Project: Phragmites Management in Grand Traverse County

The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay’s Maureen McManus answers a few of our questions about the on-the-ground Phragmites management project her organization is implementing.

Title: Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network Phragmites Management in Grand Traverse County

Geographic Scope: Grand Traverse County

Location: 44.718441,-85.594482

Goals: To survey, document and treat Phragmites australis along the Grand Traverse Bay shoreline as well as on public and private lands within Grand Traverse County.

Do you monitor areas that you manage? If so, what does that entail? 

We do monitor the areas that we manage from year to year. The first few years of treatment entailed surveying (walking/kayaking/driving) the Grand Traverse Bay shoreline as well as inland lakes and roadsides every year to map infestations and to provide maps to contractors for treatment. Now we have entered into a maintenance phase with the Grand Traverse Bay shoreline and we use treatment maps from the previous year to monitor progress and indicate where treatment needs to happen the following year.

What is the current project status, have you seen results?

We have reduced the amoung of Phragmites australis along Grand Traverse Bay in Grand Traverse County 78% since the program started in 2009. We have also started surveying and coordinating treatment on inland lakes within Grand Traverse County, and in working with the ISN are also treating roadside Phragmites stands within the County. The program will continue for the forseeable future.

Can you tell us about some of the challenges you faced and share any important lessons learned?

When it comes to treatment on the Great Lakes Shoreline it is the most effective to work at the Township level to obtain permits from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. It is most efficient if the townships adopt an ordinance allowing treatment of Phragmites australis along the Great Lakes shoreline (example ordinance from Peninsula Township, Grand Traverse County, MI:, otherwise it requires individual landowner permission forms to be obtained for every year of treatment which can involve lots of resources from the Townships and partner organizations (see example Phragmites 2010 Permission Slip_shoreline). Funding for treatment below the ordinary high water mark on Great Lakes Shorelines can come from federal or state grants such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. This is due to the fact that the state has a public interest below the ordinary high water mark. It also helps if Townships set up funds that property owners can contribute to for the treatment and coordination of Phragmites efforts within their municipality.

When it comes to Inland Lakes, it is most efficient if the lake has an association where members can vote on whether treatment will occur and can help facilitate treatment. If there is no lake association permission must be obtained from each individual landowner for every treatment season (see example Phragmites 2011 Permission Slip_inland_lakes) . This is easier said than done because with the permission each homeowner is also agreeing to be responsible for paying for treatment. Ownership of the bottomlands on inland lakes is different from the Great Lakes; property owners physically own the bottomlands to the center of the lake in a pie shape. Public grant dollars cannot be spent on private property in most cases, leaving the individual property owners footing the bill, unless a lake association uses fees and dues to pay for treatment of all rproperties around the lake. Challenges arrise when some property owners do not want to participate in the program, and their neighbors want Phragmites gone from their inland lake. Neighbors talking to neighbors is the best way to remedy this situation, however there are some folks that just won’t budge.

Lastly, for roadside Phragmites australis it is best to partner with your local road commissions and to work with them on identification of Phragmites australis and educating them on when not to mow, and how to treat or gaining permission from them to do your own treatment on stands found along the roadsides. It is much easier when you are on good terms with the road commission and work together to reduce the spread of invasive species.

Education is key! The more buzz you get about Phragmites australis and how bad it is for our ecosystems and property values, the more acceptance you will have for your program. Go out and give presentations to lake associations, invite property owners to special meetings, get boards on board; educate, educate, EDUCATE and spread the word!

For more information contact:
Maureen Pfaller
13272 S. West Bay Shore Drive
Traverse City, MI 49684
231.935.1514 ext. 0