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Saugatuck wades into Kal Lake invasives

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By Jim Hayden

Correspondent

Saugatuck City Council is cautiously wading into ways to eliminate a growing aquatic weed problem in Kalamazoo Lake and will most likely hold off any treatment until next spring.

“I’d like to keep the process moving,” Mayor Ken Trester said at Monday’s meeting after council members backed off approval of a company to chemically treat about 11.5 acres of the lake overgrown with Eurasian Watermilfoil.

The plant — Myriophyllum spicatum — is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa and considered an invasive species by Michigan. It forms large mats of floating vegetation that shades out native plants and hinders recreational activities such as swimming and boating, according to the state’s website on invasive species. It is not a valuable food source for waterfowl, the site noted.

The city received two bids to chemically treat the plants. Clarke Aquatic Services of Spring Lake offered to perform the work for $14,208. Aquatic Doctors Lake Management Inc. of Grand Rapids estimated treatment fees at $4,030.

The cost difference concerned councilwoman Catherine Simon, who noted one company did not have insurance coverage included in its bid.

“I don’t know enough to feel comfortable” voting on a contract, she said.

Paying for the work also concerned council members. The city could do so out of the general fund budget or set up a special assessment district so only lakeshore property owners pay for the work, according to options presented by City Manager Kirk Harrier.

The Kalamazoo Lake Harbor Authority could handle a lake-wide special assessment district that includes both Saugatuck and Douglas cities.

Council members said it was late in the season to begin treatment and instructed Harrier to make the issue a top priority. He will work with the City of Douglas to address the problem, further review the two contracts submitted for bids including checking references and the safety of the chemicals that will be used and start contacting the property owners around the lake whose approval is needed for any treatment.

“They’re growing in the whole darn lake,” Trester said of the plants.