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Chub Lake residents prepare to fight back against milfoil

Last fall's discovery that Eurasian watermilfoil ("milfoil") is present in Chub Lake in Carlton served as a call to action for lakeshore residents and those who utilize the popular Carlton County lake for sports and recreation.

To that end, members of the Chub Lake Association and other interested individuals met last Thursday, Jan. 21, to take the first step in addressing the problem.

Some 50 people attended the informational session, according to Heather Cunningham, Carlton County water planner, with an eye toward establishing a base knowledge of what milfoil is, what grant opportunities are available to support efforts to control it and the next steps that need to be taken to protect Chub Lake and other adjacent waters.

As part of last Thursday's session, the group drew up a list of questions to be addressed to the Department of Natural Resources in the form of a letter that Cunningham said will be sent out this week. The group also requested a meeting with DNR officials sometime in March to address those questions and concerns.

Among the issues raised by the Chub Lake group are the role of government agencies in the management of milfoil in the lake, the possibility of lake access restrictions, treatment options, and what role the state's Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment funds might play in controlling milfoil in Minnesota lakes.

Milfoil was first reported in Chub Lake in early September 2009 by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fisheries staff. A follow-up survey found several stands of milfoil in the lake.

Milfoil can grow in mats so thick that boating, swimming and even fishing can become difficult, if not impossible. The plant's big leaves form a floating canopy that can crowd out native plants, DNR officials said.

It's also very prolific - a single fragment of stem or leaves can take root and form a new colony. DNR officials said it's likely the weed has been spreading by fragments clinging to boats and trailers that move from lake to lake.

DNR officials say the plant can be thinned in places to allow boat traffic, but it has never been entirely removed from a lake once it takes hold.

As a result of the discovery of milfoil in Chub Lake, the lake has been designated as an infested water, which prohibits the transport of water and limits bait harvest.

Also as part of that designation, signs must be posted at the public water access on Chub Lake to indicate the presence of milfoil, watercraft inspections and enforcement efforts are required around the lake to help prevent its spread, and the lake association and residents are encouraged to work together to examine management of the plant.

Eurasian watermilfoil first was discovered in Minnesota in 1987 and has since been spread by people to some 224 lakes and eight rivers.