2009-08-13 / News

Eurasian Milfoil Down in Les Cheneaux Bays

By Jonathan Eppley

The aquatic weed Eurasian milfoil invading the Les Cheneaux waterways has declined since last year, reports the Les Cheneaux Watershed Council. Christine Perreault, council president, announced the decline during the group's annual meeting Thursday, July 30, at the Clark Township Community Center in Cedarville.

She said the weed's decline can be attributed to four factors: the introduction of milfoil-eating weevils, the cutting of plants with a weed harvester, the rise in water levels, and the area's unusually cold spring and summer.

The cold weather has kept the water colder than normal for this time of year, which in turn has slowed weed growth, and the rise in water levels isn't allowing the milfoil enough sunlight to grow.

"I think the weevils have been a good success. They're well established now. They do take a long time" to be effective, she said. "That's not a short-term fix."

But, because the milfoil's growth isn't as widespread this summer, it's not cause for celebration just yet, the council said. The milfoil may bounce back at some point.

"This doesn't mean they aren't there and that they aren't going to explode next year, or in August if we ever get any kind of summer," Ms. Perreault said.

Board member Bob Smith said that the cooler-than-usual spring and summer, and the higher water levels are only coincidence, and cannot be relied on as permanent solutions to combat the invading weed species. He said the problem is still there, but is not as big as it's been in the past.

In other news, the Watershed Council also discussed its accomplishments over the last year and goals it hopes to accomplish over the next year.

The organization plans to figure out which projects it will take on after its partnership with the Chippewa/East Mackinac Conservation District ends December 31. Ms. Perreault proposed that the group narrow its focus to two of its many projects, owing to a reduction of resources when the partnership ends. She said it is better to focus and do a couple of projects well, rather than spread the group too thin and take on too much work.

"This is a huge change in how our council is going to work," she said. "Our volunteer group now has to do everything. We have to raise all the money, we have to do all the planning, and we have to do all the implementation. It's hard to ask people who have full-time jobs or kids to spend that amount of time volunteering. People only have so much time to volunteer, and it's going to be a total volunteer organization now."

A majority of the council's funding came from the $600,000 grant partnership with the Conservation District. After the first of the year, the Watershed Council will be funded solely through fundraising and smaller grants.

The two groups began work on the state-funded Les Cheneaux Watershed Implementation Project in 2007 to develop watershed protection projects in the area through the state Clean Water Act. The threeyear program is a continuation of the project planning phase conducted from 2002 to 2004, where the Conservation District worked with representatives from Clark Township to develop the Les Cheneaux Watershed Management Plan and establish the Watershed Council.

The council will decide which projects it will continue to focus on at its upcoming regular meetings, which are typically held on the third Tuesday of every other month. Its next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, September 22, at the Clark Township Hall at 5:30 p.m. The meeting was postponed a week owing to board member scheduling conflicts.

The council also elected returning and new board members. Bob Dunn, Karen Serfass, and Phil Milan were reelected to three-year terms on the board. Wendy Wagoner resigned her position as board member and council treasurer and will be replaced in both positions by Nicole Mills. Seasonal residents Dave Dunn and Bill Kurtz were also appointed as seasonal board members, who are allowed to miss more council meetings owing to their seasonal residency status.

Ms. Perreault was re-elected as president of the council, Richard Serfass as vice president, and Pat Carr as secretary.

Mr. Carr gave a slide presentation of accomplishments over the last year, including repairing eroded land and installing new culverts on State Avenue over Pearson Creek and rehabilitation of eroded habitats at McKay Creek. He also highlighted septic tank installation workshops and information distribution about proper septic system and wastewater management facilitated by the council over the last year.

Other projects to which the Watershed Council and Conservation District have contributed include providing input to the revised township master plan. Mr. Carr said the council helped to implement site plan reviews on construction in the watershed, floodplain management, limitations on new septic system installation, and promoted the enforcement of existing zoning regulations.

"One of the biggest things to protect water quality, and to get rid of problems, is for people to plan ahead when they're building projects," he said. "Site plan review is a very important ordinance to have in our regulations. I get excited about protecting coastal wetlands."

The council has one project it expects to be complete this fall before the Conservation District and Watershed Council partnership ends: installing new culverts on Meridian Street over Pearson Creek. The work is approved by the township and Mackinac County Road Commission, and is expected to begin in September.

Ms. Perreault said the group's membership is declining and encouraged Les Cheneaux residents concerned with the environment to join. The Watershed Council is a nonprofit organization promoting the conservation, education, protection, restoration, and sustainability of waterbased resources within the Les Cheneaux watershed. Membership dues to the group are $15 annually.

For more information about the group, or to join, contact the Les Cheneaux Watershed Council at 484-3031.

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