Vernon Hills fights ecological lake invasion
Lake Harvey is one of two lakes in Vernon Hills where the Eurasian milfoil weed is an nuisance. | Michelle LaVigne ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 21, 2013 1:56AM
VERNON HILLS — Similar to the Asian Carp infestation in Lake Michigan, Midwestern states are now fighting a weed that progressively overpowers native life in and around lakes.
Removal of buckthorn trees at Harvey Lake to eliminate algae nine years ago, has resulted in an infestation of Eurasian milfoil weeds. At Lake Charles, the evergreen-looking weed also has been a recurring problem.
The Lake County Health Department’s Lake Management Unit visited both lakes in November and identified the milfoil infestation.
Director of Public Works David Brown told the Village Board on Nov. 7 that he plans to kill the new weeds in late April, when fish are still hibernating.
“This is a good problem to have because the water quality is good and the weeds do not affect human health,” Brown said. “This is now an aesthetic and preservation problem that can be easily fixed.”
Bob Kirschner, the curator of aquatic plants and urban lake studies at the Chicago Botanic Garden, said municipalities and states throughout the Midwest are spending money to stop the Eurasian milfoil weed from destroying North America’s natural waterways.
“It’s an aggressive plant that takes resources from others and its ability to continue growing through winter gives it a competitive edge over native plants,” Kirschner said.
As certain native plants are phased out, Kirschner said fish and birds disappear.
The weed is widespread throughout Northeastern Illinois.
“It’s in pretty much every body of water it’s capable of living in,” Kirschner said.
Milfoil is a decorative aquarium plant that originally appeared 100 years ago and spread through cross contamination, Kirschner said.
For Vernon Hills, the problem first came to light in 2000, when Lake County’s team identified milfoil in Lake Charles. The village followed the common practice and used weevil insects to kill the milfoil at Lake Charles. While weevils are native to Illinois and feed off the plant, they often do their job and die off, allowing the weed to flourish again if it’s reintroduced to the waterway, Kirschner said.
In late April, the village will spend between $6,000 and $8,000 to chemically treat Harvey Lake for milfoil, while fish are still hibernating.
Brown said a plan for Lake Charles is still in the works. Because the lake has a current, another insect treatment may be attempted or public works employees might remove the milfoil by hand every few years.