano at claexecdir@earthlink.net or (860) 354-6928.

 

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