By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
An effort to slow the spread of an invasive aquatic weed is underway in Lake Billy Chinook.
Scuba divers are manually pulling weeds from the bottom of the lake.
Ask any gardener the definition of a weed, and they’ll say it’s something growing where it’s not wanted.
Eurasian watermilfoil is invasive. It could take over this lake if left unchecked.
“The issue is that it’s growing up and in the slips so that all the boat traffic, their propellers can cut up, catch this stuff and then the boats can transport it throughout the lake,” said Bruce Hansen a Forest Service aquatic ecologist.
For four days divers have been hand-pulling weeds off the bottom of the lake from under two boat slips on Lake Billy Chinook.
The divers stuff the weeds they pull into bags, hand them up to helpers on the dock, who then cart it off and fill up a pickup truck.
“It kind of feels like a bunch of wet spaghetti,” said Jabus Smith, Weed Crew Leader for the Sisters Ranger District. “That’s sort of how it felt when I first started pulling it out of the bag. It’s not as squishy but it kind of feels like noodles.”
The divers say they can barely see in the water where they are working because they stir up mud while pulling the weeds.
Another staff member hovers above them on a stand-up paddleboard with a dive marker to keep boaters clear of the work area.
“We can actually reach down in and scoop up the plant that’s above the mud and pull out much of the rootstalk,” Hansen said.
The aquatic weeds are left in piles on the ground to dry in the sun.
They will eventually be hauled and dumped in a landfill.
This is a first effort to slow the spread of the milfoil. Next steps are yet to be determined.
“Just like weeding, you minimize what’s left,” Hansen said. “We’ll probably be back next year and hopefully there’ll be less of it.”
The public can help control invasive aquatic weeds by cleaning, draining and drying any type of watercraft — be it a paddleboard, kayak or large boat on a trailer– whenever leaving the water. Doing so decreases chances of spreading invasive aquatic weeds to another lake, which is how authorities believe Eurasian milfoil got in Lake Billy Chinook.