Correspondence about the weed project

To Senator HuneTo Liza Huberty at MDEQFrom Evan Pratt at WCWR

Correspondence to Michigan Senator Hune’s Office

I am on the Portage, Base, Whitewood Lake Owners Association (PBWOA) board. For over four years our association along with concerned lake owners have worked together to implement a comprehensive holistic approach to study the invasive weed challenges and come up with a treatment plan. As a result we hired a group to conduct a scientific review of the weed and algae problems in our lake system. The four Townships and two counties that comprise the Huron River Chain of Lakes wanted to participate in developing a solution to the growing problem. The scientific study was funded from contributions from the townships as well as thousands of dollars from the lake homeowners, merchants and concerned citizens. The findings were very disturbing.

The study identified many invasive plant life, as well as their locations. The data was charted throughout the whole lake and river system. The next step was to figure out how to address this problem, again in a holistic way. In the past, individual lake groups would hire applicators to treat their own area. This had no beneficial effects for the up and down stream waterways. We felt this was not the right process. Having a lake management program designed and managed by lake-scientist that have the interest in the full biodiversity of a complex lake system made the most sense to us. The 4 townships and Livingston and Washtenaw County folks did as well. With past experiences in managing special assessment districts for lake-weed programs, the Washtenaw County Water Resource department offered to spearhead this project.

Public meetings were held to present the findings from the study as well as the methods to treat and fund such a project. Lake property owners knowing that the funding meant they would be paying for this treatment through their property taxes, nonetheless overwhelming embraced this project. Everything was coming together, until April of this year. That is when we were made aware of a Federal requirement for protecting certain endangered species, most notably the Snuffbox Mussel. This mussel resides in the river areas. According to the Federal and MDEQ, the use of copper sulfites evidently is harmful to that mussel. Copper sulfite is not the exclusive chemical used in lake-weed management programs, but it is an effective one. Starry Stonewort, is a very fast growing, thick densely matted aquatic plant that was been around for a while but is quickly taking over the lakes throughout the Midwest. It is located in modest to very large (basketball court size) patches throughout our chain of lakes. When present, you can’t boat, swim or fish in. It suffocates the water area it resides in. Copper sulfite is the only known chemical that can manage this invasive.

The recent decision by MDEQ to not issue permits for treating certain aquatic plants that contain copper as one of its chemical makeups, puts the lake system in a dire position. What’s just as bothersome, is that to my understanding the MDEQ made this decision with unknown data points on a variety of key areas. Which are as follows:
• They have acknowledge to me in that meeting that they do not know where, or even if the mussels are in the Huron Chain of Lakes
• If they do exist, they do not know where they are located and their quantity.
• The copper treatment would be a spot treatment method, which means it would be applied where Starrystone wort has been located. Therefore, the MDEQ when doing the analysis of the water dilution effects of the copper chemical as it travels downstream is unknown. It’s unknown, because the lakes contain (x) gallons of water and because they are a part of a river system, it’s flush rate is very difficult to measure the actual level of copper and its potency reduction as it travels downstream.

What we do know is that the current condition of the invasive aquatic species in our lakes(see attached photo) is very bad. What we do know is that the growth mass of starry stonewort was so disruptive to the water flow and flood concerns on the river leading into Strawberry Lake, that Pat Hohl had to have the starry stonewort machine harvested to prevent upstream flooding. Machine harvesting is not the desired method, because it fragments the starry stonewort and can help it reseed. BUT, he had to do something.

This project has been remarkable in many ways. It has been wonderful seeing a concerned citizen group and local officials come together, design a program that is professionally managed and the citizens are willing to pay for it. The following are past comments I sent to Lisa Huberty at MDEQ. Troy, I look forward to hearing from your office and what can be done to develop a workable solution.

Correspondence to Lisa Huberty MDEQ
Number 1
Lisa – After our meeting I did some research on the Snuffbox mussel. In particular the challenges they face. I also, reviewed the issues relative to starry stonewort and its affects to the ecosystem of lakes and streams.
The following article U.S. Wildlife Agency addresses the challenges to the Snuffbox. In part it states: Damns, pollution and other nonnative species in particular the Zebra Mussels impact the survivability of the Snuffbox mussel. BUT, the impact of sedimentation conditions affect them as well.
The agency states: Although sedimentation is a natural process, poor land use practices, dredging, impoundments, intensive timber harvesting, heavy recreational use, and other activities accelerate erosion and increase sedimentation. Sediment that blankets a river bottom can suffocate mussels.
Accelerated sedimentation may also reduce feeding and respiratory ability for snuffbox mussels, leading to decreased growth, reproduction, and survival.

The Michigan Invasive Species site relative to the impact of starry stonewort on our lakes and streams states: Starry stonewort forms dense mats in lakes and can significantly reduce the diversity of other aquatic plants.
Dense mats of vegetation can also impede movement of fish, spawning activity, water flow, and recreational activities. And the USGS-NAS states:
Impact of Introduction: Starry stonewort mats act as benthic barriers accumulating phytotoxins and making sediments inhospitable for plant growth (Pullman and Crawford 2010). Due to this habit, rootless plants such as common bladderwort (Utricularia vulgaris) and coon’s tail (Ceratophyllum
demersum) thrive in communities with N. obtusa (Pullman and Crawford 2010).

Dense mats of N. obtusa directly impact the habitat used by native fish for spawning. Bass and sunfish are known to regularly spawn in dense growths of native Chara species, but these spawning behaviors did not occur in correspondingly dense growths of N. obtusa (Pullman and Crawford 2010).
Nitellopsis obtusa has been associated with increased water clarity in inland lakes, which could in part be due to their association with zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) as a favored substrate. In spite of increased water clarity from the mussels, the dense growth of N. obtusa actually reduces light availability for other submersed flora (Pullman and Crawford 2010).

As you can see there is a negative relationship between the effects of a blanket or mat on the lake/river bottom. The Snuffbox mussel is affected by the blanketing and the starry stonewort causes blanketing. Pat Hohl – Hamburg Township Supervisor, even mentioned that the blanketing of the river section upstream from Strawberry lake was so thick and dense that starry stonewort disrupted the water flow and contributed to high water/flooding conditions. I have personally witnessed the blanketing effect on the river downstream from Baseline Lake between Riverside Pizza and the U of M property. We all know of the effects of starry stonewort on Tamarack Lake. The blanketing of Starry reaches surface levels in some places.

Relative to the flow rates or flushing of the water over the damn, the following data may help you when calculating the dilution effects of chemicals when applied as a targeted or spot applications: Summary Data Provided by Dr. Wally Fusilier NOTE: Data not attached for this newsletter

In summary, we hope the DEQ takes into account the cancerous nature of the starry stonewort on our lake system, and if left untreated or not treated in an effective manner will spread and choke off all viable life in our lake system. Thanks again for taking the time to meet with us.

Dave Wilutis

Number 2
Lisa, attached are two pictures taken this morning, June 7, 2018, from the north end of Portage Lake. We, the lake association and the lake owners, are in a tremendously difficult position. Not only can homeowners not use the waters for swimming, boating and fishing, the homeowners are also extremely concerned about their property values. Would you pay top dollar to sit on your dock with guests overlooking what the pictures show? Because of lake property valuations, these homeowners are already paying very high property taxes. They accept that burden, because it comes with the benefits of living on the lakes and waterways.

The PBWOA has been working hard to develop programs that improve the health and benefits of the lake system. For instance, our lake association has been working very hard on an education program for lake owners to be better stewards of the lakes. Stopping the use of fertilizers, removing pet waste, not burning leaves, planting deep rooted native vegetation are just a few of the programs we are promoting through different methods. However, the lake management program has been one of our corner stone efforts. We feel that a professionally ran program rooted by scientific data is the best way to preserve the biodiversity of a complex lake system. That said, without a complex plan to address the challenges, we fear people will revert back to past practices and independently treat the problems in their areas. Which is what we don’t want to have happen. It’s imperative that multiple strategies be developed to address the many different challenges.

Dave Wilutis

Correspondence from Evan Pratt – Washtenaw County Resource Commissioner

From: Evan Pratt []
Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2018 10:33 PM
To: Dave Wilutis
Subject: Fwd: Huron River Chain of Lakes – ANC permit status

We wanted to let you know that thanks to your efforts, resident contacts, Senator Hune and his team, as well as constant dialogue between MDEQ and our team, we have been provided with the permit schedule below.

We have received copies of 3 of the noted permits today, and as before we will be reviewing the permits before preparing an email blast (and web update) for you and us to share. That update will summarize what people can expect to see in the next 1-3 weeks. This is now at the top of the list. I
notice that the table below(not attached for this newsletter) doesn’t specifically call out Portage Lake separate from the canals, and we will dig into that. We will also dig into whether the copper issue will come up again, but will not delay a communication if we don’t have a firm picture on that quickly. So for now, Senator Hune’s office has suggested that further correspondence should not be needed to them, and we have agreed that they can redirect resident questions to our office if any still trickle in. Thank you again for your patience and assistance. We are truly sorry for what you and all the neighbors have been through, and understand that even if all permits are issued, it will still be 2-4 weeks before results are evident in all permitted areas. And we expect to hear lingering concerns and trust issues until we see a successful wrap up this year and a “normal” start to applications in 2019.

We look forward to finally seeing initial and long term success working together. We again appreciate your steadfast leadership and support during a difficult time. In stormy water it’s sure easier to lean on the oar knowing we’re all rowing the same direction.