SYRACUSE — The Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation met for the final Lake Talks & Eats of the summer today, Saturday, Aug. 1, at the Education Center.
Following a potluck breakfast and coffee, WACF board member Diana Castell introduced the two speakers, Jim Donahoe, owner of Aquatic Weed Control, and Rod Edgell from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Donahoe provided a small presentation then handed the spotlight over to Edgell, although both men spent the majority of their time answering questions from the group.
Donahoe provided detailed maps that show areas affected by two large problems — the takeover of starry stonewort and invasion of Eurasian watermilfoil. The audience wasn’t easy on Donahoe, as they had many questions about the chemicals entering the lake to treat these weeds, the cost of continued treatment and the lasting effects on the lake’s ecology.
Lake Wawasee has 238 acres engulfed by stonewart and 170 of those acres are being treated by herbicides. The watermilfoil has a much smaller area, with only 150 acres present and 40 acres being treated.
Donahoe emphasized that the treatments only dissipate the stonewort, and there is no true way to kill the weed. The treatment alone costs between $600 and $800 per acre, an astounding $75,000 each year. “The amount of chemicals we’re putting into the lake kind of scares me sometimes,” stated Castell.
Donahoe assured members of the WACF that the chemicals used are minimal, and notes it is best for the lake and the company’s bottom line. One acre of Lake Wawasee contains approximately 3 million gallons of water, according to Donahoe. Donahoe added that the herbicide has no harmful effects that require swimming or boating restrictions once applied.
Jacquie Giles, Syracuse, suggested to Donahoe that harvesting the weed may be a viable option. Harvesting uses a mechanism to collect the weeds and dispose of them accordingly, but Donahoe did not see the benefits outweighing the costs for that method. He quoted the mechanical harvesting method at $1,200 to $1,500 per acre, plus the cost of disposal. Donahoe also added that it can spread the problem, redistributing the weeds across the lake.
Donahoe handed the captive audience over to Edgell, but each helped the other answer questions from the group. Edgell spoke about the funding that comes from boat registrations and how it is used. The annual $1.3 million from Indiana boaters is split into three parts — law enforcement, dredging and treating invasive species. Currently, the DNR is covering the cost in total for the watermilfoil treatment. WACF is using a 50/50 match with the DNR for treatment of the stonewort weed.
Several members of the WACF suggested ways to bring in money, including charging a fee for utilizing public boat launches. Edgell disagreed with that idea, noting those were built specifically for public use and not provided with DNR funds. The group also discussed the possibility of adding a wash station to the lake to prevent invasive weeds from spreading to other lakes or entering Lake Wawasee.
The group ended the meeting by thanking both speakers for coming, and Castell closed the meeting by ensuring all members were sent home with invasive species information created by Pam Schumm.
The next annual meeting of the group is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 22.