Over recent years, there has been an increasing proliferation of invasive, exotic aquatic macrophytes (weeds) that has impacted the ecology of Sodus Bay.Weed growth has increased in abundance and intensity throughout the Bay. Although this is often a symptom of eutrophication, in the case of Sodus Bay, the “symptom” has far reaching economic, ecological and water use implications and impacts.
Decaying plant material from excessive weed growth in the bay adds nutrients, encouraging more weeds to grow. Overtime, the bay would become overrun with weeds and, prohibiting any kind of use by boaters or swimmers.
While we all recognize that aquatic plants are essential for the maintenance of a healthy aquatic ecosystem, when their abundance reaches levels that impair recreational uses, clog water intakes, decrease aesthetic values and other social desires, society then demands a level of management that is acceptable to balance ecosystem needs and social expectations (Williams, 1998). Thus, special attention was given to investigating and developing better management options for nuisance aquatic weed growth since this is the driving force behind Bay-wide social interests and concerns.
As with any weed harvesting program, the process is relatively slow and the operation is limited to areas that are easily accessible and unencumbered by obstructions, piers and docks. As a result, even though the operation is successful and cost-effective, it has been criticized. The most significant challenge arising with this program, and all other weed harvesting programs, is the inability to fully meet the demands of the public. Machine, labor and fiscal limitations impact the ability to harvest every area. Furthermore, site limitations impact accessibility and impede the ability of the machines to operate in given areas of Sodus Bay. Thus although the operation has had a positive impact on the Bay, it has not, nor can it alone, meet the weed control needs of the Sodus Bay community. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a non-favorable public perception of the program and complaints to the WCSWCD.
In 2004, Wayne County representative actually discussed the logistics of discontinuing this service and donating the equipment to the various private Sodus Bay community associations and/or the surrounding municipalities. This did not occur as no entity desired to take on the operation and the overwhelming difficulties associated with the successful implementation of the program. This is further evidence that although a very worthwhile operation, the current weed harvesting program alone cannot meet the weed control needs of the community.
The harvesting data compiled by the WCSWCD shows that the ongoing weed harvesting operations have been very successful. Not only does it result in the removal a large amount of biomass and associated phosphorus from the lake (approximately 200 lbs/yr), it addresses the majority of the publics concerns regarding accessibility and recreational utilization of the lake. It has also been successful from the standpoint of inhibiting the further spread or increased dominance of Eurasian water milfoil.
(Souza Study 2007)