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 Phragmites along roads in five Macomb County communities will be treated this month.

Phragmites along roads in five Macomb County communities will be treated this month.

File photo by Julie Snyder

Phragmites in Macomb County roads to be treated this month

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published September 10, 2019


MACOMB COUNTY — Phragmites in five Macomb County communities will be mitigated this month.

The Lake St. Clair Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area, or CISMA, recently announced that the treatment of phragmites along road rights of way will take place in mid-to-late September in Clinton, Harrison, Shelby, Ray and Washington townships.

Areas affected in Clinton Township will include Canal Road, Metropolitan Parkway, Stevenson Street, Little Mack Avenue and Groesbeck Highway. In Harrison Township, sections of Metro Parkway and Prentiss Street will be treated. And in Shelby Township, Hayes, Ryan and Mound roads will be treated.

“Road right-of-ways often provide the perfect conditions for phragmites to grow,” John Crumm, director of planning for the Macomb County Department of Roads, said in a press release. “This is a very important issue for us as the plant’s presence creates a visual impairment for drivers, reduces drainage and damages the actual road itself, as its rhizome (root) system allows it to grow up through the pavement.”

Wildlife & Wetlands Solutions, based in Traverse City, will conduct the work.

Lake St. Clair CISMA coordinator McKenzi Waliczek said CISMA has managed road right of way cleanups since 2015. A cost-share system exists, with the Macomb County Department of Roads putting forward about $30,000 annually, while the townships — which act as partners in the project, due to being part of CISMA — pay roughly $5,000. Total annual costs are about $60,000.

Costs are not exactly equal and depend on workload amounts. Waliczek said that areas of treatment in Washington Township this year outnumber those in Shelby Township. Funds don’t go to waste.

“When it comes down to treating phragmites on the county road, it’s the county that’s receiving that benefit — and the township as well,” Waliczek said. “They’re both reducing the cost by going and doing this together.”

Phragmites, which are large grasses commonly found near roadsides and in wetlands, can harm other plant species in addition to general infrastructure. The U.S. Forest Service recently awarded $37,865 to the Six Rivers Land Conservancy in an effort to regulate the species in drainage courses and detention bonds.

“CISMA’s ultimate goal is to build a resilient landscape where invasive species won’t be able to come in and invade. … As cars go by, as kayaks go down waterways, they can move these plants with them just as well as the natural passage of water down the drain and so on and so forth,” she said.

The process continues because phragmites don’t magically disappear. Waliczek said that in 2016, over 2,000 acres of road rights of way were treated in Macomb and St. Clair counties. In 2018, more than 140 acres were treated. This year, it’s expected that about 43 acres will be treated.

When the contractor comes in with labeled trucks, they turn on mixed tanks with pressurized “wands” that spray into ditches near roadsides. Residents are recommended to avoid such areas for a least 24 hours.

All five townships are expected to be completed in five days. However, this process will continue, because as Waliczek said, phragmites aren’t going anywhere.

“Phragmites is at this point where all we can do is this kind of management, keeping them out of areas rather than eradication, which is the ultimate goal of species control,” she said.

The next type of rapidly invasive species feared to spread is Japanese knotweed. Residents can report invasive plant sightings to the Midwest Invasive Species Network by calling (517) 355-0204.