Iowa Great Lakes Seeing Increase In Native Aquatic Plants This Season

Thu 7-22-2021

(Orleans)-- The Iowa Great Lakes this season are seeing an increase in aquatic plants. Mike Hawkins, a Fisheries Biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says those include native species such as coon tail, sagel pond weed and wild water celery, to name a few, which are extremely beneficial to a lake's ecosystem. While it IS legal to remove vegetation within a 20 foot radius around docks and boat hoists by hand or mechanical means without disturbing the lake bottom, Hawkins again reminds everyone it is ILLEGAL to apply chemical herbicides. He's encouraging anyone that sees that going on to report it...Hawkins01 

"We certainly want to know about that. Our law enforcement folks would want to know about that. There's some fairly stiff penalties in the state of Iowa for illegal application of herbicides to public waters. We have to remember that these are sensitive areas and they are also drinking water sources for the local communities here. Everyone in Dickinson county, almost, gets their water from these lakes for drinking water. We want to make sure those are protected. And applying aquatic herbicides is not like putting Roundup up the driveway or out around the sidewalk or something like that. It's a fairly complicated procedure. Rates and dosages have to be calculated based on water volume, so it's just not a good idea for somebody to be doing that on their own."

On another matter, Hawkins says they're closely monitoring the lakes for any signs of algae growth that could be related to lower water levels and temperature...Hawkins02 

"Right now there's a fantasomenae bloom on East Okoboji. We were out yesterday and actually documented that. That's happening as we speak. It could accumulate and actually cause some issues locally on some shorelines. Typically it's not lake-wide issues but when that bloom actually gets blown in to shore and it starts to die off, that's when it really becomes a nuisance especially for shore owners in those areas. What's interesting is one, you know, one side of the lake can have a stinking mess with blue green algae die off and the other side of the lake can have fairly clear water, so it really can be a fairly localized issue based on the wind. These stagnant, calm days like we've had, you know, that actually promotes those cynobacteria blooms as well."

Hawkins says that type of algae or bacteria can pose a health hazard to people and pets if they ingest the water...Hawkins03 

"In an area where that bloom is occurring, where the die-off is occurring, that's the place where folks want to stay out of the water, and typically people do. When they see water like that they don't go in. But that's not necessarily the case for pets. Pets are especially vulnerable to getting in that water or drinking it or cleaning themselves off later and that's when they can become sick from the cynobacteria toxins, so.."

Hawkins adds native aquatic plant life in a lake are also vital to reducing nutrients that can result in bacteria and algae growth.

Hawkins says the DNR once again this summer is monitoring state beaches and issuing advisories as needed based on test results. As of right now no such advisories are in effect for any of the state park beaches on the Iowa Great Lakes.