EUGENE - The Fern Ridge Reservoir just west of Eugene, Ore., is a popular recreation spot for boaters and swimmers during the spring and summer months. The marina attracts freshwater sailors and provides ample fishing opportunities for anglers. There’s only one problem: An invasive species is steadily taking over the lake, and the worse it gets, the less welcoming the lake becomes.
The invader, known as Eurasian watermilfoil, is an aquatic plant that forms tangled mats as it grows. Eurasian watermilfoil tends to show up in shallow waters where it can access sunlight. These thick tangles are obstructive enough to stop boat motors from working, and they can prevent kayakers from maneuvering through the water.
Not only is the milfoil an obstacle, but it also saps oxygen from the water and can cause fish to suffocate. As the fish decay at the bottom of the lake, the smell can get pretty strong.
For boaters like Scott Coleman, the owner of Underway LLC and manager for the Orchard Point Marina, it’s a worrying problem. “Specifically in this marina, if this plant really got going and clogged up the marina, then you wouldn’t be able to get your boat through here,” Coleman says. “And, it would be no fun to swim in.”
Last year, Coleman and a band of concerned marina users decided to take action. After consulting with Tania Siemens, WISE Program coordinator, and Sam Chan, invasive species specialist at Oregon Sea Grant, the boaters created a management plan that could correct their core problem: standing water.
(Photo by Roger Bailey)