Oakland County invasive species group gets grant

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published March 10, 2016


OAKLAND COUNTY —  The Oakland County Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA) has been awarded a grant to combat invasive species, including phragmites, swallow-wort and knotweed. 

The grant, which totals $235,126, is offered through the Michigan departments of Natural Resources, Environmental Quality, and Agriculture and Rural Development. Oakland CISMA participants are expected to match about 50 percent of the state funding, making more than $440,000 available, according to a press release from the Road Commission for Oakland County. 

Road Commission Public Information Officer Craig Bryson said the Road Commission is administering the grant. 

Oakland CISMA was founded in 2015 when partners in Oakland County — including townships, cities, county agencies, land conservancies and nonprofits — signed a memorandum of understanding. The role of Oakland CISMA is to be a leader in invasive plant control. 

After the group was denied a grant in 2015, the Road Commission provided Oakland CISMA with $75,000 to treat invasive plant species along 22.5 miles of county road right of way. The Road Commission said the invasives “choke out native vegetation and absorb nutrients.” Along roadways, the plants also cause obstruction for motorists and prevent ditches from working properly. 

While phragmites australis, which grows up to 15 feet tall, is native to Michigan, a non-native variety has spread across the state, according to the DEQ. Phragmites threaten the ecological health of wetlands and the Great Lakes coastline, the DEQ’s website states. 

“Phragmites are a major problem along roadways all over the state and certainly here in Oakland County,” Bryson said. “We’re glad to be participating in this process.” 

Japanese knotweed is a non-native plant that was originally introduced from Asia as an ornamental plant. The MDNR’s website states that knotweed can contribute to stream bank erosion and flooding when it washes into the water during peak flow times. Knotweed’s rhizomes and shoots can also penetrate asphalt and cracks in concrete. Black and pale swallow-worts — also known as dog-strangling vine — twine around other vegetation, the MDNR’s website states.  

“I am pleased that the RCOC was able to provide startup money for this program,” Road Commission Managing Director Dennis Kolar said in a press release. “The formation of a solid CISMA combined with last year’s effort to combat invasive species really helped the group put together a solid application for state funding that RCOC was very happy to support.” 

Bryson said the invasives will be removed through a spray process, which is done twice a year. 

“Because these things are so hardy and invasive, you can’t just dig them out,” Bryson said. “You have to spray and kill them.” The invasives can’t be burned either, he said. 

West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission Executive Director Jennifer Tucker, who is on the executive board for Oakland CISMA, said the West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission requested a total of $13,000 between the grant and matching funds to battle phragmites in the township. Last year, they treated 13 miles of road right of way and the parks in West Bloomfield. This year, they plan on retreating those areas, she said. 

“We have 28 lakes and 150 ponds. It is our duty to do the right thing by Mother Nature,” Tucker said. “We have the responsibility to take care of this place, because otherwise people aren’t going to live here if there’s 15-feet-tall phragmites at their dock.”

Tucker compared treating phragmites to a bad marriage. 

“You keep working at it until it dies completely. … It takes a long time to absolutely make sure you have eradicated it. It’s money lost if you just treat it once; it’s just going to get ticked off and come back the next year,” Tucker said.

While there have been sightings of swallow-wort in West Bloomfield, Tucker said phragmites are the primary invasive plant in the township.

Organizations participating in Oakland CISMA include, but are not limited to, Bloomfield Township, Keego Harbor, the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission, the Oakland Intermediate School District, the Oakland Conservation District, Oakland County Facilities Operations, the Road Commission, the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office, the North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy, the Michigan Nature Association Land Conservancy, the Stewardship Network and the Clinton River Watershed Council.  

While the state and local dollars cannot be used to eradicate the invasive plants on private land, landowners are encouraged to take advantage of the state-licensed pesticide applicators treating Oakland CISMA areas. Paying into a contract with a pesticide applicator can lower a landowner’s cost, the press release states. 

For more information, visit www.rcocweb.org.