Reporting John Lauritsen
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Crops are off to a good start this year, but so is different kind of plant.
If you’ve spent any time on the lakes, you may have noticed things have gotten weedy. A warm winter and spring allowed invasive weeds like Eurasian Water Milfoil to get an early start, and it’s become a mess for boaters and swimmers.
“It looks pretty bad. The weeds are up pretty high,” said Julien Olson, who likes to bring his sailboat out on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis.
If milfoil were a crop, Lake Harriet would have a record harvest this year. Olson knows this all too well. Trying to get his sailboat out has been anything but smooth, thanks to all the weeds.
“It makes sailing kind of difficult, because you can’t be out in the weeds,” he said. “It stops you from getting too close to the shore.”
An early ice-out in March combined with a warm spring created ideal growing conditions for the weeds. Minneapolis has used harvesters to try to cut them down, and the city recently used scuba divers to pull them out by hand. But Minneapolis isn’t the only place with a problem.
The milfoil in Christmas Lake in Shorewood looks like something you would see in late July. It’s basically two months ahead of schedule, and experts say it will likely get worse before it gets better.
“It’s just so early for it to be topped out and flowering and just matted like that,” said Eric Fieldseth of Minnehaha Creek Watershed.
As things get weedy, it creates problems for boaters, swimmers and even homeowners. Invasive species like milfoil and curlyleaf pondweed make up most of the green mat. But there is a sunny side to the weed takeover. The weather has also been accommodating for native plant species like water lilies — and that’s good news for fish.
“Not all [weeds] are bad,” Fieldseth said. “Some are good. Water lilies are a great habitat for fish. Native plants are vital to the lake’s health.”
The city of Minneapolis said they get many calls about Lake Harriet, because the lake is so visible due to bike paths and walking paths. But they don’t believe that lake has more of an issue than other lakes.
The city says the DNR grants it permits to harvest weeds in recreational areas, but not the entire lake.