Guest Column (9/10/09)

Underwater cleanup at Lake Iroquois

Sept. 10, 2009

By Roger L. Crouse

It is early on a chilly Monday morning in late August. The sun peeks from behind clouds as members of the Lake Iroquois Association converge quietly at the shore. Steve Reiman and his stepson, Scott Dunham, arrive at the lakeshore, their trunk full of scuba diving equipment. Association officers Bob Pasco and I help them unload the equipment and carry it to the shoreline. Board member Chip Wright arrives in his motorboat with additional marine paraphernalia. Other association officers, Steve Lidle and Roger Jones, pull up in small boats, ready to assist.

With diving flag and mesh barrier in place, Reiman and Dunham don their gear and slip into the water. For the next three hours, they maneuver the lake-bottom, pulling Eurasian water milfoil out carefully by the roots and filling mesh collection bags. Every few minutes, they surface with full, heavy bags, handing them to one of the boaters. Then, taking a fresh, empty bag, they dive back to the dark lake bottom.

The boaters pull the bags up, water draining back into the lake, and dump the contents into the small boats. The bags are ready to be filled again. The boaters also use rakes to gather floating milfoil, since those bits propagate like wild weed-seed in a vegetable garden. As the load of milfoil fills a boat, the crew navigates to shore, unloads and returns to the divers for more.

That effort on Aug. 31 was the beginning of a human effort to combat the rampant spread of invasive milfoil in the fragile lake environment. It crowds out native species and eventually starves the lake of its natural, healthy oxygen base.

It was the first effort by the Lake Iroquois Association to manage the milfoil with divers. The association has been introducing weevils for several years as a method to control milfoil. That seems to be working in limited areas, but the milfoil problem is pervasive throughout the lake and more aggressive action is needed.

Several hundred pounds of milfoil were removed during this effort, which covered only an estimated 6,000 square feet. Reiman and Dunham donated their time for this test run. The results of this pull will be reviewed by the association, and plans for further action will be defined.

Our lake management plan, which is under development, will document the current state of the lake, the objectives for improving the water quality and actions to be taken to reach those objectives. We will continue with the weevil effort, but hope to also continue with divers. The association will focus on areas of the lake used by the general public, while we look to lakeshore property owners to work their own shorelines.

In addition, we are planning a raffle for next spring. All current members of the association at the time of the drawing will be entered into the raffle. The raffle winner will receive free milfoil extraction by divers at their shoreline. We are also considering a prize for those watershed owners who do not have frontage on the lake.

It will take a lot more effort to see significant results. And a lot more volunteers.

To become a member of the association and volunteer to assist, please contact me at 878-5953. The Lake Iroquois Association is an IRS 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.

Roger L. Crouse is president of the Lake Iroquois Association.