Protect Your Local Lakes: Enroll in the Exotic Aquatic Plant Watch

By Emma Costantino, Outreach Coordinator
North Country Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area

When people think about lakes and Michigan, the five Great Lakes likely come to mind but Michigan also has over 11,000 inland lakes. Unfortunately, these bodies of water are threatened by invasive species. Whether introduced intentionally or by accident, these non-native species present a severe threat to the health of Michigan’s lakes. Many species, including Eurasian milfoil and starry stonewort, form dense mats in lakes impeding the movement of boats and disrupting fish habitat. Invasive species can reproduce rapidly and often at quicker rates than their native counterparts, which means that even a small infestation can soon take over a lake. In order to combat this threat, a community response is needed.

While keeping waters safe from aquatic invaders may seem like a daunting task, property owners are not alone in this fight. The Exotic Aquatic Plant Watch (EAPW) trains volunteers on how to monitor their lakes for aquatic invasive species. The EAPW is part of the MiCorps Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program (CLMP) which provides volunteers with training and technical assistance so that they can collect data on lake quality. EAPW and MiCorps are administered by my MSU Extension.

Another partner for concerned citizens is the North Country Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (NCCISMA). This organization addresses invasive species in the counties of Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Missaukee, Osceola, and Wexford. CISMAs are cooperative entities designed to bring together all invasive-species-concerned organizations, businesses, and residents, to implement effective controls. Concerned by the lack of local lakes enrolled in the EAPW, NCCISMA partnered with the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly (MRWA) to receive a grant to raise awareness of invasive species in the upper half of the Muskegon River Watershed. The project area covers the six counties that comprise NCCISMA, as well as Clare county.

Location map for NCCISMA Muskegon Watershed project

There are two components to this project: surveying the project area for invasive species and encouraging lakeshore property owners to enroll in the EAPW. Surveying was completed in 2019 and while no watch list invasive species were detected, several high priority species were. These high priority species included phragmites, Japanese knotweed, and garlic mustard. While watch list species have not been found in the area, it is important to monitor the region to ensure they stay out. Watch list species are those which have not been found in Michigan, or exist in isolated populations but have the potential to wreak havoc if established in the State. Residents must watch out for such species to ensure that they do not get a foothold in the lakes and rivers. The project partners have a goal of getting 150 lakes enrolled in the EAPW. Too often, we do not respond to an invasive species until it is rampant throughout a region and removal is difficult if not impossible. The EAPW equips lakeshore owners with the tools and knowledge they need to provide early detection on their local lakes. Early detection of invasive species is vital to preventing them from establishing and disrupting a lake.

In order to enroll in the EAPW, a lake must also be enrolled in the CLMP Secchi Disk Transparency Program. Enrollment for the Transparency Program and the EAPW each cost $30 making the total cost of program enrollment $60. Members of the EAPW will receive free training on how to identify five invasive species: Eurasian watermilfoil, curly-leaf pondweed, hydrilla, starry-stonewort, and European frogbit. MSU Extension staff is available to help participants with species identification and sampling procedures. NCCISMA staff is also available to confirm aquatic plant identification. Grant funds will provide sampling equipment for lakes within NCCISMA or the Muskegon River watershed project boundaries. This kit includes a Secchi disc for testing water transparency, a plant sampling rake, and collection tray. Tool kits are valued at $125.00 and can be reused for years.



If interested in enrolling in the EAPW, please email Jean Roth at Once enrolled in the program, enrollees within the project boundaries can contact NCCISMA to get a free tool kit.

Emma Costantino is the NCCISMA Outreach Coordinator. She can be reached by emailing or call (313) 570-6853. For more information on invasive species, visit