Elkhart Lake board updated on efforts to combat lake weeds

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

ELKHART LAKE – Elkhart Lake is deep and relatively weed-free – and the Elkhart Lake Improvement Association would like to keep it that way.

ELIA representative Nancy Hanlon reported to the Village Board Monday on the group’s effort to control weeds and keep Elkhart Lake blue.

“We don’t have a huge weed problem on Elkhart Lake,” Hanlon told the board. But that doesn’t mean there is no weed problem at all, she quickly added.

The association received a Lake Management Plan grant last year, Hanlon related, and used the money to have the state Department of Natural Resources conduct a point intercept plant survey of the entire lake.

A marine biochemist went to 594 different spots all over the lake and pulled up whatever underwater vegetation they found at that spot, identifying it and determining the density of the plant, she explained.

“They found a great diversity of native plants in Elkhart Lake, but they did find two non-native invasive plants,” Hanlon said.

The most common non-native invasive found was Eurasian water milfoil, according to Hanlon.

The other non-native invasive identified in the survey, curly leaf pondweed, was only found at four sites but dies back by July, she added.

The EWM grows to the surface of the water and can mat along the water surface. It can crowd out native weeds, spread from fragments that are cut off by motor boats and then carried to other parts of the lake and, left uncontrolled, can make areas of the lake inaccessible for recreational boating, swimming and fishing, according to material presented to the board by ELIA.

The Eurasian water milfoil has been documented in Elkhart Lake since 1993, Hanlon added.

The association is planning strategies to combat the spread of the invasive weed, Hanlon continued.

“We feel pretty strongly that it would be irresponsible to do nothing,” she stated.

To that end, the association is planning several strategies, Hanlon said.

Those will include volunteer citizen monitoring, continued plant surveys, prevention education, manual weed pulling in shallow areas and bottom barriers in shallow areas with firm bottoms.

The key effort will be to obtain permission from the DNR to treat the Eurasian water milfoil with chemicals.

“We would treat once or twice a year targeting invasive species,” Hanlon explained.

“The chemicals used are tested and regulated to the max by the DNR and EPA,” she assured the board. The lake cannot be used for swimming for one day following treatment and water from the lake cannot be used for watering or other purposes for two weeks.

“The ELIA is leading the way and on an on-going basis we will look for partnerships with affected parties,” Hanlon said of paying for the chemical treatment.

“I’m asking you to consider taking on a partnership with this at a level you’re comfortable with,” Hanlon told the board.

Before any treatment can begin, a permit must be issued by the DNR, Hanlon said. That requires public notice in the newspaper of the application; postcard notification of all landowners on the lake; and posted notices on piers, shorelines and public areas.

If the permit is approved, the treatment of designated areas would take place in early spring when the water temperature reaches 50 to 60 degrees.

Hanlon said the complete plan, with maps, graphs and identified plants, will be posted on the ELIA website www.keepelkhartblue.org.

The board referred the issue to the Administration and Finance Committee.

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