Kenai Peninsula tackling invasive plant problem

KETCHIKAN — The Kenai Peninsula is leading efforts in eradicating elodea, an invasive aquatic plant species found in various parts of the state.

The leafy, long-stemmed plant was found in Beck Lake, Daniels Lake and Stormy Lake, all in Nikiski. Efforts to prevent further spread have been successful, said Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Supervisory Biologist Dr. John Morton. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not found the plant anywhere else on the peninsula.

“To the best of our knowledge, it only occurred in the three lakes north of Nikiski,” Morton said in a presentation Tuesday to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. “Our main concern is that it doesn’t occur in any of the three lakes. We’re continuing to work with other areas in the state in hopes that they will catch up.”

The Nikiski lakes are clear for the most part, but the department is still conducting some spot treatments, The Peninsula Clarion reported.

Other lakes in Alaska are further behind in their efforts to tackle the invasive plant problem.

Lakes in Anchorage are still being treated for elodea and the plant was recently discovered in Lake Hood, the site of one of the world’s busiest floatplane bases. Several of Cordova’s lakes still have elodea and infestations near Fairbanks are undergoing treatment.

The Fish and Wildlife Service can treat the lakes once the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation issues a permit, which can take up to 100 days.

The lengthy process is partly due to the department being cautious about spreading chemicals to the environment, but it can delay treatment, Morton said.

“If you apply in the spring, you’re lucky if you can start treatment by the fall,” he said.

The funds for fighting elodea have been provided without help from the state, said Heather Stewart, a natural resource specialist for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. The treatment projects have been supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Kenai Peninsula Borough and other smaller sources, she said.

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