Source: Sherman Publications

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Fire coming to fight against phragmites

by Mary Keck

February 06, 2013

Fire could be used to free White Lake Road of phragmites.

Oakland Phragmites Invasive Species Phighters (OPISP) recommends a controlled burn of the plants along White Lake Road across from Deer Lake Beach in late winter or early spring.

"We're losing our wonderful landscape here in Michigan to these invasive plants," said OPISP organizer Linda Lapinski. "We're losing our birds, we're losing our animals, we're losing all of that. We want to claim it back again. We need to get everybody on board."

The burn would cost Clarkston about $1,200, according to a presentation to the City Council.

After the burn, they would spray the tall, feathery-topped plants with an herbicide containing glyphosate, an ingredient found in commercial products like Shore-Klear and Roundup. Spraying would be in late August or September and would cost about $2,500.

After that, phragmites would still need continued management. Emily DuThinh, presenter with OPISP, estimated getting rid of the plants could take 3-5 years.

"It's like dandelions in your yard. Can you ever say, 'I've gotten rid of all my dandelions, job is done?' No. But the goal is to catch it early before it gets to be a problem as big as we've let the Phragmites get," said DuThinh. "Early intervention is key."

They hope to start on White Lake Road to spread awareness.

"The whole plan of focusing in this area is because it is a very visible site. Thousands of people drive down White Lake Road," said Jim Brueck, president of the North Oakland Wild Ones.

OPISP hopes to encourage homeowners associations and other communities to destroy phragmites too.

Lapinski intends to meet with Independence Township Supervisor Pat Kittle in the next few weeks.

"Phragmites is a concern for all of us because of the speed with which it can spread and the invasive nature of it in terms of taking over a lake. We've got some great waterways and wetlands we have to protect," said Kittle. "We're going to present some numbers to the board once we have all the facts. This is something we cannot ignore," he added.

The Independence Township Parks, Recreation, and Seniors department already intends to pitch in to help the City tackle the problem.

"We've offered to give them up to $500 that may be used for the portion of the Phragmites in the channel that connects to Deer Lake Beach," said Parks and Recreation Director Ken Elwert.

Phragmites Australis are considered "invasive" by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) because they are not native to Michigan, and the plants spread rapidly creating monocultures that crowd out native vegetation.

According to Emily DuThinh, Phragmites reduce property values and tax revenues, and they increase the risk of fires and other liabilities. Because they have no natural competitors, Phragmites continue to sprout up, and the OPISP has approached the council for support in slowing their growth.

Deer Lake Beach is owned by the city, but Independence Township leases it.

Elwert has noticed the invasive plants are "definitely creeping through the channel and coming into Deer Lake," he said.

While the Clarkston City Council did not make any formal decisions on the Phragmites project, they intend to discuss the issue again at their meeting on Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. at Village Hall.