Is herbicide treatment harming the Portage Lake fishery?

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ONEKAMA — Everyone at the Onekama Township board meeting on Wednesday seemed to agree that Portage Lake is a valuable asset and needs to be protected.

However, there is a difference of opinion as to how to achieve this.

When PLM Lake & Land Management Corp., which acts as the manager of Portage Lake, recommended that 44 acres of the lake be treated for Eurasian Watermilfoil and Starry Stonewort, the township’s Aquatic Invasive Species Committee met with the scientist. Environmental PLM, Bre Grabill, August 28. 18 to make a recommendation to the township council.

After a two-hour discussion, the committee recommended that the council continue with the treatment, but omit two sections at the eastern end of the lake in order to retain this area as a fish nursery for the lake.

However, the Onekama Township Council voted to go ahead with PLM’s proposal by a 3-to-1 vote, with only Township Clerk Shelli Johnson voting to follow the Aquatic Invasive Species Committee’s recommendation.

The lake received the treatment last week, and a dozen anglers showed up on Wednesday — boats in tow — to express their belief that the treatment was hurting Portage Lake’s fishery.

Manistee County Sport Fishing Association member Phil Sedelmaier, who sits on the committee, told the meeting he was ‘extremely disappointed’ with the township council for going against the recommendation of the committee.

“You treated the very area we were trying to protect to preserve a nursery for several species of fish,” he said. “Your actions have set us back many years in trying to re-establish a nursery that is making a significant contribution to the fisheries of this lake.”

A dozen Onekama anglers showed up at the Onekama Township board meeting on Wednesday — boats in tow to express their displeasure with the east end of Portage Lake receiving herbicide treatment.

Kyle Kotecki / News Defender

Sedelmaier said the fish depend on vegetation for shelter. If there is no vegetation, there are no fish.

“(The east end of Portage Lake) is the most logical place on the whole lake…to create a fish nursery to allow these fish to spawn and have a safe place to hide. “, did he declare. “Fish need the nutrients that plants provide and they also need a place to hide from predation so that other things don’t eat them until they get bigger.”

Board administrator Al Taylor, who sits on the aquatic invasive species committee, said he voted to join PLM’s treatment plan because there was no plan in place for how to respond. if Eurasian watermilfoil started to spread quickly.

“The area has been treated for nine years, and all of a sudden we have 20 acres of watermilfoil. Depending on the weather, climate and things like that, what will it be like the next year if we don’t treat it, and how would we prevent the spread of watermilfoil into the lake?” he said. “We didn’t have those answers. We should have taken the time. It’s my fault, and the committee’s fault as well. We should have taken the time to reflect and put this control plan in place.”

Taylor pointed out that two members of the committee itself voted against the recommendation.

Alexis DeGabriele, an aquatic biologist for the Little River Indians of Ottawa, also sits on the committee. She said she voted against the recommendation, but would have voted for it had she known the township council might vote against it.

“We had a fairly in-depth discussion, and I don’t know if it got conveyed to you all. Being a no, we made it clear that even though we both voted no, we agreed with the proposal. that Phil presented,” she said. “We were supportive of that, but our preference was for a potential idea that I had to do an edit where we would do more of a long-term study and only deal with some of these areas. But, we fully agreed with the proposal.

“If I had known that if I had voted with him it would have had more influence, I might have changed my vote in this case to present a more unified front.”

Johnson said she felt it made little sense to convene a committee just to go against its recommendations.

“We have committees to do the research and make recommendations to us because we don’t have time to do that. We have to take your advice because you do the research and you’re supposed to be the professionals at that,” she said. “…Why would we have you guys if we’re not going to take your recommendations – that’s how I based my decision. What’s the point of having the committee if we’re not going to take your recommendations?”

Some participants felt that having the lake manager also apply the treatment created a conflict of interest.

“The controller is also the manager of the lake, and that doesn’t make sense,” said Onekama’s Gregg Bennett. “…It should be two separate things. The person in charge of treating the lake and putting the chemicals in it – for profit, because it’s their job – should not also be the manager of the lake.”

Ed Bradford, township treasurer, said council understands the importance of Portage Lake and will consider having the lake surveyed to determine the best course of action.

“I think we’re all trying to do what’s best for this lake,” he said. “…There are going to be disagreements, and I don’t want anyone to feel like their efforts are unappreciated or caught off guard or whatever, but I just don’t think that we had enough data or enough time to have the conversation to get there and be able to make an educated, well-informed decision. . . . We need to figure out what this fish study will look like. sport fishing association and committee to help guide this process.”

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