The state’s efforts to control Illinois pondweed in Lake June-In-Winter appear to be working and sterile carp will be added to the lake next month to help with control. But more needs to be done to curtail the increase in nutrients that seem to have spawned the rapid growth of the unwelcome water weed.
That was the message when the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission hosted a public hearing Tuesday evening, Nov. 5, at the Lake Placid Elks Lodge to discuss the Integrated Aquatic Plant Management Plan for the lake.
FWC Regional Director Chris Wynn was the facilitator and kept conversations on topic as about 75 lake users and lakefront property owners listened to updates and offered input and suggestions.
FWC biologist Kelle Sullivan said some 275 acres of Illinois pondweed were treated in repeated applications of a herbicide designed to attack the plant. She said the most recent survey of the lake shows the treatment is working.
“Most of the lake is open,” she said. “The pondweed is off the surface and diminishing. It’s dying and decaying on the bottom of the lake.”
Lakefront property owners who have been monitoring the pondweed for months agreed with Sullivan. One after another stood and thanked FWC for a prompt response to concerns and the almost immediate action from the agency. There were a few grumbles, too, including one from a doubter who said her boat was snagged in Illinois pondweed just three weeks prior. “A lot has happened in the last three weeks,” Sullivan said. “Three weeks ago the problem was far worse than today.”
Wynn and Sullivan said some 2,500 sterile carp will be released in the lake in early December to help control aquatic plants. But, Wynn cautioned, “It’s not natural to place non-native fish in a natural lake to do battle with a natural plant in a natural environment.”
He said the carp will be stocked in the lake as a supplement to continued herbicide treatment.
Calling the herbicide and carp efforts “just a Band-Aid,” Wynn said the real need is to get to the bottom of what caused the spike in nutrients that spawned the plant growth. A summer of record rainfall translates to much more stormwater run-off going into the lake; and more lawn fertilizers being swept into the water.
Sullivan and Highlands County Lakes Manager Clell Ford said they have noticed the largest growth area of Illinois pondweed is near discharge pipes that flow stormwater into the lake. Perhaps the biggest culprit is a 36-inch drain pipe that carries water from the area of the railroad overpass on U.S. 27 directly into the cove at Lake June.
Ford reported that plans are in place for the stormwater from U.S. 27 to be diverted through a series of drainage areas before reaching the lake. The same idea was implemented for Lake Clay and, within a year, water quality had increased dramatically.
“There are answers and solutions,” Wynn told the audience. “But we have to continue to work together.”