Thursday, July 19, 2018

Update on Christmas Lake Weevil Pilot Project

Edited from an Article written on July 3rd by Jeff Forester of MN Lakes & River Advocates:  

This summer the Christmas Lake Association is testing to see if a weevil native to Minnesota can be used to eat and control Eurasian water-milfoil.

Click here to see WCCO's video about the project

Lake Associations struggle with fundraising, and often face huge lake treatment bills for problems like Eurasian water-milfoil, etc.  Lake Association leaders fear that their membership is aging and they are searching for ways to engage younger members.

Yesterday, I, along with other lake association leaders, DNR personnel, and MAISRC, toured a pilot project on Christmas Lake that could provide a solution strategy for both of these issues.  

The pilot is based on research by Dr. Sallie Sheldon, Middlebury College, VT.  She has developed a process to catch native weevils out of a lake, raise them on the invasive Eurasian water-milfoil, and then release these weevils back into the lake to achieve some control of the invasive and costly plant.

Dr. Sheldon was a speaker at the Aquatic Invaders Summit held last winter sponsored by Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates, (MLR).  MLR has been working with Dr. Sheldon and Paul Hamilton, Norway Lake Association, and a Minnesota science teacher, to develop a way to package Dr. Sheldon's work and a curriculum so that lake associations can partner with local school or youth groups to engage youth in water related science while working to control milfoil, all at a lower cost than traditional management strategies.

Science is a key value for MLR.  As the land of 10,000 lakes, we believe that Minnesota should have the most rigorous and engaging water sciences programs in the country and that they should begin in grade school.

Anytime we can achieve control of an invasive species without impacting the native plants, that is a win.  If we can do that at a lower cost, that is a win win.  If we can do it while engaging a new generation in lake advocacy, that is a WIN WIN WIN.

In 2012 and 2013 the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District began a three year pilot, putting 30,000 weevils into the lake.  The program was interrupted in 2014 when the company hired to do the work pulled out.  Said Joseph Shneider, Christmas Lake Association President, “We started to see dramatic improvement a few years later.  You could argue that milfoil is no longer a problem on Christmas Lake. Dr. Sheldon believes that another year or two of stocking will tip the balance.”          

This year the Christmas Lake Association is funding the weevil project with much of the labor being done by volunteers from Blake and Minnetonka Schools as well as school aged children from Christmas Lake.  Next season, based on the results from Christmas Lake, other lake associations may pilot a weevil project to control eurasian water-milfoil.

Data from the project is being compiled by Dr. Sheldon to improve and assess the protocol. The MN DNR has permitted the project, and will be tracking results closely.  Management of Aquatic Invasive Species, including costs, typically falls to local lake associations with little or no financial support from the state agency. MLR knows that lake associations in Minnesota pay millions every year for management of aquatic invasive species.  A project like this could free up funding for other conservation projects and lake improvements such as fish stocking, buying conservation easements to protect water quality, building water trails or shore lunch sites and so forth.  Plus, by partnering with schools or other local youth groups, lake associations will begin to engage parents with school aged children, a group of people that is often too busy to become active members of lake associations.

Said Joe Shneider, “We want to get this packaged into a kit so that lake associations throughout Minnesota could use this.”

Dr. Sheldon did her PhD work on Christmas Lake, and her return here decades later represents a full circle.  “I am thrilled to be back on Christmas Lake and excited about the opportunities created in Minnesota by engaged lake associations, science and professional resource managers,” said Dr. Sheldon.

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