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Alaskans can help prevent Elodea infestations

Posted: June 28, 2013 - 12:01am

ANCHORAGE – State agencies are working together this summer on efforts to control the spread of Elodea, an invasive aquatic plant that is threatening fish habitat and recreational activities in Alaska lakes and slow-moving rivers in Southcentral Alaska and the Fairbanks area.

As part of these efforts, agencies are encouraging the general public to report Elodea sightings, get involved in eradication efforts and prevent the inadvertent spread of Elodea from their aquariums, boats and floatplanes. A detailed checklist on how Alaskans can identify and report Elodea is available at http://dnr.alaska.gov/ag/Index/ElodeaIdentificationandReporting.pdf. For information on preventative measures, go to http://dnr.alaska.gov/ag/ag_Elodea.htm.

The public outreach on Elodea is a part of multi-agency effort in Alaska to control the spread of aquatic invasive species, according to a release from the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, which are estimated to cost the United States tens of billions of dollars each year in damages and spending on control measures. Additional invasive species that can impact waterways and have already arrived in Alaska include reed canarygrass, purple loosestrife, knotweed, red legged frogs and northern pike. Agencies are also watching out for potential invaders such as New Zealand mud snails and zebra and quagga mussels.

On Jan. 15, the departments of Natural Resources, Fish and Game, and Environmental Conservation signed a memorandum of agreement addressing freshwater aquatic invasive plants and highlighting the importance of Elodea control. Each agency plays a vital role: DNR manages and permits activities in state waters and oversees the management of invasive weeds, ADFG manages the threat from aquatic invasive species and DEC regulates the use of chemicals – if deemed appropriate and necessary – to control pests.

Working together with federal officials, the agencies have established an Elodea working group to set goals and identify specific actions to address infestations around the state. The working group had its first official meeting on Monday, June 24, in Anchorage, to discuss and develop statewide priorities and goals for the management of Elodea.

Elodea has only been documented in 15 Alaska water bodies to date, but its foothold in floatplane lakes such as Sand Lake in Anchorage – three miles from Lake Hood, the state’s busiest floatplane base – makes it only one step away from invading any number of additional waters across the state.

So far, Elodea has been discovered in lakes in the Anchorage and Fairbanks areas. It can also be found in a number of lakes and slow-moving rivers/sloughs in Cordova and the Kenai Peninsula.

“Elodea is believed to be Alaska’s first widespread aquatic invasive plant, but it won’t be the last if we do not start working together – and that includes educating and involving the public in prevention efforts,” Brianne Blackburn, the Invasive Plants Coordinator for DNR’s Division of Agriculture, said.

For additional information regarding Elodea and other aquatic invasive species, contact Brianne Blackburn, with the DNR Invasive Weeds Program, at 907-745-8785, or Tammy Davis, with the ADF&G Invasive Species Program, at 465-6183.

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Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the presence of elodea in Twin Lakes, in Juneau. Instead it is milfoil that departments are trying to control that body of water. 

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