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Lakeville property owners stepping up fight against aquatic hitchhikers



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August 13, 2014 - Aquatic hitchhikers are not welcome in Lakeville Lake.

That's why the lake's property owners association is teaming up with Michigan State University, along with state and federal agencies, to ensure Addison's largest and most heavily-used body of water doesn't become home to anymore invasive species that enter via visiting watercraft and their trailers.

Lakeville Lake's public access site will host a mobile boat wash unit, provided by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, on Friday, Aug. 15 from 12 to 5 p.m.

"They're very concerned about the health of the lake," said Bindu Bhakta, a water/natural resources educator for MSU Extension.

Boat owners launching from the Lakeville site will be offered the opportunity to voluntarily participate in the demonstration by having their watercraft cleaned free of charge. The purpose is twofold.

One, the trailer-mounted unit utilizes high-pressure water that's been heated to about 140 degrees to cleanse invasive organisms, such as zebra mussels and weeds, that get attached to boats and trailers.

"You clean the boats and trailers before they go in your lake and you clean them when they come out," said Lakeville resident Wayne Hodges, vice president of the lake's property owners association.

Cleaning a watercraft may not completely prevent the spread of invasive species, but it can certainly "hinder" it, according to Hodges.

"You've got to break the cycle somewhere because one of the things that we see is if you don't catch the invasion early, then at best, you're maintaining," he said. "You just about can't get rid of these things."

Hodges, who's lived on the lake since 1999, said while watercraft and trailers are not the only way invasive species are spread from lake to lake, they are the "most prevalent way," especially in places with public boat launches.

The boat-washing unit is designed to help educate citizens, lake users and township officials about the threat posed by invasive species and raise awareness about how to prevent spreading them from one body of water to another.

"For the last 15 to 20 years, there's been an acceleration of invasive species being transferred to Michigan's inland lakes. There's a long list," Hodges said. "The whole state, (viewing) lakes as an asset, has basically said, 'We need to do something here.'"

"A lot of people don't even realize they're spreading invasive species," Bhakta said.

According to Bhakta, invasive species are those which are not native and whose introduction causes harm to the economy, environment or human health.

Once established in a lake, invasive species tend to out-reproduce and out-compete native species until they basically take over. They can impact water quality and alter or damage existing habitat. In essence, they disturb the natural balance of things.

Unfortunately, Lakeville Lake is not immune to the impact of various invasive species. The 460-acre lake has been impacted by zebra mussels, purple loosestrife, Eurasian milfoil and phragmites. Starry Stonewart is the most recent invasive addition to Lakeville and, according to Bhakta, it's "pretty aggressive."

"We noticed it a few years ago," Hodges said. "It's extensive here."

He likened its appearance to "Brillo pads."

"It's actually an algae," Hodges said. "If it gets thick enough and tall enough, it can hinder navigation (for boating), which is the first issue that you usually hear complaints about."

Starry Stonewart also negatively impacts the local fish population because it deprives them access to the lake bottom where they nest and lay eggs, according to Hodges.

Hodges indicated the property owners association has been contracting with a professional firm to treat the lake for both Eurasian milfoil and Starry Stonewart, the latter of which has fewer treatment options.

"Again, you can't really kill these things off, you can just hinder them," he said. "They tend to grow earlier in the year and later in the year, and faster. So, they just wipe out your indigenous species."

Hodges is hopeful that someday, a permanent boat wash will be installed at Lakeville's public access site and Addison will enact ordinances requiring boat owners to use it before they enter the water and after they exit it.

Although Hodges certainly has a stake in preserving Lakeville Lake's integrity as a property owner, he's more interested in fighting this battle for sake of future generations.

"I'm doing this for my grandkids, not me," he said. "A schmuck like me gets to live in a place like this and wake up every morning and experience what the Founding Fathers we're talking about when they wrote the words 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' So for me, it's all about the legacy you leave versus the legacy you inherit."

Simple ways to prevent the spread of invasive species*

n Inspect – Remove all visible mud, plants, fish or animals from all watercraft (boats, jet skis, kayaks, canoes, etc.) and fishing equipment before transporting them to any waterway.

n Wash – Thoroughly wash boats, trailers and other water equipment with hot water (approximately 140 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit). Do not use soap or chemicals.

n Dry – Be sure to allow ample time to dry for anything that comes into contact with water. Leave items out for several days before going to new waters.

n Drain – Be sure to empty water from equipment before transporting. Take care to drain water away from the landing.

n Dispose – Be sure to discard unwanted fishing bait in the trash. It is illegal to empty live wells and bait buckets into water bodies. It is also illegal to transfer fish to water bodies other than where they were caught.

n Identify – Learn to recognize the appearance and characteristics of aquatic invasive species.

* Source: An article by Bindu Bhakta, water/natural resources educator, MSU Extension

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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