As I look up, I see there isn’t a cloud in the beautiful blue sky; the sun is warming everything it hits, the breeze is warm on my hands and face, and the mountains in the backdrop almost look like an authentic Bob Ross creation there for my viewing pleasure.
As I hit the water I can instantly feel it start creeping into my wet suit, the warm sun and breeze are now a fleeting memory as I start to acclimatize to the cool midsummer water.
The crew gets right to work. After brief instruction from the crew leader, the divers begin their search patterns, slowly and methodically working around Buck Island. Although the island is less than two miles around, the divers expect to swim over five miles as they harvest. “Looking through my mask limits my field of view,” one of the crew members remarks, “making for a sort of laser beam focus, so we have to ensure our heads are always on a swivel.”
“Working on Upper Saranac Lake is a change of pace from many other lakes we work on,” says Steve Dvorak, co-owner of Invasive Solutions Dive Company (ISDC). “USF has been successfully managing their lake for a long time, so rather than going in planning on removing literal tons of Eurasian watermilfoil, we’re basically out there looking for that ‘needle in the haystack’ and trying to stay ahead of the elusive aquatic invasive plants.”
We have good knowledge of the lake and where historical AIS growth occurs. Throughout the season we work closely with Lake Manager Guy Middleton, implementing an overall harvest strategy, ensuring we swim all the littoral areas of the lake, while maintaining flexibility so we can harvest AIS as it is identified and marked by the lake manager himself.
One thing that really sets Upper Saranac Lake apart from many lakes we work with is their active involvement throughout the harvest season. Guy spends a lot of time on the lake searching for AIS from his boat and marking it with buoys. In the end, this helps our crew really focus much of their time on hand harvesting. Obviously, it is very important to search all of the littoral areas for AIS, but as Guy drops these buoys, it helps us to stay ahead of the AIS so it doesn’t have the chance to fragment, either naturally or by way of boater disturbance, which can lead to an increased population in any one area.
Warm summer days are of limited numbers from a diver’s perspective. There are a lot of factors which lead to less than comfortable diving throughout the season. We sort of emulate the plants; our favorite and most ideal time to dive is July and August when the temperatures and sun are warm and bright, just like the plants love this time to do the majority of their growing.
Dan Cashin is a former United States Marine and a recreationally and commercially certified diver. He is co-owner of Invasive Solutions Dive Company and has been working with the management of aquatic invasive species for five years.