Letter to the Editor

Curly pond weed on East Lake Okoboji

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Curly pond weed on East Lake Okoboji

After attending the East Okoboji Lakes Improvement Corporation Public Meeting Tuesday night (Feb 23) and listening to the audience comments and viewing Mike Hawkins DNR presentation a second time, I have decided to document why I support the limited - one time -- herbicide application for East Lake Okoboji.

1. First Impression -- The first sight someone has coming into our community on Highway 71 from the north or Highway 9 from the East is of East Okoboji above and below the bridge. If it happened to be when Curley Pond is blooming the sight of plants all-the-way across the bay can be very negative. The first impression is very important. It could lead the visitor to conclude all of our lakes are weed infested. You do not have a second chance to make a first impression.

2. Worst of the worst - The large expanse of Curley Pond Weed on the north end of East Lake Okoboji from the Fish Hatchery to the narrows is the worst mat of weeds we have on the Iowa Great Lakes. In my opinion it cries out for action. I don't believe there is another area of invasive or native plants in the Iowa Great Lakes chain that cries out like this area for action.

3. Invasive plant - Curly Pond Weed is an aquatic invasive plant that is not native to Iowa. Its thick mat crowds out native plants.

4. Deprives the public of lake use - The Curly Pond Weed is so thick and grows so fast that it deprives lakeshore property owners and visitors of the use of the infested parts of East Okoboji for outdoor recreation during May, June, and July.

5. Property value depreciation and reduced tax revenue - The appearance of a thick mat of curly pond weed can have a negative impact on property value. All a prospective buyer needs to see is this thick mat of weeds out in front of a lakeshore house and they will want to look at other properties. The assessed value of the residential property on the North end of East Lake Okoboji is $128 million. It is hard to know how much the property value of a lakeshore home would be reduced because of this blight, but 10 percent reduction might be a place to begin estimating. It takes only a 2 percent reduction in property value for this area impacted by curly pond weed to reduce annual property tax revenue (all jurisdictions) by $28,269.

6. Reasonable cost - This 2016 limited proposal is to only do the areas close to shore. The cost is $22,000. This means we can try it and see how it performs without a large cost outlay. After this one-time experiment we will have the knowledge to know if an herbicide can be effective. If we do nothing we will have to continue guessing how well it could have worked.

7. This herbicide is safe - We have an herbicide that is safe (Aquathol K). It only effects curly pond weed. It has been used in nearby local lakes in Minnesota, and Iowa for this express purpose. The herbicide recommendation is a drinking water input should be at least 600-feet away. In this case the separation is over five miles.

8. Better than mechanical - An alternative to this herbicide is to purchase a harvester (~$250,000?). Who would operate it? With a growth rate of 3-4 inches per day it seems like one would be fighting a losing battle. The expensive of hauling the cuttings away would also have to be considered.

Anyone who would like to donate to this lake improvement effort should send their contribution to the East Okoboji Lakes Improvement Corporation, Box 45, Spirit Lake, IA 51360 OR the 501(C)3 organization - Iowa Great Lakes Water Safety Council, Box 232, Spirit Lake, IA 51360. Mark your check for Curly Pond Weed Project.

Phil Petersen