To the editor: The discovery of Asian clams at Onota Lake last summer is a wakeup call.
Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea) is a non-native aquatic invasive species that potentially damages the ecological integrity and recreational value of rivers and lakes. Asian clam larvae could have found their way into Onota Lake by many vectors, for example bilge water or bait buckets. A likely entry path is via the public boat ramp at Burbank Park.
Zebra Mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) is a potentially much more damaging non-native aquatic invasive species that threatens Berkshire lakes. By attaching to boats, motors and structures, Zebra mussels can become a highly destructive and expensive nuisance. Zebra mussels were discovered at Laurel Lake more than 10 years ago, and are also present in nearby Connecticut and New York waterbodies. Zebra mussel larvae can enter our lakes by the same vectors as Asian clam larvae. Furthermore, more mature Zebra mussels can hitch a ride from infested waterbodies by attaching to boat hulls and trailers.
Alarm bells about the Zebra mussel threat rang loud 10 or so years ago. The city of Pittsfield responded by posting signage about the problem; the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation provided funding for the city to hire boat-ramp monitors to educate boaters about clean-boat regulations; and the city, DCR and Lake Onota Preservation Association collectively considered an appropriate boat wash station at Burbank Park.
Over time, however, the signage fell into disrepair, the boat ramp monitoring program became underfunded and plans for the boat wash station were shelved. Now, the Asian clam wake-up call has spurred some action. The city is improving the signage at Burbank Park, DCR is providing additional funds for boat ramp monitors (now called stewards) and LOPA is commissioning a feasibility study for a Burbank Park boat wash station delivering hot water temperatures sufficient to kill Zebra mussel veligers.
Recreational boaters have the most important role to play. By staying vigilant and being careful to appropriately clean, drain and dry their watercraft and trailers, all boaters, rowers and kayakers contribute to keeping Zebra mussels and other harmful aquatic invasive species out of our Berkshire waterbodies and thus helping preserve these irreplaceable natural resources.
Lee Hauge, Lanesborough
Ken Kelly, Lenox
Jim McGrath, Pittsfield
Mike Riordan, Pittsfield
The writers are, respectively, the Friends of Pontoosuc Lake president, the Richmond Pond Association president, the Pittsfield Park and Open Space program manager and the Lake Onota Preservation Association president.