have responsibility in curtailing Eurasian Water Milfoil
Jim Brakken, president-elect, Wisconsin Association of Lakes
Originally transported from Europe to the East Coast
as aquatic foliage for fish rearing ponds, Eurasian Water
Milfoil is now carried from lake to lake by inattentive
or uncaring boaters.
A rapid increase in infestation of Wisconsin lakes has
occurred in the last 10 years. If the current rate of
spread continues, virtually all Wisconsin lakes with public
access will have this invasive by the middle of this decade.
The influx of this prolific, invasive plant has resulted
in new regulations, effective this year. Wisconsin boaters
now face stiff fines for transporting even fragments of
any aquatic plant on boats and trailers.
Lakes afflicted with Eurasian Milfoil face an enormous
cost for treatment. Clear Lake, in Sawyer County, for
example, has been fighting a Eurasian Water Milfoil infestation
for two years. They have invested almost $30,000 in their
77 acre lake. They have more research, treatments, monitoring,
and expenses ahead. They know they will never be rid of
the milfoil problem. Many lakes have had similar results.
Once Eurasian Water Milfoil gets a foothold in a lake,
it's there for good. Large, unattractive, floating milfoil
mats can quickly fill shallow areas. It chokes out native
species, changing the ecology of the lake, including the
fishery. In most cases, it also impairs the ability to
boat. Milfoil harvesting attempts fail because the plant
breaks into fragments and spreads. A fragment as small
as a pea can grow a new plant.
Another control approach is to plant small herbivorous
water beetles in the milfoil beds. The beetles, unfortunately,
cost $1.50 each. Tens of thousands are needed to make
a difference. The beetles will reproduce, but only in
areas with natural shorelines. For this reason, the beetles
are a poor choice for developed lakes, unless the shoreland
owners have left the lakefront in a natural condition
or have restored the near shore area.
The only reasonable approach to the milfoil problem at
this time is prevention. All boaters must help by thoroughly
checking their boats, trailers, live boxes, jet ports,
anchors, and other gear whenever landing any boat. Visitors
to our lakes must be educated about the problem and the
new regulations. The new law will help emphasize the need
for boater's attention and the associated fines will give
a wake up call to those who refuse to acknowledge this
enormous problem. The fines range from $50 to more than
$2,000, depending on the nature of the violation and the
history of the violator.