The Lake Mitchell Improvement Board has been overseeing aquatic plant control programs since 1988. Each year at our Lake Board meetings, through our website, and from personal encounters Board members receive questions. I'd like to address some of the most common inquiries. -- Dave Foley
Who sits on the Lake Improvement Board?
According to the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act Part 451 of 1994, the Lake Mitchell Improvement Board is composed of the Wexford County Drain Commissioner, a commissioner from the Wexford County Commission, a representative from the City Council of Cadillac, a representative from each of the townships, Selma and Cherry Grove that border Lake Mitchell, and a lake resident representative. The Drain Commissioner is elected by the country but all (except the lake resident representative) other representatives are appointed by the organizations that they represent. The lake resident representative is appointed by the Improvement Board for a three-year term and may be reappointed by the Board. Other than the Drain Commissioner who is elected by country residents to serve a specific term, there is no defined term for other members of the Board.
Who oversees the plant control program?
Plant control activities are coordinated under the direction of the Lake Board's environmental consultant, Jennifer Jermalowicz-Jones, CEO of Restorative Lake Sciences (RLS). Beginning in May and continuing through August biologists from RLS conduct GPS-guided surveys of the entire lake to Identify problem areas and create detailed plant control maps. RLS then conducts follow-up surveys to evaluate contractor performance, and provide regular status reports to the Lake Board.
Who conducts the herbicide treatment and mechanical harvesting work?
The Lake Mitchell plant control program includes a combination of herbicide treatments and mechanical harvesting. Herbicide treatments are conducted by Professional Lake Management Corp. (PLM). The contractor (PLM) is only compensated for work that is done satisfactorily.
Why are there so many weeds in the lake?
Lake Mitchell supports abundant plant growth for a number of reasons. The Torenta canal as well as Little and the Franke Coves are shallow water areas with a high level of nutrients and these sheltered “still waters” favor plant growth. Brandy Creek entering Little Cove and Mitchell Creek which feeds into big cove are nutrient rich streams whose inflows promote plant growth.
Much of the main lake is shallow enough to support the growth of aquatic vegetation.
Why are there still plants in the lake following treatment?
Not all plants are treated. The goal of the program is to strike a balance by controlling invasive plant species and maintaining beneficial species. We do not want to remove all the plants in the lake. This would devastate the fishery and cause a host of other problems, such as massive algae blooms.
Which plants are targeted for control?
The Lake Mitchell plant control program focuses primarily on invasive aquatic, exotic species. An exotic species is one that is found outside of its natural range. Outside their natural range, exotic plants have no natural competitors or predators to keep them in check. They can quickly out-compete native plants and gain dominance in the lake. Eurasian watermilfoil is the primary exotic species targeted for control in Lake Mitchell.
Because Eurasian watermilfoil spreads by fragmentation, mechanical harvesting of the plant is ill-advised since it can fragment and spread the plant. Early season treatments in Lake Mitchell target Eurasian watermilfoil and, once the milfoil has been treated, remaining funds are are used to target other nuisance plant growth.
What about hybrid milfoil?
Several years ago it was discovered that most of the milfoil in Lake Mitchell was of a hybrid variety. Hybrid milfoil is a cross between exotic Eurasian watermilfoil and the native northern milfoil. This hybrid watermilfoil was more resistant to herbicides compared to Eurasian watermilfoil. New dosages and herbicide mixtures applied in recent years has produced better results in the treatment of hybrid plants.
Is there a permanent fix to the problem?
If conditions are favorable, aquatic plants will grow, and conditions in Lake Mitchell are favorable for aquatic plant growth. It is very unlikely that milfoil will ever be eliminated from our lake. However, there are steps property owners can take to help minimize the amount of plants in the lake such as limiting the use of lawn fertilizers and avoiding those containing phosphorus and maintaining natural vegetation along the shoreline to act as a filter for nutrients that wash into the lake.
Are herbicide treatments safe?
The aquatic herbicides that are permitted by the Department of Environmental Protection Agency (DEQ)are registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. They also undergo toxicological review by the DEQ. In Michigan, aquatic herbicide use requires a DEQ permit. The permit lists herbicides approved for use in the lake, respective dose rates,and shows specific areas in the lake where treatments are allowed. If herbicides are applied according to label instructions and permit requirements, they should pose no danger to public health and the environment.
How do the treatments impact fish?
If applied properly, herbicides have no direct impacts on fish. A lake like Mitchell with a variety of plants will support a productive fishery. Our lake's aquatic vegetation control program is designed to remove invasive milfoil plants while preserving plants that provide habitat and cover for fish.
Why didn't my property get treated?
Treatments occur where the targeted invasive plants are found during the lake surveys. Nuisance native vegetation may be treated if it impedes boat navigation away from docks.
How will I know about use restrictions?
All lake residents will receive a written notice as part of this newsletter or an email notice will be sent directing one to the website (lakemitchell.org) where the DEQ permit will be posted regarding pending treatments. At the time of treatment, state regulations require that areas within 100 feet of treatment areas be posted with a sign that lists specific herbicides, applied and the associated use restrictions. If there is no sign posted along your property, it means your property was not treated and there are no use restrictions.
When is it safe to swim after treatment?
All herbicides have a 24-hour swimming restriction that will be posted on signs along areas that have been treated. However, if you do not have a sign posted or the sign indicates that only algaecides were applied and there are no swimming restrictions.
When can I water my lawn following treatment?
If you draw water from a lake irrigation, be sure to read the sign posted along your shoreline at the time of treatment. Most irrigation treatments do not apply o established lawns. However, if you water flowers or a garden, adhere to the restrictions posted on the sign.
What can be done about ducks and geese defecating on our lawn?
Water fowl avoid shorelines with greenbelts of bushy foliage as the birds may fear predators hiding there and it is more difficult to walk through foliage than up onto a lawn or seawall directly from the water. You may also stretch a thin line about a foot off the ground along your shoreline.
What are those green balls of algae that lie in the shallows and cover our beach?
Cladophora is a green ball-like algae commonly found in nutrient rich waters. Research links these blooms to high levels of phosphorus in the water. Fertilizers with phosphorus contribute to the problem. Wind and wave action cause the algae to break free from the lake bottom and wash up on the shore.
In Lake Mitchell the Improvement Board uses fine mesh harvesters to pick up chladophora and is investigating the use of algae killing chemicals and aeration systems to solve the problem.
Are walleye scheduled to be planted in Lake Mitchell?
According to DNR fishery biologist Mark Tonello, in June, Lake Mitchell will receive 130,000 1 ½ inch fingerling walleye and Lake Cadillac will receive 60,000.
How is the aquatic control program financed?
The Lake Mitchell Improvement Board receives its funding from those with property on Lake Mitchell or having deeded access to the lake. This assessment is part of property tax bill. This involves about 800 assessments. Lake front lots pay $225; deeded access lots pay ½ $113; commercial lots pay 2 units $200.
Are there regulations concerning docks and boat hoists on Lake Mitchell?
Lake Mitchell has no regulations concerning dock length or when docks or boat hoists must be off the lake. However, except for the small protected coves or the canal, the movement of ice during the spring break up can destroy or damage docks left on the lake. Docks, hoists, or moored boats must not be erected or floating over neighboring bottom lands. There is no law regulating the length of a dock, however a dock should not interfere with navigability or rights of other property owners to use their property.