Marion Lake project begins anew Monday

Despite lack of promised state funding, the long-term project to eradicate phragmites from Marion Lake will continue starting Monday. Here, a biologist holds a pile of stalks he’d cut down last fall.

Though the Marion Lake Restoration Committee has not seen the grant money it was promised by the state, seasonal work by professional biologists to eradicate invasive phragmites around the lake in East Marion will resume on Monday, according to the group’s founder, Lori Luscher.

“The biologists will be cutting the stalks by hand” so they don’t cut away wanted “natural vegetation that has returned to the lake,” she said on Friday. “But unfortunately, it appears the extreme rains we had in the spring have enhanced the growth of the phragmites more than we anticipated.”

Ms. Luscher, a part-time East Marion resident for 30 years, led the charge about seven years ago to clear the phragmites from the small lake near Orient Harbor. She spent years seeking grants and negotiating with the Department of Environmental Conservation, and by the fall of 2008 she had the proper permits and a $100,000 matching grant from the DEC to move the project forward.

Biologists began the removal process, which takes about five years to complete, in summer and fall last year, and the restoration committee continues to hold fundraisers to pay them, Ms. Luscher said, since only a portion of the matching grant has come through, “We were able to get a partial reimbursement [from the grant] last year, which has enabled us to perform a cutting and chemical application known as wicking,” she said, referring to the method of phragmites eradication that minimizes damage to surrounding native plants. “The cutting is a prelude to the wicking, which we still plan on doing in the fall this year.”

The need for the project has become more pressing in recent years, according to Ms. Luscher. A proliferation of the plants at the Bay Avenue bridge, which crosses the lake, could halt the flow of water from one side of lake to the other. With its connection to Orient Harbor cut off, the lake would become stagnant and polluted.

Though the weather and the grant delay might have set back Ms. Luscher’s goals for the lake, she said she has seen a “tremendous amount of wildlife and natural vegetation” return to the lake this season.

“The phragmites are almost as tall as when we started the project, but they are thinner and less dense,” she said. “We encourage all residents to maintain their property the best they can — every bit helps. This is obviously not a short term project.”

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