Meeting to consider response to Sports Lake elodea

How to respond to the discovery of the invasive waterweed elodea in Soldotna’s Sports Lake will be addressed at an upcoming public meeting.

Kenai Watershed Forum Invasives Specialist Jennifer Peura said she will be outlining treatment options for Sport Lake’s elodea, as well as going over the weed’s history in Alaska, during the April 12 meeting, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Building on Kalifornsky Beach Road.

Other speakers will be Kenai Peninsula Cooperative Weed Management Area President Matt Steffy, biologist John Morton of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and representatives of the chemical manufacturer SePRO, which makes the herbicides that have been used to kill elodea in other Kenai Peninsula lakes.

Elodea is believed to have entered Alaska as an aquarium plant, and has been the focus of a long-running state-wide eradication effort. The weed, which can reproduce asexually from small fragments and continues to grow beneath ice in the winter, can grow thick enough to de-oxygenate the surrounding water, destroying fish habitat.

On Feb. 22, staff from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game found elodea fragments while drilling holes in the ice for an ice-fishing event with local students. Of the 120 fishing holes they drilled (mostly around the boat launch, Peura said), the Fish and Game staffers found bits of elodea in one. Another hole examined afterwards also had elodea fragments, possibly stirred up by the ice-fishing students.

A March 13 search by Kenai National Wildlife Refuge staff had more concerning results: they found elodea in six of 28 sampling holes drilled at sites around the lake’s perimeter.

Elodea’s ability to spread via fragments carried in boat propellors and floatplane rudders makes an infestation of Sport Lake especially concerning, Peura said.

Near the Kenai Spur Highway and stocked with rainbow trout and silver salmon fingerling by Fish and Game — who also maintain a public boat launch there — Sports Lake becomes a popular recreation site in the summer. Floatplanes are docked in front of many of the homes on its shore. In addition to local pilots and fishermen, Peura said the lake is also visited by boaters traveling from Anchorage or other parts of the state, who test their motors there before setting out for other bodies of water.

In one respect, Sports Lake’s elodea was found at a lucky time — just before the lake thaws and begins attracting boaters and pilots. Peura said elodea is also more likely to be discovered in the winter because it doesn’t go dormant like native plants do, “so if there’s a plant there, it’s easier to recognize it as elodea.” Once the ice melts, Peura said, it would be theoretically possible to kill the elodea quickly using the herbicide diquat — a contact killer that can eliminate aquatic plants in about 72 hours — before the peak of the recreational season.

That is unlikely to happen because of the state permits required to deploy herbicides. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Agriculture applied for these permits for Sports Lake with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation on Thursday, Peura said. Before being decided on, the applications must be held for a 30 day public comment period and an agency review period of at least 40 days — likely to be longer, Peura said.

“We probably won’t get the permits until the middle of July, which presents a potential vector for the spread of elodea,” Peura said. “So there’s the idea of, ‘What do we want to do to prevent the spread?’ We have in the past closed things down.”

Nikiski’s Stormy Lake — which in 2012 became the first elodea site to be found on the peninsula — was closed from 2013 until fall 2015, when its elodea population was killed by diquat and another herbicide, fluridone.

In the meantime, Peura said she is reaching out to homeowners around Sports Lake, mailing them flyers on Thursday to announce the April 12 meeting. She’s also seeking information from Sports Lake’s floatplane pilots about other lakes they’ve visited, in order to estimate where else elodea may be growing.

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

From right, Soldotna City Council members Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings, Dan Nelson and Jordan Chilson listen to testimony during a council meeting on Wednesday, July 13, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Council to mull limits on use of Soldotna ADUs as short-term rentals

Accessory dwelling units refer to subordinate, detached units

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Wildlife Troopers and CES rescue hunter missing for 12 hours

State troopers were notified around 6 p.m. Wednesday that the hunter hadn’t returned

The Alaska State Capitol awaits a legislators forming new majority coalitions and the return of Gov. Mike Dunleavy after the winners of the general election were announced Wednesday. The Senate will have a 17-member bipartisan ruling coalition, while the House arrangement remains uncertain due to at least one likely recount and questions about partisan alignments. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Bipartisan majority formed for new state Senate

Eight Republicans join nine Democrats after many years of Republican rule

Dr. Michael Reyes manipulates ROSA during a demonstration at Central Peninsula Hospital on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Knee surgeries get assist from robot arms

Robotic Surgical Assistant, called ROSA, is a new addition to CPH and the first in Alaska

During a hearing at the Juneau Courthouse, 34-year-old Anthony Michael Migliaccio pleaded not guilty after he was arrested on a first-degree murder charge in the killing of a 55-year-old Juneau woman. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Man arrested in Juneau killing pleads not guilty

News follows a two-month investigation.

Kenai Finance Director Terry Eubank presents during a budget work session on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai tries again to fill city manager position

After 1st round of negotiations fall through, Kenai to pursue Eubank for role

Soldotna Montessori Charter School kindergartners parade with balloons around the school playground on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Balloons on parade

Montessori kids put spin on traditional Macy’s parade

Most Read