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Great Lakes Article:

Preventing Spread of Invasive Water Species
By DJ Slater

Wisconsin State Journal
Published June 15, 2006

It hovers on the surface of the water, creating a green, weed-like canopy near the lake's shore. Small fish may swim beneath it, but they go unnoticed.

A boater unloads his craft into the water, and as the trailer leaves the park, the green substance hangs onto the frame. The driver is oblivious to its presence.

The substance is Eurasian water milfoil, and it's one of the invasive species that has called Madison lakes home over the past 30 years. Now, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission seek to inform Madison residents about these invasive species and ways to prevent their spread to other water bodies.

A boat-cleaning demonstration, held Wednesday at Wingra Park, was part of Yahara Lakes Week, a celebration highlighting grass-roots efforts that improve Madison's lakes. The tutorial showed techniques to prevent the spread of invasive species.

"In the southern part of Wisconsin, Eurasian water milfoil and curlyleaf pondweed are pretty common," said Donna Sefton, the Lakes Monitoring and Aquatic Invasives Specialist for the DNR. "One of the concerns is boats coming from down here and taking that up to the northern lakes . . . and then causing problems on the lakes. We want to particularly bring the message to boaters to be aware of cleaning their boats before (and after) they go into those lakes."

Milfoil is an aquatic plant that originated in Asia and Europe, according to the DNR. Ships traveling from overseas to the United States empty excess water from the ocean into the Great Lakes, Sefton said. That water carries exotic species like the milfoil and zebra mussels. Once exotic species spread in the Great Lakes, local users pick up the organisms on their boats and then transport them to other Wisconsin lakes.

"Our lakes form so much of the basis of our economy and our way of life in Wisconsin," Sefton said. "If you have an invasive species that affects the use of the water bodies . . . then it is really a threat."

Milfoil easily becomes a nuisance to a lake's ecosystem and users. Sue Jones, a Lakes and Watershed management coordinator, said the plant grows from the lake bottom and spreads over the surface water, preventing sunlight from reaching other plants.

"It shades other plants out and makes conditions better for its growth instead of the native plants we would like to see," Jones said.

Sefton said the plant can break into fragments, which then grow new milfoil plants. With a growth rate of 2 inches per day, she said it doesn't take long for the plant to create problems for recreational lake users. It also can carry with it other invasive species like zebra mussels, a hard-shelled organism that attaches itself to anything, according to the DNR.

Few lakes in Wisconsin remain free exotic species. Sefton said Black Hawk Lake in Iowa County is one of the only lakes left in the state that the DNR is trying to preserve. As for methods to combat the existing problem, Sefton said the DNR has tried removing some nutrients from the lakes and chemical treatments, which Sefton calls a Band-Aid solution.

"There's just no magic bullet to deal with it," she said. "It didn't get here just overnight, and you're not going to solve it overnight."

Copyright © 2006 Wisconsin State Journal

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