Columbia Township trustees voted unanimously tonight to renew the weed program that has successfully defended Clark Lake from invasive weeds over the last seven years.  The program will be extended for another seven years.   Before the vote was taken, board members held the final public hearing, one of several times Clark Lakers residents expressed their views to the elected officials. See the final hearing, and the vote, in this video.

During several meetings before the Township board that lead up to this vote, Clark Lakers stood up in support of continuing the program.  In alphabetical order, they include Maris Anderson, Rick Belcher, Joe Collins, Steve Harris, Frank Hones, Blair Huff, Ron June, Beth June, Bob Lajdziak, Mike Ligibel, Roger Lyons, Kyle Main, Vic Marshall, Mike McKay, Kevin Thomson, Mick Thorrez, and Shelly Wilbur.  Others submitted support in writing.  The Township received no written objections.  Two organizations, also comprised of Clark Lake residents, voiced their support — the Invasive Species Committee and Clark Lake Spirit Foundation.  Kevin Thomson, vice-president of the Foundation and an attorney, was instrumental in the process as he worked on behalf of Clark Lake residents with the Township. 

A stipulation In this new special assessment district (SAD) resolution reduces the cost to lakefront property owners to $60 from $64 annually. The resolution calls for “the amount to be assessed to each parcel shall be subject to a periodic redetermination and adjustment” each year.  Further, “if there are surplus special assessment collections during the term…the Township Board may determine to use the surplus funds to pay the cost of the improvements in lieu of levying an annual assessment for that year.”   Click here to read the entire resolution.

Here’s some background on how this program came to be. In 2014 Clark Lakers noticed a rapidly-growing problem.  Weeds were taking over large sections of the lake.  One resident described it as “an Amazon jungle lurking an inch below the surface.”  If you went through an affected area, a raft ride might be delayed two or three times to clear the prop of weeds.  Mounds of weeds were floating from one area of the lake to another.  Residents were alarmed.   

A couple Clark Lake residents took action by collecting samples, and them sending out to be analyzed. The verdict?  Clark Lake was under attack by hybrid Eurasian water milfoil (HEWM).  Concerned residents formed the Invasive Species Committee.  Their research uncovered a troubled prognosis.  A small cutting of this invasive weed multiplies exponentially.  They talked to other communities and found this–lakes that didn’t take action paid a price.  Weeds diminished boating, fishing, destroyed natural habitat, and property values decreased in some situations. 

What to do?  Forming a special assessment district (SAD) would allow full lake treatment and cover costs.  Committee members took on a huge task, and went door to door and reached 70% of lakefront owners.  They found strong support—95% signed the petition to form the SAD. 

Once the program was established, early efforts achieved moderate success.  The results of the 2019 full lake treatment were nothing short of spectacular.  Data compiled from surveys illustrates the progress. 

The chart shows the total plant cover, or general “weediness” of the lake.  As the HEWM (or EWM in the chart) has decreased, this number has gone down. The reason is not necessarily because of fewer plants, but the native plant species do not grow to the density of the HEWM.  The weed program only affects invasive species. 

Last summer, the invader began to reappear, perhaps not a surprise given the number of boats visiting from infected lakes. The contractor, PLM, treated the specific areas that you see in this map.

Over the last couple years, a new threat appeared—starry stonewort.  This algae masquerades as a weed.  It can be very aggressive growing to heights of 7 feet and so dense that no person or fish could move through it.  Some nearby lakes are grappling with out-of-control attacks.  At Clark Lake, it has been treated at Eagle Point and in the area around the County Park.  

A reasonable question is “when will it end?”  Perhaps, never.  Current strains are reintroduced by visiting boats, new strains can combine with existing native or hybrid plants, and a new threat could materialize at any moment. 

Another question regards responsibility.  Shouldn’t others who use the lake have to take precautions or pay for the treatment?  In the best of worlds, the answer to both is yes.  Yet, as you visit practical scenarios that would accomplish those objectives, you quickly find difficult complications.  Within the perspective of another question comes its own answer.  What kind of result do lakefront property owners desire?  A lake with weeds under control or a lake facing a nightmarish tangled mess?  Clark Lake residents had answers and expressed them.  The weed program will live on for another seven years.