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2015 State of the Lake Report Released for Lake Champlain

posted Jun 30, 2015, 12:12 PM by Lyn Munno
Grand Isle, VT – The Lake Champlain Basin Program’s 2015 State of the Lake and Ecosystem Indicators Report was released today. The report, produced about every 3 years, informs the public and resource managers about Lake Champlain’s condition and provides a better understanding of threats to its health and opportunities to meet the challenges ahead. 
The 2015 State of the Lake and Ecosystem Indicators report is now posted on-line here.
Highlights include: 
Water Quality
  • Lake Champlain’s in-lake phosphorus concentrations are still too high in many parts of the Lake. 
  • Phosphorus trends are improving in some tributaries such as the Missisquoi River and Otter Creek in Vermont and Little Ausable and Mettawee rivers in New York. 
  • Some of the Lake Champlain embayments are generally meeting their phosphorus targets including Cumberland Bay, Burlington Bay, and Shelburne Bay.
  • While 2011 spring and summer floods severely boosted nutrient concentrations in most sections of the Lake to the highest annual average since the initiation of the Lake Champlain monitoring program in 1992, nutrient concentrations have improved since the 2011 floods.
  • Water quality, aquatic invasive species, and the food web are impacted by significant temperature increases, especially in shallow bays around Lake Champlain. Since 1964, the average August water surface temperature has changed as follows: the Main Lake (+3.8oF), Missisquoi Bay (+3.9oF), St. Albans Bay (+5.2oF), Shelburne Bay (+6.8oF),and the South Lake (+5.9oF)
Fish and Wildlife
  • Sea lamprey wounding on lake trout and Atlantic salmon have dropped to the lowest rates since monitoring began in 1985. 
  • Scientists have documented some recent changes in the biological communities of the Lake’s food web, such as declines in zooplankton populations. These can cause a ripple effect all the way up to the top predators. State and Federal partners conduct annual surveys of the open water fish communities. Data show that native rainbow smelt numbers have declined while alewives have become more abundant.
  • In Vermont, more than 3,300 acres of wetlands habitat have been conserved since 1991, thanks to a strong partnership among the US Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, private land owners and other key organizations working to restore as many as 85,000 acres of wetlands.
Invasive Species
  • In the southern portion of Lake Champlain, water chestnut populations have been reduced to their southernmost point since 1999, south of Dresden Narrows.
  • Round goby, hydrilla, and quagga mussels are aquatic invasive species on the doorsteps to Lake Champlain. Anglers, boaters and other recreational users must all remain diligent in preventing the spread of invasive species.
  • From data collected by LCBP’s boat launch stewards during summer 2014, a top 10 list of waterbodies visited most recently prior to launching in Lake Champlain include: NY (Hudson River, Saratoga Lake, Mohawk River, Oneida Lake and Lake George, CT (Candlewood Lake), NH( Lake Winnipesaukee), MA (Quabbin Reservoir), NJ(Lake Hopatcong), and the Connecticut River. With the introduction of spiny waterflea into Lake Champlain in 2014, regional lakes especially need to be vigilant about requesting boaters to CLEAN DRAIN and DRY their boats and gear if boaters are launching into or returning from Lake Champlain.
Human Health
  • Cyanobacteria blooms remain a concern especially in Missisquoi Bay. Similar to other lakes around the world, cyanobacteria blooms are a nuisance with human health implications.
  • While most days it is safe to swim in nearly all parts of Lake Champlain, beach closures sometimes occur in the Lake, particularly in the northeast arm, usually due to coliform bacteria from surface water.
From press release issued June 30, 2015. For further information, contact, the Lake Champlain Basin Program at (802) 372-3213.