Robin LaFrance, far left, of Keego Harbor, sits with Paul Steen, front, of the Huron River Watershed Council; Niklas Krantz, third from left; and Leslie Clark, far right, of Keego Harbor, in a boat on Dollar Lake.
KEEGO HARBOR —They don’t belong.
Invasive aquatic species like phragmites, flowering rush and others can wreak havoc on local wetlands if nothing is done about them.
Keego Harbor Parks and Recreation Commissioner Leslie Clark said that if nothing is done, economic and recreational impacts will be felt.
“The fisheries of the Great Lakes are at great risk; tourism is at risk,” Clark said. “If beaches are unusable and if fishing is no longer productive — because we have all these invasives — it is an economic impact on our state.”
Clark spoke during an Aug. 16 Keego Harbor City Council meeting about how invasive species are causing problems.
Clark represents Keego Harbor on a steering committee of the Oakland County Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area, or CISMA. She said during the meeting that invasive species have been the focus of CISMA, which was formed in 2014.
“We worked on phragmites and flowering rush, and we’ve treated phragmites on Dollar Lake,” she said.
Phragmites — non-native, invasive plants that sometimes reach 15 feet tall — can be seen along a number of roadways throughout Oakland County and in local wetland areas. They block native vegetation and nutrients, which impacts the ecological health of wetlands, and they impair drainage and limit sight distances along roadways.
The plants have a very deep root system and can reduce access for swimming, fishing and hunting, as well as create fire hazards from dry plant material.
Debi Emmer, a lake monitor for Sylvan Lake and Otter Lake through the Cooperative Lake Monitoring Program, said in an email that flowering rush is an invasive perennial plant with sword-shaped leaves on a low, horizontal stem.
“It blooms from July to September. The flower stalks are umbrella-shaped clusters of many white to pink three-petal flowers. … It can grow up to 20 feet tall,” she said.
On Aug. 22, Clark, Huron River Watershed Council aquatic ecologist Paul Steen and others with a vested interest in invasive species went out to Dollar Lake in Keego Harbor to evaluate the level of invasive species development along the shoreline of the lake.
“(There was) nothing to report today,” Clark said after the evaluation, adding that the evaluation was good for planning purposes “as Keego Harbor decides to develop the shore of Dollar Lake.”
During the City Council meeting, Clark said that this year she has volunteered with the Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program, or CLMP, a volunteer-based inland lakes monitoring program supported by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and several other agencies.
Clark said that the CLMP has the lake monitors, such as herself, surveying the lakes for invasive species.
“(The CLMP) also provided us with training and how to identify (invasive species),” she said during the meeting, adding that during the week of Aug. 13, a survey was conducted on Dollar Lake.
“The CLMP team was disappointed to find a pretty well-established infestation of starry stonewort,” she said. “It is very destructive.”
Starry stonewort has whorls of four to six branchlets/leaves with blunt tips and star-shaped bulbils. They can form dense mats in lakes and can “significantly reduce the diversity of other aquatic plants,” according to michigan.gov.
According to the website, starry stonewort can also disrupt the movement of fish, spawning activity, water flow and recreational activities.
Clark said she discovered two weeks ago that Dollar Lake is entirely surrounded by starry stonewort.
A sampling is performed by throwing a double-headed rake attached to a rope into the water, pulling it up and sorting through what is on the rake heads to look for native and non-native plants.
Clark said that once an invasive species arrives from overseas by ship, it can be transported to inland lakes by recreational boaters.
“There are laws about transporting vegetation on your boat and your trail,” Clark said, “to try to slow down the movement of these things from one lake to another. It is how we got zebra mussel,” she said, referring to a species that is causing concern in the Great Lakes.
Emmer said she has always had an interest in water preservation.
“I live on Otter (Lake), which connects to Sylvan, and it is an opportunity for us to take a look at our lakes and be able to make them the best they can be,” she said.
She said Otter and Sylvan lakes have been invaded by starry stonewort and eurasian watermilfoil.
“Those are the only two we found on the water,” she said, adding that along the shoreline and in the wetlands are phragmites, purple loosestrife and flowering rush.
Clark said she spoke at the meeting to ensure that people are aware of what is going on in their lakes.
“This is a real interesting program that we just got involved in,” she said, adding that the Oakland County Board of Commissioners and the Oakland County Health Division have joined forces with the Michigan Clean Water Corps, known as MiCorps, to monitor the lakes in Michigan.
Clark said the county has been underrepresented in the program for decades.
“The Board of Commissioners stepped up this year,” she said, but noted that there are costs associated with monitoring lakes.
The state runs a database and charges money for volunteers to report data into it, about $185 per lake.
“We increased the number of lakes being monitored from 14 to 74 in Oakland County, which is a really great increase,” Clark said. Experts with the Huron River Watershed Council provide technical support. “They come out and train us on how to test water chemistry and transparency and to sample for invasive species.”
Regarding water transparency, Clark said that on a weekly basis she goes to Cass Lake and drops a 50-foot tape measure with a weighted disk on the end to test water transparency.
“You see how far down you can see it until it disappears, and this data is being collected in many lakes in Michigan for decades,” Clark said.
She hopes to spread the word and keep up the momentum.
“People have been ignoring this for years for it to get this bad, and we didn’t know to look,” she said. “Now people know to look.”
Keego Harbor Mayor Joel Yoder asked Clark during the meeting about the feasibility of a community volunteer project to get people involved to help remove the invasive species.
Clark said many hands are needed.
Scuba divers who are interested in weeding the bottom of lakes that have invasive species infestations can contact Clark at email@example.com.
For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/invasives or email firstname.lastname@example.org.