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©2016 Northeastern WI Audubon Society, Inc.
DISCOVERY, ERADICATION & PREVENTION
REPORT & PLAN
By Brian Ewart
This summer, our lake studies found the aquatic invasive species (AIS) Eurasian water-milfoil (EWM) growing in Berry Lake near the boat landing (see below). EWM is one of the most aggressive and potentially destructive aquatic invasive plants in the Midwest. It can cover the water surface with a mat so dense that motor boats, pontoon boats, jet skis and other forms of boating are impossible. It can seriously harm the fishery and endanger swimmers. The weed can take over a lake like Berry Lake in just a few years.
While it is possible to get rid of small infestations of EWM, more typically, once a lake has it, it has it forever. EWM has reportedly been eliminated from lakes when it was found in the very early stages of development. More often, the infestation is not found early or when found it is not addressed until it progresses to a more advanced stage.
The good news is: 1) the EWM in Berry Lake was found in the earliest stage of any outbreak in the DNR’s Northeast Region, and 2) our rapid response has been characterized by DNR officials as the quickest and most impressive they have seen.
The DNR’s Science Operations Center in Madison informed us about the EWM on July 23. In less than two weeks we: a) located the EWM plants reported by the DNR, b) sampled and confirmed the presence of EWM, c) marked the area with floats, d) consulted with DNR officials about the situation, our options and the most appropriate courses of action, e) prepared a comprehensive 2 ½ year EWM eradication plan including chemical and manual EWM removal, prevention, AIS education and on-going monitoring for EWM, f) written a preliminary grant request, g) obtained a Town of Underhill resolution offering to sponsor an AIS Control grant, h) obtained formal DNR authorization for reimbursement of cash expenditures and in-kind donations in accordance with State regulations and conditional upon approval of the formal grant application, i) experimented with the DNR recommended hand pulling of EWM plants and j) hosted an informational meeting for the Berry Lake Community conducted by the DNR Northeast Region’s AIS Coordinator.
On August 11 and August 25, we organized and conducted two major Community events during which we attempted to manually remove the infestation’s core colony. Although we could not remove the entire core, we successfully removed hundreds of pounds of EWM plants or “bio-mass” that may otherwise have spread the infestation into the lake with seed and fragments.
We made arrangements for our fall chemical treatment by: 1) obtaining chemical applicator company recommendations from knowledgeable, trusted and reliable sources, 2) interviewing three of the State’s most highly recommended chemical applicators and 3) identifying the most appropriate of these. We then made arrangements for a chemical permit to be granted by the DNR within the next week and for the chemical application to commence when weather conditions are most appropriate…typically in mid-October.
We researched and developed the components necessary for the formal Rapid Response Aquatic Invasive Species Control Grant application. We are currently working with the Berry Lake Property Owners and the Underhill Sportsmen’s Club to ensure our RR AIS Control Grant funds a plan with proactive prevention and education programs that are robust, comprehensive and effective. We expect the grant application to be completed, submitted and approved within a matter of days.
We anticipate the dollars, labor and materials Berrylakers have donated for EWM identification and removal activities will cover most or all of this fall’s chemical treatment costs when combined with State matching money made available through the RR AIS Control grant. Next spring’s treatment may require more funds.
To cover expenses that may not be addressed by the State matching funds we accrue for volunteer labor donated through grant activities, we have an excellent array of community resources available for receiving donations and maximizing their effect. Berrylakers, Underhill residents and others who would like to contribute are encouraged to make their donations in one of four ways:
1) Directly to the Town of Underhill.
The BLPO and the Underhill Sportsmen's Club have excellent "boots on the ground" one-on-one contacts with Berry Lake riparians and Underhill residents so these two organizations are in the ideal position to collect donations.
Those who can benefit by donating to a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation or who can have their donation to a non-profit matched by an employer can have 100% of their donation go to the Berry Lake AIS/EWM effort and be used to maximum effect within the context of the grant by contributing to the Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon Society’s "Berry Lake Fund" with checks made payable to “NEW Audubon fbo Berry Lake Fund.” (NEW Audubon played a similar role in Green Bay during the mid-1990s by receiving the tens of thousands of dollars in donations that allowed concerned citizens and the City to create the "Baird Creek Parkway.")
The Town of Underhill does not have a “Mother Lode” of cash reserves waiting to be thrown at EWM. The Town could assist us with its taxing authority but the lake belongs to all of the people. State statute does not appear to allow the Town to target riparian property owners exclusively for its maintenance.
We will know more about our financial needs for the remainder of this year when the prevention and educational components of our plan are fully developed and the fall chemical application is completed.
WHAT BERRYLAKERS CAN DO
Volunteer to participate in Clean Boats/Clean Waters. We can no longer afford a reactive strategy that waits until Berry Lake gets “sick.” We need to be proactive. Most people who bring boats to Berry Lake are “repeat customers.” An effective CB/CW program that gets these boaters to inspect and clean their boats can substantially reduce the risk of EWM being reintroduced and stop new AIS infestations that can’t be removed once we have them (e.g. zebra mussels and the fish disease VHS). The Berry Lake Property Owners and the Underhill Sportsmen’s Club can help by providing the training and organizing we need for an active and on-going CB/CW program. Your valuable time at Berry Lake spent getting trained and conducting the necessary boat inspections at our landing protects the Lake proactively and earns State matching funds for EWM control.
Help us monitor EWM. As part of our grant funded plan, we are establishing a comprehensive EWM monitoring program. The program is designed to locate and remove any EWM that is not eradicated by chemical treatments, any that emerges elsewhere in the lake or is again introduced by careless and irresponsible boaters. When you learn how to identify EWM and how to report plants that may be EWM we can remove them manually or with chemicals. (Please do not remove the look-alike but useful native Northern milfoil.) Those who volunteer time to our monitoring program earn State matching dollars for EWM control.
Volunteer time and/or donate money to help pay the expenses associated with EWM eradication and control. The Town of Underhill does not have the cash reserves or the tax base to take on major EWM eradication and control costs in addition to the educational, highway, fire protection and other services it currently provides. Keeping costs as low as possible is one reason we are fortunate to have discovered the EWM outbreak early and why it is critically important that we now do everything possible to ensure it is eliminated quickly and completely and to make sure it is not reintroduced through carelessness.
As stated above, we are fortunate to have a unique combination of community organizational resources that allow us to address our fundraising needs in a variety of creative ways. We don’t need to have one organization attempt to be all things. By working together we already have everything we need.
Two local community organizations (Berry Lake Property Owners and Underhill Sportsmen’s Club) can provide a valuable service by helping us organize volunteers to conduct Clean Boats/Clean Waters. Those volunteers not only provide a valuable service in helping us prevent new AIS or reintroduced EWM but the labor they donate earns State matching money that pays for chemical treatments and other control costs. They can also help by soliciting cash donations.
A sponsor of one of our lake grants, the Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon Society, is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation. Berrylakers have already donated several hundred dollars to NEW Audubon’s special “Berry Lake Fund.”
Berrylakers who can not use or do not want the tax advantages of donating to a 501 (c) (3) can donate to the BLPO or the USC but those who would like the benefit can make their check payable to “NEW Audubon fbo Berry Lake Fund” and send it to the NEW Audubon Society, PO Box 1, Green Bay, WI 54305
As stated above, we will be providing more information about our financial needs in the coming weeks and months.
QUESTIONS & CONCERNS
EWM FRAGMENTATION DUE TO MANUAL REMOVAL
Some people believe the EWM fragments generated during our EWM hand pulling and cutting may have done more damage than the good of removing the EWM. While fragments are the primary source of EWM reproduction and spread, the truth is that EWM fragments all by itself all summer long. Further, despite the floats we have marking the EWM and our repeated warnings, motorboats and jet skis capable of producing extensive fragmentation were repeatedly observed going through the densest potions of the EWM core. Lastly, EWM left in place goes to seed, weakens and “auto-fragments” on its own. Auto-fragmentation sheds approximately 10% of the plant’s bulk as fragments that are then dispersed into the lake to reproduce and spread the infestation.
Precautions to keep EWM fragments from dispersing into the lake should always be taken. We take precautions but they can be improved. Our divers are aware of the fragmentation problem. The primary task of our volunteers in kayaks and canoes and for some of those on pontoon boats is to look for and capture escaped fragments. Although some fragments are certain to escape, we are convinced that they are far less than the 10% of the bio-mass that would have auto-fragmented anyway and less than the additional fragments that would have been produced by boat traffic. A high proportion of escaped fragments are expected to die naturally when they fail to get established in a suitable location. Our plan is to eliminate the fragments which are produced naturally, by boats or during manual removal and which do become established with chemical treatment and during subsequent monitoring and removal.
CHEMICAL TREATMENT PERMIT
Some people say the application for the chemical treatment permit has been delayed for too long. In fact, the permit could not have been obtained previously for a number of reasons including the fact that the full extent of the EWM infestation had to be determined or areas with EWM but not identified in the permit would not been treated until next year. The DNR Aquatic Plant Manager responsible for issuing the permit was on vacation so no permit could be issued, upon his return. The APM needed to respond to requests that he visit the site. The APM’s visit prompted him to request additional GPS information necessary to survey and, if necessary, treat another area (see yellow area on map), there is plenty of time to obtain a permit for the fall treatment as proposed. The permit is anticipated to be ready at least six weeks earlier than necessary.
Some people say the application for the grant should have been submitted by now. In fact, a Rapid Response AIS Control grant is a two stage process. The most critical step occurred in late July when we consulted with both the DNR and Berry Lake Stakeholders, wrote the preliminary plan, submitted it to the Town of Underhill board and received approval by the DNR on August 3. The final stage requires participation by the community organizations (e.g. BLPO and/or USC) that can organize the necessary volunteer CB/CW activities and it requires another resolution to be approved by the Underhill town board.
The DNR is not concerned. The DNR designs the application process to ensure credit for cash expenditures and volunteer labor made in the short-term while allowing adequate time for applicants to conduct the research and work required to assemble a realistic, workable and effective plan. It is impossible to complete an application before key organizations have an opportunity to meet, review, discuss and approve the components they are contributing to the Berry Lake Community’s collective effort.
The author is a lifelong Berrylaker, a Berry Lake riparian property owner, the Berry Lake lake grants coordinator,and grant writer for the RR AIS Control grant
NORTHEASTERN WISCONSIN AUDUBON SOCIETY