Spiny water flea just a preview of more dangerous invasives to come

The Essex County Board of Supervisors

The Essex County Board of Supervisors Photo by Keith Lobdell.

— Mark Malchoff believes that the presence of the spiny water flea in local lakes and canals is only a warning.

Malchoff, a member of Lake Champlain Sea Grant, feels the recent discoveries of the invasive species in the Champlain Canal and on Lake George is a signal that more invasives were on their way.

“We need to take a look at spiny water flea because there are more things coming that are a lot worse,” he told members of the Essex County Board of Supervisors during its Aug. 6 meeting. “There are a few other critters waiting in the wings that I think are much more disturbing. Quagga mussels, round goby, hydrilla, Asian clam and fragile papersheet pink heelsplitter — all of these in my opinion are going to cause a lot more ecological havoc than the spiny water flea.”

In the last week, lawmakers in New York and Vermont have argued over whether a portion of the Champlain Canal near Glens Falls should be closed down in order to prevent the invasive species known as spiny water flea from getting into Lake Champlain. Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy has called on New York to close the canal, while the state Canal Corporation has refused, citing the potential economic impact of cutting off Lake Champlain from the Hudson River and state canal system.

Malchoff said he understands both arguments.

“In my opinion it is hard to close a canal,” he said. “However, the state sued the city of Chicago to close their canal down to prevent the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes, so it sounds pretty hypocritical when they will not consider it here.”

Malchoff said that there are ways to transport ships over Lock 9 while closing the canal.

“There are some ways to move boats across the landscape with some lifts and other options,” he said. “You could still move boats but not move water. The technology is there and it is not something that you would have to invent. It's not cheap, and there are a few problems that are associated with.”

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