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An Alternative to Poison for Milfoil

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Tri-State Water Quality Council grant will help shoreline landowners deal with Eurasian Milfoil without the use of pesticides

Non-herbicide control of Eurasian milfoil around private docks in the Lake Pend Oreille watershed is now available to shoreline property owners, thanks to a successful demonstration project on the use of bottom barriers by the Tri-State Water Quality Council. Eurasian milfoil is an extremely aggressive non-native aquatic weed that impacts recreation, aesthetics, and water quality.

The non-profit Council received a two-year grant from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality in 2006 to explore the feasibility of using lakebed bottom barriers to inhibit the growth and spread of Eurasian milfoil, and convened a committee of representatives from the Council, the Idaho Department of Lands, the Idaho Department of Fish & Game, the Bonner County Public Works/Weed Department, the City of Sandpoint Recreation Department, and A.C.E. Diving, to develop and implement the recently-concluded project.

During the project, 8,000 square feet of gas-permeable membrane barriers were placed in Lake Pend Oreille’s Bottle Bay during Summer 2006. The 10 x 10 foot panels were moved four times to different sections of the milfoil infestation every 6 to 10 weeks during the 2006 and 2007 growing seasons. Additionally, the barriers were left in place over Winter 2006 to determine how they would fare, but were removed prior to Winter 2007.

Based on the project’s success and lessons learned, IDL was able to develop a permit process for shoreline property owners to install bottom barriers in an attempt to be as proactive as possible in controlling invasive aquatic weeds, according to IDL’s Jim Brady.

“We are hopeful that allowing private individuals to use bottom barriers will reduce the amount of illegal herbicide applications into our waterways,” said Council Executive Director Diane Williams.

“While the Council has always been supportive of controlling Eurasian milfoil without the use of herbicides if at all feasible, at least the herbicide applications by Bonner County are controlled by proper permitting, licensed applicators, public notification, and water quality testing,” said Williams, adding, “That is not the case when private individuals apply aquatic herbicides that are readily available for purchase through magazines and catalogs.”

According to Williams, other benefits from the Council’s demonstration project include Bonner County’s willingness to use bottom barriers at several designated herbicide-free swim areas in 2007, and the Council’s ability to advocate for alternatives to herbicide use as a member of the Bonner County Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force.

Dock owners and other shoreline property owners seeking to use bottom barriers must first contact Brad Bluemer at the Bonner County Weed Department (208-263-3175; bbluemer(at)co.bonner.id.us), who must positively identify the presence of Eurasian milfoil (as opposed to other native milfoils or aquatic vegetation). After contacting Bluemer, individuals need to contact Jim Brady at IDL (208-263-5104; [email protected]) to complete a temporary permit application form and pay a $50 application fee.

Brady cautions that the new bottom barrier program has other specific requirements besides plant identification and a permit, including: use only in the Lake Pend Oreille watershed, which includes the Lake and the Idaho portion of the Pend Oreille and Clark Fork Rivers; a maximum of four to five barriers at any one location; barriers constructed only of gas permeable membrane/fabric on PVC frames; installation and periodic maintenance by professional divers (maintenance may include flipping or moving the barriers every 6 to 10 weeks); and removal of the barriers by October 31.

In addition to studying bottom barriers, the Council’s project also included a boater outreach/education effort at the Sandpoint City Beach and Memorial Field public boat launches during August 2007 to gather information and proactively educate boaters about the identification and spread of Eurasian milfoil. The outreach effort was so successful that Bonner County included a similar project in its milfoil grant application to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture this year. Though ISDA failed to fund the effort, the Pend Oreille Basin “Lakes” Commission recently received funding to continue weekend boater outreach at public boat launches throughout the County this summer.

As a partnership of citizens, business, industry, tribes, government, and environmental groups, the non-profit Tri-State Water Quality Council has been working since 1993 to protect and improve water quality throughout the three-state Clark Fork-Pend Oreille watershed in Montana, Idaho and Washington. For more information, contact the Council at 208-265-9092 or via email at tristatecouncil(at)sandpoint.net.

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