Local Group gets State Grant to Address Aquatic Invaders

Empowering River and Lakeshore Residents to Stop the Spread

By: Vicki Sawicki
North Country Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area


Tossing-rakes to sample for aquatic plants are part of the tool-kits NCCISMA and MRWA are providing new EAPW enrollees
Photo Credit: Jo Latimor


The North Country Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (NCCISMA), under the Mecosta Conservation District, has been awarded a grant for $191,000 from the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program (MISGP) for a two year project to address invasive species on a watershed scale. The project will focus on the upper Muskegon River watershed. The watershed includes not just the river itself, but all of the surrounding area that ultimately drains into the river. One key component of this project is the enrollment of area lakes into the MiCorps Exotic Aquatic Plant Watch (EAPW) program, which is part of the Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program (CLMP).

A key partner in this project is the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly (MRWA). Beginning in 2019, MRWA will have a dedicated staff member working on this project. Marty Holtgren, Executive Director for the MRWA believes “identifying and controlling invasive species should be at the forefront of efforts to protect our watershed and the diverse collection of native species we are fortunate to have.”

Location map for NCCISMA Muskegon Watershed project
Photo Credit: NCCISMA


The project area includes nearly all of Missaukeee, Osceola, and Mecosta Counties, as well as portions of Wexford, Lake, and Clare Counties. Within the boundaries of this project there are over 263 named lakes. This project has a goal of reaching representatives of at least 150 of these lakes with a questionnaire, to determine current knowledge of invasive species and involvement in aquatic invasive treatment and monitoring activities. NCCISMA and MRWA further hope to enroll at least 50 lakes into the EAPW program. Holtgren, in summarizing the MRWA’s role in the current project, stated that they are “excited to be a partner in this important effort, especially involving people in the local communities to be a part of the solution against the spread of invasive species.”

There is a nominal cost for a lake to participate in the EAPW program. For starters, in order to be enrolled in the EAPW, a lake must also be enrolled in the CLMP Secchi Disk Transparency Program. A secchi disk is the tool that is used to test for lake transparency. Participation in the Transparency Program requires a commitment to run a simple test every week or every other week from May through September. The cost to be in this program is $30 annually. Forty-five area lakes are currently enrolled in the Transparency Program, but only one is also enrolled in the EAPW. The EAPW enrollment is another $30 per year. For most lakes, the time commitment for performing EAPW monitoring is one day annually. With enrollment in EAPW, MiCorps provides training to lake representatives on how to identify five key aquatic invasive species. These are Eurasian milfoil, starry stonewort, curly-leaf pondweed, European frogbit, and hydrilla. If these species are present and allowed to spread and flourish undetected within a lake system, they can impact the value of the lake for recreation by making travel by boat through a lake difficult to nearly impossible. Their dense growth can also impact fish populations by outcompeting native species and by blocking sunlight from reaching as deeply below the surface as it previously had been able to.

An EAPW participant is trained in aquatic plant ID
Photo Credit: Angela De Palma Dow


Through the funding provided by the MISGP for this project, some of the costs to CLMP participants that also enroll in EAPW will be offset. Besides the annual $60 cost for enrollment in the Secchi Disk Transparency and EAPW monitoring programs, there is an initial investment in the tools needed to perform the monitoring. The cost for a secchi disk and an aquatic vegetation sampling rake is about $125. With this project NCCISMA and MRWA will be holding tool-kit assembly workshops. At these free workshops new enrollees into the EAPW program will participate in making their own tools, to make sure they are ready to participate in the program once enrolled. The dates for these tool-kit assembly workshops have not yet been set.

For 2019 the deadline to enroll in the CLMP programs is May 10th. Free training is being offered by MiCorps May 3 – 4 at the Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville. Marcy Knoll Wilmes, MiCorps Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Biologist, says that anyone interested in getting involved with CLMP is welcome to the training, but does ask that you preregister. In addition to invasive species, the training includes education on general water quality measures, such as nutrients and clarity. As an incentive for involvement in the EAPW aspect of MiCorps, Wilmes points out that “identifying invasive species in your lake early allows you to prevent disruptions to the lake ecosystem and recreation on the lake” Information on how to register for MiCorps free training is available on the Michigan Lake Stewardship Associations’ webpage at www.mymlsa.org.

If you are a lakeshore property owner within the Muskegon River watershed, your help in putting together a lake representative contact list would be greatly appreciated. To add a representative to this list, or to participate in the tool-kit assembly workshops, contact Jenna at 231-757-3708, ext. 110

Once enrolled in EAPW MiCorps provides in-the-field training for sampling and ID
Photo Credit: Angela De Palma Dow


Vicki Sawicki is the NCCISMA Program Coordinator.  For more information on invasive species in the region, contact Vicki by phone at 231-429-5072, by email at vicki.sawicki@macd.org, or stop by the NCCISMA office at the Wexford County Courthouse, 437 E. Division St. in Cadillac.


Editor’s Note.

As of this writing, the partnership has already produced results. Mary Hansen has joined the staff at MRWA as a dedicated project manager focused on building a network of lake association members and riparian property owners in order to drive enrollment into the MiCorps Exotic Aquatic Plant Watch (EAPW) program, which is part of the Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program (CLMP).

Meanwhile Bekka Neelis and Scott Hart, field technicians for NCCISMA have completed all required training and are certified on herbicide safety and chemical treatment techniques, plant ID and the procedures for conducting invasive species surveys. Bekka developed daily work plans for completing invasive species surveys along 210 linear miles of the Muskegon River beginning in northern Missaukee County. That work is well under way. Working together in a kayak, Bekka and Scott inspect both sides of the river and catalog all invasive species they find.