2012 Note from the President
By Glen Johnson
I started drafting this letter reflecting on the great summer season, how the weather was getting cooler, how the color of fall was starting and our lakes were still clean. My high school English Composition teacher would have been impressed. Unfortunately, that letter was scrapped. At 10 am on September 6th, I received a call from Bill Tuck, the Florence County Invasive Species coordinator. After years of thinking we had avoided most of the invasive species found in others lakes, he informed that they found Eurasian Milfoil and Zebra Mussels in North Lake. It will take me a while to forget the shock I felt as I was given this news. For years people said that it is not a case of “if we get them” but rather “when we get them”. Still, throughout this summer the local biologists could not give a good explanation why we were spared, given that we have the highest outside usage of all the lakes in Florence County with both fishing and recreational pressure.
Some of the zebra mussels in North Lake were initially believed to be at least a year old. This past August, Maureen Ferry, a research assistant at the University of Wisconsin/Stevens Point, gave an update on the research of zebra mussels in Keyes Lake. Her presentation included slides depicting the location of zebra mussels in the Great Lakes Basin in 5 year intervals from 1980 to the present. The spread of this invasive species depicted on these slides left one wondering how this infestation could ever be controlled.
With this news, the SECOLA Board met on September 10th to map out a plan of action.We have money in our invasive species fund which we anticipated using in such an emergency if required to quickly react until grant money becomes available. We heard the results of a dive team that worked September 7th to 9th. Maureen, Bill Frisque and Angie Stine of White Water Associates snorkeled and dove in various areas in North Lake as well as the channels between North and Middle Lakes, Middle and Bass Lakes, Long and Middle Lakes, and East Lake by the South Lake channel. So far, nothing was found outside North Lake. We are fortunate to have a healthy normal Northern Milfoil population which should help slow the spread by crowding out the Eurasian Milfoil.
The 12 plants that were identified were pulled. We have the experience of what happened in Lake Elwood and other local lakes to use the best practices. Zebra mussels are another story. We anticipate being added to the research currently being done at Keyes Lake. There are experimental treatments but no easy solution at this time. The quick reaction by the State of Wisconsin to the Keyes Lake situation tells me that the state is very concerned about the quality of our lakes.We will be applying for emergency grant money that is available from the state. We will keep you informed as more information becomes available.
While we did not win this battle, I want to thank all of you who volunteered for the Clean Boats/Clean Waters inspection at the public landing during the peak holiday usage. Special thanks to Carl Sundberg for coordinating the volunteer effort. Beyond a doubt, Spread Eagle sees the highest outside usage of all the lakes in Florence County with both fishing and recreational pressure. For a number of years we have been working with the Florence County Land and Conservation Committee and the Florence County Lakes and Rivers Association (FCLARA) for funding through State Grants for a Florence County Invasive Species Coordinator with an emphasis on education. We have had access from time to time to a portable boat wash and operator that was also funded through state grants. The State also provided funding for research almost immediately once Zebra Mussel were discovered at Keyes Lake.
Within this newsletter is a report from our Grant Committee (Darlin Verley, Carl Sundberg, Jack Fortier and Ray Burgess) on our study of North Lake.This study is over and above the work going on at the county level. While these actions are all positive steps, several members at the annual meeting expressed the sentiment and frustration that an education effort in and of itself is not enough. One action would be to have more coverage at the public landing, not just the peak holiday periods. Some suggested that maybe we should have our own boat wash and operator. The Board has undertaken an investigation on feasibility of such action. David Pasahow has joined the Board as Chair of the Special Committee to help with our research. One of the first steps we have taken has been to join with the FCLARA to support a county ordinance that, if a boat wash and operator were on duty at a public landing at any lake in Florence County, require the boat and trailer to be washed. Failure to comply would result in a fine. As I write this, the ordinance is working its way through the County Board process.
We have also had discussions with the County Board on having the county take responsibility for payroll and management of a summer operator. Throughout the winter we will identify a suitable configuration of the type of wash that would serve our needs, review the grading and drainage issues at the public landing and determine the required signage. There will be new signage at the landing in the spring. We will continue to have a dialogue with the County Board on any other defensive measures to prevent further damage to our lakes and the other lakes in the county.
So that is where we stand today. I can probably sum it up by saying “bummer”. However, we will still be waterskiing, tubing, fishing and swimming next summer and the lakes will still look beautiful. Hopefully the winter snow and spring rains will return us to an acceptable water level.
Spread Eagle Chain 'O Lakes Association, Inc. (SECOLA)
P.O. Box 413
Florence, WI 54121