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Vermont advisory committee to lobby New York governor to keep Champlain Canal lock closed

Round Goby
Eric Engbretson
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Round Goby

The Lake Champlain Basin Program’s Vermont Citizens Advisory Committee on Lake Champlain’s Future met this week to receive updates on several efforts. The key item discussed is the potential incursion of an invasive fish into the lake through the Champlain Canal.

The Round Goby is a fish native to Eurasia. Found in Michigan’s St. Clair River in 1990, the fish has since moved into each of the Great Lakes and is spreading east.

Lake Champlain Basin Program Aquatic Invasive Species Management Coordinator Meg Modley says United States Geological Survey has been tracking the Round Goby’s eastward movement through the Erie Canal system and it’s detection in July 2021 at the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers is of concern.

“This is pretty alarming to our fisheries biologists and other community members in the Lake Champlain watershed because the threat of a Round Goby introduction to Lake Champlain would be concerning. We don’t know exactly what the impacts would be but we have lots of impacts documented in other bodies of water in which they have invaded.”

Modley was providing an update on a Champlain Canal Barrier Study. She says partners in New York, Vermont and Quebec have been studying the Champlain Canal as a pathway that allows invasive species to spread into the Lake Champlain basin because it has no spread prevention measures in place.

“We have documented, by we the larger we Dr. Ellen Marsden and other researchers, have documented that the greatest number of harmful invasive species have come through the Champlain Canal.”

Waitsfield Democratic Vermont House Representative Kari Dolan is frustrated that Vermont has no jurisdiction over the canal that leads into the lake that transects both states.

“We’ve been talking about trying to close the canal for some time and it seems like we continue to run up against the high cost of taking action only to find ourselves once again in a crisis mode in terms of trying to address these problems.”

The Nature Conservancy in New York Policy Advisor William Cooke asked the advisory committee to lobby New York Governor Kathy Hochul to close the lock leading into Lake Champlain due to what he characterized as inaction by the New York Canal Corporation.

“We’re proposing that they close one lock temporarily until the permanent solution is in place. We’re proposing that they notify the boaters. This is all doable. We are being told that New York will make a decision in the next 14 days and that decision is going to be the end of the road one way or the other.”

The committee passed a motion to urge Republican Vermont Governor Phil Scott to contact his counterpart in New York and ask that the lock be closed on an interim basis until a long term solution is developed.

Governor Hochul’s office sent an email to WAMC that notes in part: “Governor Hochul looks forward to continue working with stakeholders and communities along the canals to capitalize on the full potential of this critical asset, while also taking important steps to ensure the habitat and natural resources they provide are protected."

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