Although A Priority Problem, Saugatuck Officials Say Controlling Evasive Species Locally Could Take Years
The approach to controlling invasive species in the Kalamazoo Harbor is similar to the approach of how to control sedimentation: it’s a multi-phase process that takes a number of years to address, Saugatuck officials explained during their city council meeting Monday.
Saugatuck City Council identified the control of invasive species as one of its priority projects for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, and on Monday it approved a $5,000 proposal from Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway to put together a conservation plan to deal with encroaching plants.
The funds were appropriated in the current fiscal year, but the project itself will be implemented during the next three years.
“This plans calls for a way to keep invasive species (especially Phragmites) at bay,” said Outdoor Discovery Conservation Land Manager Ben Heerspink, present at Monday’s meeting.
“It is the first step in a plan that will more than likely be adjusted going forward.”
For now, the plan does not entail management, much less eradication of Phragmites, where it is most intense: by the Blue Star Highway bridge.
“We will knock it back so that it doesn’t spray,” said Heerspink.
Outdoor Discovery will conduct an invasive species inventory as well as apply a water-safe herbicide spray on approximately 360 acres of the Kalamazoo River.
Phragmites have been found in the area between the bridges along I-196 and Blue Star Highway, as well as Turtle Pond at Blue Star bridge and Lake Street.
The pesky species is now spreading downriver from Blue Star Bridge along residential shorelines, Tallmadge Woods shoreline, and the Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area and the Basin shorelines.
“The focus of control and management will be within the immediate city limits,” said Saugatuck City Manager Kirk Harrier.
Heerspink told council he will look into grants through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for more funding as well as approach residential owners along the Kalamazoo River for collaboration, as Phragmites readily grow in shorelines and disturbed wetlands.
“We are heading in the right direction. This gives us at least a starting point; it needs to be looked at year by year,” said Saugatuck City Council Member Mark Bekken.
A non-native perennial reed grass, Phragmites can grow more than 15 feet, obscuring views for landowners and visitors.
But it also poses a serious ecological risk to the river system and the Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area, outcompeting native plants, especially wetland plants, and displacing native animals, Outdoor Discovery conservation experts informed municipal leaders and the public during an a informational meeting at the Old School House in the City of Douglas this past summer.
This year and in past years, Outdoor Discovery has been conducting “prescribed burnings” at the privately owned 1,400-acre Pottawatomie Marsh, located north of where I-196 bridge crosses the Kalamazoo River, as way to get rid of invasive species. It is a procedure that must be approved by state regulatory agencies.
Heerspink said his organization will approach the City of Douglas with a similar proposal next year.