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October 17, 2018

2/9/2018 3:32:00 PM
Comfort Lake/Forest Lake Watershed Dist. managers get partial 2017 summary

The 2017 annual invasives report to the Comfort Lake-Forest Lake Watershed District Managers was a classic good new-bad news package.  The managers were shown data that points to -- if not total control of targeted invasives-- at least the rate of increase in  species has been slowed.  

The bad news, from Steve McComas of Blue Water Science, is that zebra mussels attach to just about anything, not just solid surfaces.  

The district contracts with McComas to scientifically assess the district to see what’s working and aid in determining why. It starts with “delineation” to identify problem sites starting as soon as April  followed by assessment of actual invasives populations in mid-summer (June to July.)

For 2017 the two main lakes reviewed at the Watershed Board meeting-- Comfort and Forest Lake-- were slated to get atention on curly leaf pondweed, Eurasian Watermilfoil and zebra mussels.  

Forest Lake also is battling non-native Flowering Rush.  This plant is being controlled by eliminating seed heads pulling flowers at the optimum time.  McComas said there is an “aggressive program in place” and the problem is down to about 15 sites now mostly “patches” not the earlier expansive beds.  The district used herbicide on 71 acres in 2017 along with the manual flowering rush bud cutting.

Curly Leaf Pondweed did not even rate a chemical treatment in 2017 on Comfort Lake, McComas explained.  

Forest Lake has the bigger Curly Leaf problem, and McComas estimates infestation at 100 acres of persistent beds.  Last year was a “big growing year” for Curly Leaf on Forest Lake but the plan to treat and identify seems to be effective to maintain recreation.

Eurasian Watermilfoil treatment was revised from the original 2017 Comfort Lake plan; when lilypad presence restricted the treatment area from seven acres to about three.  The MN Dept. of Natural Resources restricts chemical applications to avoid the lilies once they are up, McComas said.  Comfort has abundance of lilies.  

Eurasian Watermilfoil first was noticed on Comfort Lake in 2014.  EWM was noticed in 2015 on Forest Lake.

Lifecycle of EWM will undergo a rapid expansion mode, the managers heard, and then it settles down  from its trajectory.  Comfort is still in the expansion mode so the watershed district will continue control efforts,  while private lakeshore owners can opt to treat their own 50 foot (across) by 50 foot (out into the water) allowed area.

McComas said the watershed district uses selective product treatments for specific invasives whereas a private property owner is able to get a permit for applying a broader spectrum product.

 Comfort Lake has three main zebra mussel infestations identified, whch McComas says means,  “...it’s well established and widespread” in the lake.  In doing assessments on Forest Lake it was conclusive that zebra mussels attach to plant material-- which may help to explain the spread of the damaging mussel species.  Forest Lake connects through an overflow outlet to Comfort Lake.

There are known products and new ones coming in the pipeline,  to fight zebra mussels,  but at this time McComas was not recommending specific eradication efforts be supported by the watershed district.

Watershed District Managers could  not be firmer in their consensus that all plant materials continue to be removed from boats, trailers and motors at each and every public landing;  so hitchhikers like zebra mussels, don’t spread.

McComas reminded the managers, (Stephen Schmaltz and Wayne Moe absent), that just because there are aquatic invasives known to be in a water body it doesn’t equate to an unhealthy lake.  “They (invasives) will change the lake, but it’s not necessarily BAD,” he observed.

The website for the Comfort Lake-Forest Lake Watershed District will be carrying the 2017 report, including data from other lakes, when the final version is prepared electronically.  

The managers were going to continue to review the information in February as well.

One tool the district board has been applying consistently towards a goal to maintain or improve water quality in the lakes in the district,  is phosphorus reduction.  The managers voted to direct $31,000 to do a watershed assessment for the Hayward Avenue vicinity and $28,000 for engineers to assess the area close to Castlewood (golf course).  The studies are cost-benefit comparisons looking at how many pounds of the phosphorus nutrient is entering the watershed versus how many can be eliminated and the cost per pound for a recommended project.

The managers had a lengthy discussion about the One Watershed-One Plan effort underway to coordinate a more regional effort on St Croix River water quality goals.  The managers expressed anxiety with how much of the funding is proposed to just be divided out based on acres in the watershed. The fund distributions should be based more on merit and outcomes and follow “guiding principles” more in line with Board of Water and Soil Resources grants.  At this point the One Watershed-One Plan is in its organizing phase-- and CLFLWD Executive  Director Mike Kinney was asked to attend the next planning meeting to carry the managers’ concerns to orgnizers. District Board Chair Jackie Anderson said the way it looks now-- the new approach “misappropriates” funds  meant for actual projects,  sending dollars into supporting operating costs.

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