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Cold winter and flooding helping spread invasive plant in Okanagan lake

FILE PHOTO: An Aquatic Milfoil Harvester on Wood Lake.
Image Credit: Contributed
June 23, 2017 - 9:00 PM

KELOWNA — Thank the damp spring this year for a major milfoil bloom.

Milfoil is an invasive aquatic plant from Europe, and 2017 is shaping up to be a big year of the infestation. The Okanagan Basin Water Board is warning that due to a number of factors a bumper crop of the water weed is expected.

“In a normal year, spring runoff will bring extra nutrients into our lakes, fertilizing the milfoil just as it’s starting to grow,” the waterboard’s operations manager James Littley says in a press release. “This year, with unprecedented floods and a predicted hot summer, we’re expecting significant growth with weather that has created ideal conditions for the milfoil.”

The strange spring isn't the only season that's contributing to the bloom. A cold winter meant lakes stayed frozen longer and the milfoil couldn't be harvested. That followed by the damp spring and widespread flooding helped the water-dependent milfoil spread.

And now the predicted hot summer is going to help it spread and grow faster.

The flooding also means the milfoil will be growing in new areas that will die as the levels drop, creating matts of the weed on the lake surface, according to the press release. The mats themselves can spread to new areas, or if motor boats pass through them, the weeds will be chopped up and spread even faster. Boaters are asked to avoid the floating mats, to help slow the spread.

Littley says the assessment of the milfoil situation hasn’t really even started yet.

“So far, we haven’t been able to get out on the water to assess the conditions since we are respecting the no-boating, no-wake calls from local governments. Usually we’d start our summer operations by July 1st , and we’d have a pretty good idea of the growth before that,” Littley says. “This year, we think we will see high volumes, but we can’t be sure until the lake levels drop and we can get a boat in the water.”

The anti-Milfoil program has been running in the Okanagan region for 40 years.


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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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