DNR officials: 23 lakes in SE WI surveyed for invasive species 'starry stonewort;' 35 lakes to go

WAUKESHA -- Twenty-three lakes in southeastern Wisconsin have now been surveyed for the aquatic invasive species starry stonewort and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and lake partner groups intend to complete work in an additional 35 lakes this month.

To date, starry stonewort has been confirmed in five lakes in the region with the latest identification in Pike Lake in Washington County. Bob Wakeman, DNR aquatic invasive species coordinator, said the survey work is being conducted by DNR lake experts as well as local officials and community members who have received training.

“This thorough and systematic approach is necessary if we are to limit the spread of starry stonewort and we greatly appreciate the commitment of community leaders and lake organizations to tackle this shared challenge,” Wakeman said. “In the weeks and months ahead, continued cooperation from recreational boaters also will be critical to make sure fragments of starry stonewort are not transported to additional lakes on trailers or in live wells.”

Bradley Steckart, aquatic invasive species coordinator for Washington County, identified starry stonewort in Pike Lake. Steckart is leading work to investigate other lakes in his county.

“The sooner we can find it, the more options we have in preventing its spread,” Steckart said.

In addition to the survey work, which can involve snorkeling or visual inspection from a boat, DNR is supporting the development of management plans and is taking direct action against aquatic invaders in a number of lakes. In Little Muskego Lake, for example, diver assisted suction harvesting continues to remove the invasive algae from key areas of the lake.

Tom Zagar, conservation coordinator for the city of Muskego, said the community is working to contain the spread of the algae through removal at the boat launches and increasing public awareness through the Clean Boats, Clean Waters program. The community has been relying on the experiences of those in Michigan and Indiana who have been battling the invader for several years.

Starry stonewort, a Eurasian invader first discovered in the U.S. St. Lawrence River in 1978, can form dense lakebed mats that crowd out native plants and eliminate habitat for juvenile fish. Chemical treatment of starry stonewort has not been effective in other states. It only temporarily reduces the height of the plants while leaving the star-shaped bulbils intact in the lake bed. Damaged plants can potentially regrow.

Following its identification in Little Muskego Lake in September 2014, starry stonewort has been found in Big Muskego Lake and Bass Bay in Waukesha County, Long Lake in Racine County as well as Silver Lake and Pike Lake in Washington County.

To help communities respond to this new threat and other aquatic invasive species, DNR can provide grants of up to $25,000 to start Clean Boats, Clean Waters watercraft inspection programs and fund management actions for recently discovered pioneer populations. Clean Boats, Clean Waters programs often use community volunteers or paid staff to serve as watercraft inspectors at local boat launches. DNR also encourages citizens to become engaged in the Citizen Lake Monitoring Network, which trains volunteers to monitor water quality and to look for aquatic invasive species.

To learn more about funding sources communities can use to combat aquatic invasive species, visit DNR.wi.gov and search for “surface water grants.” For more information about starry stonewort, search  "regulated invasive algae."