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Community on Lake Orion may pay for invasive weed treatment

April 16, 2014 - By Meg Peters

Review Staff Writer

Over the past couple years the Lake Orion Lake Association (LOLA) has kept a watchful eye on the growing green globs floating around Lake Orion, with extra eyes on two invasive species in particular: starry stonewort and Eurasian milfoil.

In attempts to protect the native species of Lake Orion, and to prevent damages and injuries to boats and boaters, LOLA has filed a petition with Orion Township to create a special assessment district (SAD) for the lake-wide treatment of the invasive aquatic weeds in Lake Orion.

LOLA needs supporting signatures from 51 percent of property owners representing the total land area around the lake to move forward with the assessment. This includes properties abutting Lake Orion, except Marina Park Estates, which already has its own SAD, totaling 796 proposed sidewells that would be assessed annually on their winter tax bill.

If LOLA's door to door campaigners retrieve enough signatures by the end of April, the township will schedule two public hearings to evaluate the community's suggestions, thoughts, and qualms. By the second public hearing the township would set the scale at which each sidewell owner would be assessed, and for how much.

The proposed plan of action is to use a herbicide treatment on all affected areas of the lake, costing about $80,000, to be administered by PLM Lake and Lake Management Corp. out of Milford.

LOLA invites the public to an informational hearing April 23 at the township hall at 7 p.m. to learn more about the assessment.

About 300 people are already volunteering in a neighborhood self-help program and pay about $130 a year for weed treatments in front of their individual houses. These treatments can't go out past three feet deep in the water, and only target small portions of the lake.

"We've been doing this on an individual basis for the past 15 years, and now our problem has taken on a whole new dimension with this starry stonewort," Jerry Richards, president of LOLA said.

The SAD application aligns with feedback LOLA received from their 2013 general membership meeting, successive mini-surveys conducted over the last couple years, and recommendations from PLM Lake and Land Management Corp.

PLM is contracted under the township to treat the Marina Park Estates canal system, and has worked individually with homeowners along the shoreline.

LOLA contracted with PLM in the fall of 2013 to obtain a full study of the 482 acre lake. In their Aquatic Vegetation Assessment Site survey in September, PLM determined that starry stonewort covers 25.5 percent of Lake Orion, Eurasian milfoil covers three percent, with other invasive species such as curlyleaf pondweed and phragmites are also present on the lake.

"These exotic plants can cause considerably more problems than native species," the report stated. "Eurasian milfoil is extremely invasive and can inhabit a variety of sediment types and water depths. Starry stonewort can be very detrimental to a lake's ecosystem, has the ability to kill off native plants, and can have a negative impact on the lake's fisheries."

Tom Klingler, who has lived on the lake for 28 years, said it was the Eurasian milfoil that got the self-help neighborhood groups going, with volunteers starting almost 15 years ago.

"It is very tall, which makes it very difficult to get your boat around," Klinger said.

He lives in the bay off north of Romance Island, and has seen the lake go from having a fair amount of algae to becoming clearer, and back again. "Then I've seen the Eurasian milfoil take over parts of the lake. I've seen some of it brought into check with the self-help programs, but now I'm seeing the starry stonewort taking over."

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