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Fleet ready to battle weeds on Yahara Lakes, officials say

May 28, 2019 GMT

The fleet is ready for war. On water weeds, that is.

Dane County’s fleet of 13 weed harvesters is motoring up to cut and remove tons of aquatic plants in the Yahara chain of lakes this summer, a continuation of a program to try and reduce lake flooding and lower the amount of algae-producing phosphorus.

The 13 harvesters are two more than last year, and the lake weed management budget jumped 53% to $773,400, as the county tries to stay ahead of the growing weed problem.

“These aquatic plant harvesters will help advance our efforts to mitigate flooding due to climate change rains, and move water more quickly through the chain of lakes system,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.

With the increased budget, Dane County is deploying the 13 harvesters as well as four dump trucks, four elevators and three barges, with three full-time and 24 part-time employees working on weed removal.

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How important is it?

Last year, after the historic torrential rains in August, harvesters worked the Yahara River corridor and were able to double the flow of water moving through and out the south end of the corridor.

That weed removal alone took 691 loads, or 3,178 tons of material from the river corridor.

Shoreline weed removal was the bulk of the work, with 1,847 loads, or 8,496 tons, removed from the lakes.

Removing aquatic plants also helps in cutting down the amount of phosphorus, which promotes algae blooms in the lakes.

The Dane County Department of Land and Water Resources estimated 4,851 pounds of phosphorus were taken out of the lakes, so if one pound can produce 500 pounds of algae, that’s almost 20,000 pounds of algae not growing and fouling up the shorelines.

Increasing the weed cutting program in 2019 was almost a no-brainer for the county, considering the severe flooding in 2018.

“We increased the number of aquatic plant harvesters and staff in the 2019 budget to enhance our preparedness if we face continuous, heavy rains again this season,” Parisi said.