Gladwin and Midland Counties, Michigan
The Wixom Lake plant control program has been ongoing since 2001. Each year, we receive questions from lake residents regarding how the program works. Below are some commonly asked questions.
Who sits on the lake board?
By state law, the Wixom Lake Improvement Board is composed of the drain commissioners from Gladwin and Midland Counties, county commissioners from Gladwin and Midland Counties, a representative from each of the townships bordering the lake (Hope, Tobacco, Billings, and Edenville), and a lake resident representative. The lake board has nine members, several of whom are Wixom Lake property owners.
Who oversees the plant control program?
Plant control activities are coordinated under the direction of the lake board’s environmental consultant, Progressive AE. Beginning in May and continuing through August, biologists from Progressive AE conduct GPS-guided surveys of the entire lake each month to identify problem areas, and detailed plant control maps are provided to our plant control contractors. Progressive then conducts follow-up surveys to evaluate contractor performance, and provides regular status reports to the lake board.
Who conducts the herbicide treatment and mechanical harvesting work?
The Wixom Lake plant control program includes a combination of herbicide treatments and mechanical harvesting. Herbicide treatments are conducted by PLM Lake and Land Management Corp. and harvesting work is conducted by Mike’s Clearwater Harvesting. Both the herbicide treatment and mechanical harvesting contracts are competitively bid and performance-based. The contractors are only compensated for work that is performed satisfactorily.
Why are there so many weeds in the lake?
Wixom Lake supports abundant plant growth for a number of reasons:
Who determines when and where treatments and harvesting will occur?
When and where treatments and harvesting are conducted is determined by the weather and where nuisance plants are found when biologists from Progressive AE conduct their monthly surveys.
Why are there still plants in the lake following treatments?
Not all plants are treated. The goal of the program is to strike a balance by controlling invasive plant species and maintaining beneficial species. We do not want to remove all the plants in the lake. This would be bad for the fishery and cause a host of other problems, such as massive algae blooms.
What plants are targeted for control?
The Wixom Lake plant control program focuses primarily on invasive, exotic species. An exotic species is one that is found outside of its natural range. Outside their natural range, exotic plants have no natural competitors or predators to help keep them in check. They can quickly outcompete native plants and gain dominance in the lake. Eurasian milfoil is the primary exotic species targeted for control in Wixom Lake.
Because Eurasian milfoil spreads by fragmentation, mechanical harvesting of the plant is ill-advised because it can fragment and spread the plant. Early season treatments in Wixom Lake target Eurasian milfoil and, once the milfoil is under control, remaining funds are used to target other nuisance plant growth.
What about hybrid milfoil?
Recent genetic testing has detected the presence of hybrid milfoil in Wixom Lake. Hybrid milfoil is a cross between exotic Eurasian milfoil and native northern milfoil. In general hybrid milfoils are somewhat more resistant to certain herbicides compared to Eurasian milfoil. Genetic testing and herbicide susceptibility testing are both being done in Wixom Lake to help optimize treatment results.
Is there a permanent fix to the problem?
If conditions are favorable, aquatic plants will grow, and conditions in Wixom Lake are very favorable for aquatic plant growth. As noted above, Wixom Lake naturally supports abundant plant growth. However, there are steps property owners can take to help minimize the amount of plants in the lake such as limiting the use of lawn fertilizers and maintaining natural vegetation along the shoreline to act as a filter for nutrients that wash into the lake.
How about a pre-emptive strike?
To be effective, aquatic herbicides must be applied directly to the plant beds when the plants are actively growing. There are no pre-emergence aquatic herbicides like there are for agriculture.
Are herbicide treatments safe?
The aquatic herbicides that are permitted by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) are registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. They also undergo toxicological review by EGLE. In Michigan, aquatic herbicide use requires an EGLE permit. The permit lists herbicides approved for use in the lake, respective dose rates, and shows specific areas in the lake where treatments are allowed. If herbicides are applied according to label instructions and permit requirements, they should pose no danger to public health and the environment.
How do the treatments impact fish?
If applied properly, herbicides have no direct impacts on fish. In general, lakes with a variety of plants often support more productive fisheries. The plant control program in Wixom Lake is designed to remove invasive plants while preserving plants that provide habitat and cover for fish.
Why didn’t my property get treated?
Treatments occur where the targeted invasive plants are found during the lake surveys. Not every property gets treated every time; your property may have plants, but if it doesn’t contain the targeted invasive plants, it’s not treated.
How will I know about use restrictions?
All lake residents will receive a written notice regarding pending treatments. The written notice will list all herbicides that may be used and use restrictions. At the time of treatment, state regulations require that areas within 100 feet of treatment areas be posted with a sign that lists specific herbicides applied and the associated use restrictions. If there is no sign posted along your property, it means your area was not treated and there are no use restrictions.
When is it safe to swim after a treatment?
All herbicides have a 24-hour swimming restriction that will be posted on signs along areas of the shore that have been treated. However, if you do not have a sign posted or the sign indicates that only algaecides were applied, there are no swimming restrictions.
When can I water my lawn following a treatment?
If you draw water from the lake for irrigation, be sure to read the sign posted along your shoreline at the time of treatment. Most irrigation restrictions do not apply to established lawns. However, it you water flowers or a garden, adhere to the irrigation restrictions posted on the sign.
Why do the harvesters stop at the end of my dock?
Mechanical harvesters are large pieces of equipment and generally need two to three feet of water depth for operation. In addition, wind and wave action can move the machines and cause damage to moored boats and docks. For liability and safety reasons, harvesting equipment is generally operated along the end of docks into deeper water, and not in between docks and close to shore.