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Erika Johnson, Published September 15 2012

Letter: Weeds, algae taint Pelican Lake

There seems to be disagreement and downright anger at the article that was written about weed growth on Pelican Lake, Minn., which included my personal observations in front of my family’s cottage on the north shore of Pelican Lake, Killarney Beach. I know many factors contribute to lake changes and weed growth including warmer weather, lower water and excessive nutrients. But I can’t help but think, though I’m not a biologist, that the drastic changes we’ve witnessed over the past few summers since the arrival of zebra mussels, with their shells cutting our feet, in 2011 and weed growth and loss of native clams now in the summer of 2012, are related.

The beach in front of our dock in the past had not had a significant weed problem. Sandy bottom and swimming without a lot of weeds had been blessings for four generations. This summer, however, for the first time, the weed growth had changed. Weeds were so high and thick in the lake in front of our dock that we needed to remove them so we could swim like the old days without weeds tangling around our legs and touching our bellies when we swam. We also have for the first time witnessed strange algae silt (again, I’m not a biologist so don’t know what it is scientifically) that settles on the weeds. So when you swim and touch the weeds, algae and debris float out and around in the water, making the water cloudy and “chunky.” It’s not fun to swim in and feels dirty with algae in your suit and hair when you get out.

For the first time, we also had big, bright green globs of algae floating in the water to an extent we had never witnessed before. Because of all these combined changes, my son and nephews this summer preferred to take the boat out into the middle of the lake to get to deeper water to avoid the weeds and the cloudy water caused from kicked up and floating algae.

Now, later in the summer and early fall, we have seen weeds that are growing above the water again to an extent we have not seen before. Additionally, as we sail, we’ve noticed considerably taller weed growth in other parts of the lake that we have not noticed in previous summers.

And lastly, the photos of the big piles of weeds were from five large weed “bogs” that must’ve floated in, as they appeared suddenly. We waited for them to float to shore to remove but in talking with the DNR, with shallow water conditions, we think they must’ve taken root. We cut them out, hauled to the dock and took to a composting facility. We have never seen weed “bogs” like that on Pelican Lake before in front of our cottages.

In short, you can show me statistics on weed growth on Pelican Lake until you’re blue and argue weed growth hasn’t changed. It doesn’t matter. Weeds weren’t a problem for us. Now they are. Plain and simple. I don’t want to see excessive weeds (aquatic plants) on Pelican Lake any more than the next person. But, arguing their existence or extent from dock to dock is getting away from the fact that our lake is changing and efforts need to be focused on how each of us can take action to improve our lakes, preserve their integrity, and stop the spread of invasive species that I choose to believe are causing many of these changes.

My family and I love Pelican Lake and will continue to do what we can to protect it and keep it pristine for our kids’ kids. And that includes informing others of changes we observe so positive action can be taken.

Johnson’s family has had a cottage on Pelican Lake for many years.