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Plant Invading Michigan's Lakes Is Hard To Kill

John Turmoil
Eurasian watermilfoil

A state grant aims to combat an invasive plant plaguing Michigan’s inland lakes. Eurasian watermilfoil  forms thick mats on the water that make it hard for boats and swimmers to move through. Lakefront property owners often have to pay hundreds of dollars for herbicide treatments every year or watch their property values plummet. 

What’s more, not every type of watermilfoil responds to herbicides. The state recently awarded a more than $370,000 grant to find a faster, cheaper way to identify milfoil that resists herbicides.

Ryan Thum  of Montana State University is heading up that grant. He said Eurasian watermilfoil is hard to kill. It can even play dead after it’s treated.

“They looked pretty dead [laughs] for a few weeks, but after four weeks," said Thum. "And the study was done with scuba divers — we were able to show that the individual plants that looked like they were dead actually started regenerating.”

But not everyone agrees that money should go to researching how to kill Eurasian watermilfoil with herbicides. Some lake managers think the state should focus on other solutions, while some lakefront residents want help footing the bill to keep the weed at bay.

Others say the state should fund these treatments, not lakefront residents. Darrell Smith lives along Pike Bay in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula.

“We’re past the study phase and we’ve got to get rid of it," said Smith.

Eurasian watermilfoil is a difficult invasive species to kill. It often gets introduced into an area by catching a ride on boats.

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