North Frontenac Council certainly paid attention what members of the Malcolm and Ardoch Lake Association (MALLA) had to say last Friday morning.(August 24). In a 20 minute presentation, MALLA President Glen Fowler was joined by Vice President Brenda Martin, Cathy Owne and two subject experts who have property on the lake, marine biologists Bud Griswold and Mary Gessner.
They outlined not only the alarming increase in the spread of the millfoil on the shallow lake this year, but also the research they have done about how to try and manage an infestation of the seemingly innocuous plant. When it gets established, the millfoil forms a thick intertwined mat at the surface, capable of stopping the motor in a boat that passes through it.
It was originally brought to North America by the aquarium industry, and when someone dumped an aquarium into a lake in the Us Midwest, the Millfoil began its march through cottage country, aided by boats that are transported from lake to lake by boaters looking for new adventures and fishing opportunities.
The plant takes root at the bottom of the lake, and therefore it is not a problem in deeper water, but in shallow areas of deep lakes and in major portions of shallow lakes such as Malcolm and Ardoch, it can become established and at that point it is difficult, if not impossible, to manage using current techniques. It typically grows in 2-4 metres of water, but can grow in depths up to 10 metres. Like so many garden weeds, breaking off bits of the plant only aid in its propagation, the only way to kill it is to pull it out by the roots, which is difficult in 5 metre deep water. And, according to Brenda Martin, once established in a hospitable lake, it can flourish.
‘A patch that was 10 ‘ by 10’ which we were planning to do a pilot project on, has now grown to be 60’ by 900’, too large for that original plan,” she said to Council.
Mary Gessner contacted the Lake Association from Big Cedar Lake in the Kawartha Lakes to see how their management efforts had progressed.
She reported that Big Cedar Lake had invested in weevil stocking. Together with Trent University they have stocked 320,000 millfoil weevils, which only feed on millfoil plants, both native millfois whihc do not present a threat, and the eurasian millfoil as well. After a 5 year project, the Big Cedar study concluded that while there were some indications of a die back of millfoil, it inevitably recovered the following year. The weevil, at least on its own, is not a solution. As well, they were expensive and in fact are not longer available on the commercial market.
Other control methods have their own problems. Mechanical removal is labour intensive and may backfire if it leads to fragments that can float off and establish new colonies by rooting somewhere else, chemical controls tend to effect everything in the lake, which is counter to the goal of protecting habitat from the millfoil.
It is not exactly a solution, but the most promising control that both the Big Cedar and MALLA Associations are looking at now, is burlap. The idea is to blanket the bottom of the lake and physically block the progress of the plant from the root on up. MALLA is keen to try this control, using fish habitat bundles to hold down the burlap, which will biodegrade over time. Although burlap would block out everything, the idea is that the other species would recover once the millfoil is, if not eradicated, at least curtailed.
MALLA has instituted a 12 point action plan. It starts with seeking support from the municipality and educating property owners throughout the township, particularly those living on lakes that are affected. It extends to seeking co-operation from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for a pilot project with a burlap blanket, and seeking partnerships with other bodies, and applying for funding from a number of sources to carry out their initiatives. MALLA will also be approaching Granite Ridge Education Centre’s “Above and Beyond” drone program in order to track vegetation on the lake.
Glenn Fowler brought information about the millfoil to a meeting of the North Frontenac Lake Association Alliance in early August.
“From that meeting, I can inform Council that at least 7 lakes in the township, other than Malcolm and Ardoch, are reporting they have eurasian millfoil in their lake,” he said. “They are: Big Gull, Canonto, Mosque, Palmerston, Kashwakamak, Brule, and the Mississippi River.”
One of the requests MALLA brought to Council was for them to apply whatever pressure they could on the MNR-F to handle their application for a permit try using burlap on Ardoch Lake.
“We had plans for a pilot project with the burlap this summer, but have been waiting for MNR-F to approve the application we made to them for a pilot project. We hand delivered our application in July and we have phoned often since then to ask them when they are going to deal with our application but nothing has happened,” said Brenda Martin.
The first request of MALLA to the township was to apply political pressure on the MNR-F to approve their application. They also asked for $10,000 for MALLA to partner with Watersheds - Canada (a Perth based ecological organisation) to hire a graduate student to manage their efforts next year. They also asked for $1,500 this year to purchase materials for the pilot project, should it be approved.
They also asked the township to consider boat wash station in each of the wards and to use the township website as a tool to educate lake users about the need to wash boats before launching them on new lakes. Finally they want the township to apply for federal and provincial funding to “address the issue before it becomes a crisis.”
Mayor Ron Higgins, fresh from a meeting with provincial officials at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, said he thought he would be able to push the MNR-F towards making a decision on the application for approval.
Councillor John Inglis said “The $10,000 can go to our 2019 budget process, but I think we have no choice but to provide you with the $1,500 now.”
Councillor Wayne Good asked about the impact of thre burlap on other species.
“It will certainly affect lake activity of invertebrate species,” said Bud Griswold, but we will only apply it in limited locations.”
The township procedural bylaw precluded approving the $1,500 on the spot. Council considered suspended the bylaw in this case, but Brenda Martin said there was no harm waiting three weeks.
“We can’t do anything without the MNR approval anyway,” she said, “and we would need to order the supplies even if it gets approved and that will take time. Besides, I have a big VISA.”
On Monday afternoon, one business day after Friday’s Council meeting, MALLA was informed that the application for a pilot project has been approved by the MNR.