DEC, Canal Corp. expand round goby measures after positive detection of aquatic invasive species

Photo courtesy of DEC: The state is expanding detection efforts for the round goby in the canal system.

Posted 22 June 2024 at 9:22 am

Press Release, State DEC and Canal Corporation

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the State Canal Corporation have announced the expansion of operational changes at Champlain Canal locks between Waterford and Stillwater as a precautionary measure due to a recent preliminary detection of round goby eDNA above Lock C-2 in Halfmoon.

eDNA, or “environmental DNA,” is residual genetic material found in air, water or soil. While no physical round goby, an aquatic invasive species (AIS), were captured, DEC and the Canal Corporation are implementing further operational changes in accordance with their joint Rapid Response Plan that was established in 2022 to help prevent the spread of the round goby to the Lake Champlain Basin.

“Out of an abundance of caution and based on preliminary results, DEC and the Canal Corporation are working with State and federal partners to implement the response plan and prevent the potential spread of the round goby to Lake Champlain and safeguard our waterways and fisheries,” said DEC Interim Commissioner Sean Mahar. “Early detection is extremely important in preventing the spread of a suspected new invasive species from entering our environment. DEC will continue to monitor and respond to this situation collaboratively with Canal Corporation to prevent round goby from reaching Lake Champlain.”

The eDNA survey work was collected by U.S. Geological Survey, analyzed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and funded by Lake Champlain Basin Program. The Canal Corporation and DEC will continue to work with partners to conduct additional sampling and provide updates as the agencies work to confirm this eDNA detection. Further operational changes may occur as this work continues, in conformance with the Rapid Response Plan.

The Rapid Response Plan for the Champlain Canal identifies appropriate necessary actions if round goby is detected in the Champlain Canal and guides lock operations by the Canal Corporation.

Additionally, the Canal Corporation, which has been using a “double draining” procedure at Locks C-1 and C-2 since 2022 to help stop round goby, will expand its use to Locks C-3 and C-4.

The forceful water currents created by using this process at the locks deters round goby, a slow swimmer, from entering the locks and possibly traveling further up the Champlain Canal.

During “double draining” each lock is maintained in a full condition and emptied twice during locking operations. For northbound traffic, the locks will drain twice before traffic enters the lock chamber. For southbound traffic, the lock will empty and refill once before any vessels are admitted into the lock for southbound passage. The second draining will occur with the vessels in the lock.

New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said, “Any possible spread of the round goby is a concern for all of us and as we work closely with DEC and other partners to further investigate this preliminary detection, the Canal Corporation is taking immediate action to expand our mitigation efforts. We appreciate the patience of mariners and Canal stakeholders as these operational modifications are activated, and we encourage them to learn how they can help us protect our canal waterways.”

DEC and the Canal Corporation appreciate the patience of mariners and local stakeholders, and encourage everyone to help mitigate the spread of AIS in New York State. All New York residents and visitors have a role to play in protecting state waters from invasive species.