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Toby Talbot, File, Associated Press
FILE - In this June 30, 1997 file photo, a replica of the Revolutionary War gunboat Philadelphia floats at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Ferrisburgh, Vt., Monday, June 30, 1997. A similar gunboat, the Spitfire, has been on the bottom of the lake since it was sunk in 1776 during the Revolutionary War, while being used by Benedict Arnold to help hold off the British in the key naval Battle of Valcour Island. Historian Art Cohn is developing a management plan for the future of the Spitfire, fearing the possible threat of an invasive species that could destroy the wreck if it is not raised and preserved.

MONTPELIER, Vt. — A Lake Champlain historian is planning for the future of the Revolutionary War gunboat Spitfire, a vessel that hasn't been seen above the water since it sank in 1776 after helping delay the British fleet in a key naval battle.

The intact, 54-foot Spitfire was found on the bottom of the lake in 1997. For years officials felt that was the safest place for it.

Now Lake Champlain Maritime Museum emeritus director Art Cohn is preparing a draft management plan that he will submit to the Navy.

Cohn fears that the invasive species quagga mussels will eventually reach Lake Champlain and destroy the Spitfire.

Though the Battle of Valcour Island was a defeat for the colonies, it delayed the British enough to allow the Continental Army to prepare for its eventual victory at the Battle of Saratoga.