Invasive Plants Affect Recreation and Property Statewide

26 Jun Invasive Plants Affect Recreation and Property Statewide

  • Eurasian Watermilfoil affects 126,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs in Indiana.

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    Photo: WFIU/WTIU Newsroom

    Eurasian Watermilfoil affects 126,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs in Indiana.

  • Susan Snider Salmon enjoys kayaking on Lake Lemon, but invasive plants can make it hard for her to get around shorelines.

    Image 2 of 3

    Photo: WFIU/WTIU News

    Susan Snider Salmon enjoys kayaking on Lake Lemon, but invasive plants can make it hard for her to get around shorelines.

  • Experts recommend cleaning your boat before you leave a lake to make sure you don't transfer plant material from lake to lake.

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    Photo: WFIU/WTIU News

    Experts recommend cleaning your boat before you leave a lake to make sure you don’t transfer plant material from lake to lake.

For Susan Snider Salmon, Monroe County’s Lake Lemon has been a constant in her life. She’s owned property on the lake since 1998, but she first lived there as a child. Her husband also grew up on the opposite side of the lake, and this connection brought the two together.

“He was on the east end at Salmon Harbor where his family developed the area, and I grew up near Riddle Point, spending most of my time in the west end,” she says.

In the 70s, Salmon worked as a beach manager. One of her jobs was shoreline, and she often found it covered with an invasive plant to Indiana called Eurasian Watermilfoil. At one point it was so prevalent in the lake, it became impossible to drive boats through the water without a cleared path.

“We would come in on Mondays after a very busy weekend, and find the entire beach covered with just Eurasian Milfoil, piles of it,” she says. “So we’d have to come in the morning, rake that up, and it would be dried and burned.”

Eurasian Watermilfoil made its way from Europe and Asia unintentionally, primarily clinging to shipping containers.

It’s now located on approximately 126,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs across the state, and continues to be problem today at Lake Lemon. While you won’t see it completely covering the lake, the plant can be found in shallow waters and near shorelines and affects recreation including swimming, fishing, and boating.

District Manager of the Lake Lemon Conservancy District, Adam Casey describes the plant as a long stalk that can clump together and block native plants from growing.

“It can range anywhere from 2 feet long, to if it’s in deep water as tall as 10 feet, but it’s a small stalk with tufts of leaves that come out of it,” he says.

Lake Management Spends Thousands A Year To Combat Invasive Plants

The lake budgets about $50,000 a year to treat the milfoil. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources kicks in about $5,000 a year.

That money comes from a grant from the DNR’s Lake and River Enhancement (LARE) Program. The funds are paid for by annual boater registration fees. Every year, a third of the program’s money goes to aquatic vegetation management.

This spring, LARE awarded nearly $600,000 to 42 lake projects to combat invasive plants.

We call that a maintenance lake because there’s not enough money available to treat all that’s out there.

—Ashlee Haviland, LARE Program Specialist

“Lake Lemon has a history of Eurasian Watermilfoil. We’ve been treating that as a maintenance lake out there for many years. We call that a maintenance lake because there’s not enough money available to treat all that’s out there” says Ashlee Haviland, LARE Program specialist. “The conservancy district does a good job of trying to capture the Eurasian Watermilfoil growth out there and to try and treat it all.”

Casey uses the money to pay for outside contractors to survey the lake and treat it with chemicals that directly target invasive plants without harming native fish and plants. In the winter, he brings the lake’s level down by a few feet in an effort to kill off invasive plant roots.

Lake Visitors Spread Invasive Plants Unintentionally

Ultimately, Casey says, it’s up to lake visitors to help stop the spread of invasive plants from lake to lake.

“The biggest thing to do is just education from boaters, getting them to clean off their hulls, dump out their well water, or any type of water that their boat has taken on,” he says. “You want to stop there, dump any water out, clean everything out.”

As someone who’s lived on the lake for most of her life, Salmon understands this responsibility. She’s even involved with the group Monroe County Identify and Reduce Invasive Species, which seeks to educate the community on threat of invasive species like Eurasian Watermilfoil.

Someone introduced these species or they came in through a boat owner not cleaning off their propellers or their bilge water.

—Adam Casey, Lake Lemon Conservancy District

“We didn’t get to this place, either on our land species or in our lake, by accident. Someone introduced these species or they came in through a boat owner not cleaning off their propellers or their bilge water,” she says.

And Haviland says taking care of the environment now is critical.

“It’s important to be good stewards of the environment for future generations,” she says. “If you grow up on the lakes, there’s always those found memories of  ‘Oh, I grew up on a lake and this is what it used to be like, and this is how I remember it.’ So for future generations, it’s important.”

Last week, managers treated Lake Lemon for some of those invasive plants, so the lake will be ready for upcoming Fourth of July celebrations.

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