Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ocean Shores winning weed battle

After only four months of treatment, the city’s freshwater weed eradication program is getting rave reviews from city officials and residents.

Miles of canals that were previously inaccessible are now open for boat traffic. Fishing conditions throughout the 23 miles of fresh waterways are improving, and more tourists are renting boats for afternoon cruises.

The city’s trademark canals fell victim to invasive weeds such as Brazilian elodea and Eurasian milfoil after years of failed maintenance programs. Last spring, the City Council authorized a $400,000 herbicidal treatment program that has killed more than 95 percent of the problem weeds, according to Public Works Director Ken Lanfear.

“The result has been more than pleasing,” he said. “This canal system we’ve got here is unique for the Pacific Northwest, and it’s a resource that we want to maintain and protect.”

450 acres treated
Beginning in April, Northwest Aquatic Eco-Systems Inc. treated parts of the canals with diquat, a fast-acting herbicide. Duck Lake was treated with fluoridone, an herbicide that works more slowly, ensuring that all the weeds didn’t sink to the bottom, creating an oxygen-starved zone as they decay.

The treatments continued throughout the summer, and one last application is scheduled for October to take care of some expected fall growth.

With more than 450 surface acres of treated water, the Ocean Shores project is the largest freshwater treatment program in the state this year, Lanfear said.

“Now we’ll have to talk to the council about finding some money to maintain the program ... and that might be difficult,” Lanfear said. Since the canals are part of the city’s storm drain system, maintenance funds would come from the city’s storm drain utility fund, which is already strapped for cash.

With more room to roam, motorized boats have been exploring the uncharted territory of the Grand Canal’s offshoots, known as the Bell Canal and the Bass Canal.

Nancy Kimzey of the Ocean Sores Electric Boat Co. said her business is much improved.

“People are renting more boats, but they spend less time on the water because they don’t have to stop and put the engine in reverse to spin off the weeds,” she said. “It’s just so much nicer to be out on the water now. We’ve been in the Bell Canal two or three times now, and it’s in great shape.”

Without weeds to snag lines and cloud the water, fishing in the waterways has improved.

“There’s been a real improvement in fishing, especially on the waterways of the Grand Canal,” according to Bob Rhoades, president of the Ocean Shores Fresh Waterway Corp., an all-volunteer group dedicated to protecting the fresh waterways.

“This should have been done a long time ago, and we can’t hit it once and forget about it for another 10 years,” he added.

Even the state Department of Fish & Wildlife has noticed the improvement, and has pledged to plant more fish next spring.

“They’ve looked at what we did here, and the result is a commitment to at least double trout plantings,” Lanfear said. “I think we’re going to develop a first-class year-round fishery here.”

Both Lanfear and Rhoades said the city must now look for more public access to the canals and lakes.

The city restored a fishing dock at the south end of the Grand Canal, and built a new access point on Lake Minard. Lanfear said he’s looking at both sides of the Weatherwax property, which straddles Duck Lake, for more public access.

“If we can develop a trail system in the Weatherwax to give us access to the bank of Duck Lake, we could have prime spots for people to fish off the bank,” the Public Works director said.

By Jordan Kline - Daily World writer