Anglers, boaters encouraged to fight invasives

Portable weed washers will be onsite at various locations now in the Huron-Manistee National Forest. Photo: Courtesy US Forest Service

Portable weed washers will be onsite at various locations now in the Huron-Manistee National Forest. Photo: Courtesy US Forest Service

By Howard Meyerson

Hose them down!

That’s the message Huron-Manistee National Forest staffers hope anglers and boaters will take away from demonstration projects planned this summer at boat launches on Houghton Lake, the Muskegon River and Manistee County waters.

That’s where two portable high-pressure, hot-water washers are expected to be available so anglers and boaters can hose down boats and reduce the possibility of spreading invasive aquatic species like zebra mussels or invasive plants.

The high-pressure washers were purchased with federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds as part of two grants to the forest and its partners, Manistee County and the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly.

“What we want is for boaters to recognize the need to keep their boats clean when move them from lake to lake and take on that task,” said Chris Riley, fisheries biologist with the Huron-Manistee National Forest, Manistee Ranger Station.  “We still have places that don’t have invasive species.

The HMNF project is a continuation of the U.S. Forest Service initiative in Michigan that began in 2010 with the Ottawa National Forest in the western Upper Peninsula. Forest officials there acquired four portable washers and later also built a permanent unit at Hagerman Lake, near Iron River, where zebra mussels had become a problem. The Hiawatha National Forest adopted the project in 2012.

“We’re finding they are a valuable tool for making people aware of the aquatic invasives issue,” said John Rothlisberger, regional aquatic ecologist for the US Forest Service eastern region office in Milwaukee, WI. “Given the number of boaters in the region and the number of public access sites, we would never be able to control invasives that way (relying on the demonstration units), but we do use them to raise public awareness.”

Rothlisberger said the program has been effective at reaching Upper Peninsula boaters and anglers. The portable units are moved to sites where boating activity is heavy and where fishing tournaments are staged. They are not left at any one locale on a 24/7 basis.

Studies show the high-pressure, high-temperature washes are 65 percent effective at removing aquatic like purple loosestrife, Eurasian watermilfoil and curly leaf pondweed or starry stonewort, all undesirable plants. That compares to the same rate when boaters pick them off by hand, according to Rothlisberger.  But the power washers remove 90 percent of the small bodied organisms like zebra mussel larvae, spiny waterfleas and phragmites where hand removal is only 50 percent.

“For vegetation, you don’t need a fancy pressure washer, you can inspect the boat,” Rothlisberger said. “But the high-pressure wash is very effective for the other organisms.”

The cost of the two-pronged initiative being launched in the Huron-Manistee National Forest will be covered by two $50,000 GLRI grants.  The funding covers the cost of the equipment, educational materials, signs at public launches and seasonal staffing.

The partnerships are five year agreements. Additional GLRI funds are expected to be sought.

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© 2013 Howard Meyerson

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