For Immediate Release

May 22, 1998

Contacts:

 Ellie Koon (USFWS) 616-845-6205

Marc Gaden (GLFC) 734-662-3209

Al Schiavone (NYDEC) 315-785-2262

Terry Harden (Harden Furniture) 315-245-1000

 

Sea Lampreys Finding "Keep Out" Sign at

Renovated Harden Furniture Inc. Dam

 

Partnership between Harden Furniture and fishery agencies to bring an end to lampricide treatments in upper Fish Creek

 

McConnellsville, NY--Spring is here and sea lampreys are on the move, migrating up Great Lakes streams to spawn. But sea lampreys moving up the West Branch of Fish Creek are finding a "Keep Out" sign posted at the dam in McConnellsville. Modifications to the dam were recently completed and are preventing sea lampreys from passing upstream into the upper West Branch of Fish Creek including the Little River and the Mad River. The dam was "lamprey- proofed" as part of a cooperative project between the owner, Harden Furniture Inc., the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC).

The West Branch of Fish Creek, a tributary to Oneida Lake and Lake Ontario, is prime spawning habitat for the exotic sea lamprey. Sea lampreys, fish parasites native to the Atlantic Ocean, spawn in hospitable Great Lakes tributaries then die. Lamprey eggs hatch, live as larvae for several years in silty areas of a river, and then migrate to the open waters of the Great Lakes to prey on fish. Lampreys, when uncontrolled, inflict enormous damage on a fishery; lampreys in the Great Lakes nearly drove the native lake trout, whitefish, and cisco populations to extinction in the 1940s and 1950s. Fortunately, a sea lamprey control program, using lampricides, barriers, trapping, and other alternative control techniques, has reduced lamprey populations by 90% in most areas of the Great Lakes.

Harden Furnitureís dam is a rock-filled timber crib structure originally built between 1850 and 1870 to supply water for the furniture mill. The dam was not designed to be water-tight; some water flows through the structure to relieve pressure. But sea lampreys, snake-like fish about 18 inches in length and 1 Ĺ inches in diameter, can squeeze through spaces only 3/4 inch wide and proceed upstream to infest headwaters with their larvae.

Sea lamprey control agents, noting that lampreys easily passed the dam, approached Harden and reported that, with minor changes to the existing structure, the dam could become an effective sea lamprey barrier. In 1994 and 1995, work was undertaken to install a heavy-duty plastic mesh across the face of the dam, and to eliminate small seepages around the abutments. The project was designed by Plumley Engineering of Baldwinsville, NY and built by Tioga Construction of Herkimer, NY. The Canadian sea lamprey barrier engineer with DFO and the U.S. barrier coordinator with the FWS provided guidance on the design. The modifications were financed by the GLFC and overseen by Harden and fisheries staff of the NYSDEC.

The West Branch of Fish Creek and its tributaries are treated with lampricide every three to four years, which is expensive and labor-intensive. With establishment of a lamprey barrier at McConnellsville, treatment of just the river downstream of the barrier will be economical and more effective. Because of the modifications to Hardenís dam, the lampricide treatment in late May should be the last sea lamprey treatment needed upstream of the dam.

"This project will significantly improve the level of sea lamprey control in Lake Ontario and Oneida Lake," commented Dr. Chris Goddard, the Great Lakes Fishery Commissionís Executive Secretary. "The partnership between Harden Furniture and fishery agencies is a prime example of efficient, cooperative fishery management. This collaboration will serve as a model for what we can do with the help of all people who want a healthy, productive Great Lakes."

 

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