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Curlyleaf Pondweed removal project underway

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News from the Lake County Conservation District 

FLATHEAD LAKE — Aquatic Invasive Species can foul boats, degrade water quality and wreak havoc on a host of native species. The economic impacts are equally adverse. Once aquatic invasive species become established in a watershed, property values and tourism revenues generally decline by 10 to 30 percent. While the Flathead Basin remains free of many of the most problematic AIS, such as zebra and quagga mussels, a select number of aquatic invasive plants have made their way into the Flathead, and pose a threat to both the economic and ecological assets in the Basin. 

“We are at a critical juncture in terms of fighting aquatic invasive weeds. If our efforts at eradication are to be successful, we must act now,” said Susan Brueggeman, Lake County Director of Environmental Health.

Fortunately, with funding from Department of Natural Resources and Conservation AIS and 223 grant programs, Lake County and the Lake County Conservation District are working together to take pro-active steps to treat and potentially eradicate one of the most problematic aquatic weeds colonizing Flathead Lake in the last several years – Curlyleaf Pondweed. 

In the northern half of the Lake, up to seven bays/channels possess small to moderate infestations of CLP, including Peaceful Bay, Bigfork Bay and shoreline, Caroline Point Bay, Dewey Bay, Mission View Bay, Lakeside Bay and Eagle Bend Channel. Isolated plants can also be found in approximately 12 miles of Flathead River channel and associated areas off the main stem of the channel (i.e. Fennon Slough) upstream of Flathead Lake. 

Caryn Miske, executive director of the Flathead Basin Commission explained that “significantly less CLP now exists in Flathead Lake as compared to 2013 due to removal efforts which fully cleared CLP from selected parts of the Lake, such as Dewey Bay.” 

The outlook for virtual eradication of CLP in Flathead Lake is encouraging. 

The infestations are at a stage where they can be effectively treated using a diver dredge operation, if funding and personnel continue to be made available, according to Jim Simpson, Lake County Conservation District supervisor.

Lake County and the Lake County Conservation District must obtain signed permission forms from property owners in order to allow the diver dredge operator to enter their underwater properties and remove the CLP. To facilitate the property owner outreach needed to obtain the permission forms, the County entities have partnered with the Flathead Basin Commission, the Flathead Lakers, and the Flathead Basin AIS Work Group. The group includes 27 entities including the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the City of Polson and Lake County. 

Steve Rosso, Flathead Lakers Board Member, has been a driving force in obtaining the permissions needed, with 99 percent of the impacted property owners willingly participating in the program. “Only two critical property owners have not submitted their permission forms back to us, but we are hoping to work with them in the next couple of weeks to resolve this situation,” Rosso said.

The Lake County Commissioners have taken a pro-active role in dealing with AIS infestations in Flathead Lake, which has resulted in the Flathead being one of the key leaders in AIS prevention and control in the State of Montana.

The mission of the Lake County Conservation District is to promote the wise use of natural resources and prudent conservation practices in Lake County.

The AIS surveys and CLP removal efforts will commence in mid-July and end in early September 2014. For additional questions regarding the CLP treatment effort, call (406) 240-3453.

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