No one knows how it got there, but for several years a dangerous invasive aquatic plant has been infesting the shallows of beautiful Lake Leelanau. Known to outgrow and outcompete native vegetation, Eurasian Watermilfoil creates dense underwater jungles and spreads like a mat at the surface of lakes.
Biologist for the Lake Leelanau Lake Association (LLLA), Brian Price says the invasion became obvious last year. A survey discovered the invader in several discrete locations in South Lake Leelanau including near the Narrows and in one large mile-long swath on the east side of the lake.
According to Jo Latimore, Ph.D., an aquatic ecologist with Michigan State University, this plant poses serious threats to the ecology of Lake Leelanau and the future enjoyment of the lake by humans. In fact, when infestations get severe, the property values of lakeside homes fall.
Joining with the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (GTB), the LLLA decided to try to stop this invasive plant’s spread. Speaking for the GTB, Fish and Wildlife Biologist Dan Mays says this effort is important to the long-term goals of the tribe, including the preservation of Lake Leelanau’s ecology. With GTB’s support, LLLA decided to fight this invasive plant without chemicals or mechanical harvesters.
Price says the project team is engaging in an experimental approach that combines diver-assisted suction harvesting (DASH) for small areas and light barriers installed on the lake bottom, including a new-to-Michigan approach of using very large, biodegradable burlap barriers.
Please watch this colorful and dramatic video to learn more about the DASH system operated by Mike Smith and the placement of huge burlap barriers now installed in Lake Leelanau.