LAKE PLACID- Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission was scheduled to start treating, starting Monday, 256 acres of Illinois pondweed located in open water of Lake June, which has been identified as high use, public recreation and navigation areas, said FWC regional biologist Kelle Sullivan.
Since Sept. 4, FWC has completed 15 acres of pondweed treatments around the boat ramps and public swimming areas of the 3,500-acre lake, including Catfish Creek, Sterns Creek and the canal to Lake Henry, which were "prioritized as main public access points to the lake," Sullivan said.
Over the last few months, the pondweed that grows naturally in Florida and has spawned in larger-than-usual amounts in Lake June, has been vexing some lake users. Experts say they don't know why it has proliferated this year but attribute rainfall and nutrient levels as possible culprits.
To help clear some of the growth, FWC is treating public recreation, navigation, and access areas around the lake. In addition to boat ramps and canals, this includes certain offshore areas that have been identified as high use areas by the public for navigation and recreational water sports activities, Sullivan said.
Once the 256 acres is completed this week, FWC will wait to see the results before conducting more treatments, she said.
They will create a lowrance sonar vegetation survey of the lake sometime in late October or early November to see if pondweed growth has tapered off.
"This will allow enough time after we treat the larger areas for the pondweed to fall and clear out before we do the next survey. We will continue to monitor the lake and if necessary we will consider further treatments to maintain public access, recreation and navigation areas around the lake," Sullivan added in an email.
There are many things that could cause the pondweed coverage to change from year to year or even season to season, Sullivan added.
"Illinois pondweed naturally senesces (deteriorates) in the fall and the seed heads that stick up above the surface during the summer will go away. Cold weather could also have some effect on areas that are at or near the surface, causing them to die back to lower levels in the water column. Storm wave action will have an effect as well as water fowl that may use it as a food source over the winter months," she added.
"Changes in water clarity, color, and turbidity can have a significant effect, potentially causing the pondweed to die back as less light is able to reach the bottom for it to grow. The level of nutrient runoff from the surrounding area likely plays a significant role as well."
Residents also can apply for a FWC Aquatic Plant Management permit to use an approved aquatic herbicide to control the pondweed around their private docks and shorelines. Those who already have a FWC Aquatic Plant Management permit, but it does not have Illinois pondweed listed on it for control, need to submit a permit modification to add Illinois pondweed and the herbicide to their active permit before starting treatment, she added. Residents can contact the FWC South Central Invasive Plant Management office at (863)534-7074 for more information or assistance with either a new permit application or modification.
No permit is required for residents to remove plants by hand or mechanical means in an area that extends along 50 feet of their shoreline or a distance that is 50 percent of their lake frontage, whichever is less.
"This clearing should be placed perpendicular to the shoreline and may extend as far out in the lake as necessary for a boat or swimmer to reach open water," she added.