Christopher Tuffley/News-Sun A Lake June resident on a mission, Sandy Pelski holds up a sample of Illinois pond- weed. ÔI'm upset,' she said despite her smile. ÔI'm sick and tired of it. We pay higher taxes, Help - that's what I want.'
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published: Friday, August 30, 2013
Unhappy Lake June land owners flock to meeting on Illinois pondweed issue
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
LAKE PLACID -- A majority of the Lake June property owners at a meeting held by Florida's Fish and Wildlife Commission Wednesday were angry, suspicious and demanding of action.
The meeting was about an outbreak of Illinois pondweed along the lake shore. Residents complained of damage to boat and personal watercraft motors, danger to swimmers and the threat of economic disaster. The weed, speaker after speaker said, was obnoxious and disgusting. It was spreading rapidly, clogging beaches and boat houses and ruining recreation on the lake. Longtime residents said they had never seen anything like it before.
Their property values were falling, speakers said, because the lake could no longer be enjoyed as before, and they still paid very high taxes.
Hoz Compton, a real estate broker and home owner said, "It's passed the point of maintenance. We are in now in crisis mode."
Steve Bastardi, a member of the Lake Placid Town Council, was applauded when he said, "We don't want to live with pond weed. We want to get rid of it."
The conflict arose because the FWC scientists -- and one or two residents -- told the standing-room-only crowd things they did not want to hear.
People were polite but restless as Kelle Sullivan, director of the invasive plant management section, presented the science and natural history background of the weed, as well as the parameters of the FWC's authority in dealing with the plant and its maintenance.
The property owners were impatient and irritated when Sullivan told them the meeting was to collect information and listen to anecdotal evidence, not produce a plan of action. It was the first step, not the time to make decisions.
"We have to understand your needs," she said. "We need to understand what we're dealing with here."
The audience refused to believe Sullivan when she told the audience Illinois pondweed was found in Lake June during the first large scientific survey of aquatic plants in 1988. It is natural to Central Florida lakes, she said, and is typically found in 12 and 20 percent of them.
Pondweed benefits the lake in several ways, Sullivan said. For one thing it provides nutrients and creates a habitat for small fish. Being a natural part of the environment, it fills a niche.
The weed will not take over the lake, she added. It can't grow in deep water. Large areas of Lake June are completely open.
"We don't want to make the situation worse," Sullivan said, referring to the majority's desire to remove pondweed altogether. "We're not saying we won't do something, but a solution has to be somewhere in the middle."
The audience was not impressed with slides showing the results of two separate computer enhanced aerial surveys, one with supporting hand-gathered samples.
The data, Sullivan said, showed there wasn't much of a difference in weed coverage between 2012 and 2013. That statement was met with derisive cat calls of disbelief.
"I live in the cove area," said Jerry Creedy. "There was nothing in June, now I can't get into my beach." The audience applauded when he added, "I think you don't care. I think you're here to promote pondweed."
Paul Gray, a member of the Audubon Society, faced hoots when he said, "The lake belongs to everyone. It's a valuable habitat for migratory birds."
"I have my place on the lake," said Joy Post. "If I have to choose between my grandchild and a bird, I'll choose my grandchild every time.
Some options were raised by residents, but all had serious drawbacks, they said, from high cost to inconvenience.
In any case, they said, the weeds keep coming back.
Residents wondered about introducing sterile carp. There are problems with carp, a representative of FWC said. For example, one can't be sure the fish will stay and specifically eat the Illinois pondweed and there are paths of escape from Lake June. The fish may just as likely swim away as stay. "It's a not a science, no matter what you hear," the scientist said.
"We're taking in all the input," Sullivan said. "We're going to see what we can do, given our (legal and financial) constraints." She promised FWC will remain responsive to the residents, who were encouraged to sign up on the email list.
Property owners did not leave happy. "We pay a huge amount of taxes," muttered one on his way out, "and we want answers."
Also in attendance were county commission members Jack Richie, Jim Brooks and Don Elwell. In addition to Bastardi, Debra Worley, a Lake Placid town councilor, was present.
Invasive (by: Bisquit - 9/12/2013)
I'll bet at least 90% of the residents of this lake are an invasive species from up north, just like the weed! Get over it!
Pondweed is not the problem, it's a symptom (by: Lakewatcher - 9/1/2013)
This is nothing new -- speakers talked about the actual problem, that the plant growth resulted from nutrient pollution washed into the lake from many sources. The pollution problem has to be solved before it spirals uncontrollably.
Whiners (by: John Q - 8/31/2013)
Just a bunch of whiny republicans demanding another "guvment" handout. Pull your own damn weeds.
Lake Shores (by: Joe Macy - 8/31/2013)
MARNI: I have been in various lakes in Highlands County on my pleasure craft (lake june, denton, tulane, verona) and every time we pulled in on a beach that is a house behind it, shortly after either FWC or sheriff arrived and stated that we are trespassing because is private property. They said that as long we are in the water and not o the beach (land) is ok. So that gives me the impression that the beach is owned by the residents. Lake isis has no public access so I assume the lake is owned by who knows.
Pond weed (by: Jim S. - 8/30/2013)
I'm ok with eradicating the weeds as long as I don't have to pay for it. I'm with Mr. Macy above. The owners chose to live on the lake. For the most part, they are much better off financially than most of us that don't live on the lake. If the lake front owners wanted to do something about the weeds, and if it's environmentally safe, then let them pool their resources and do something about it themselves.
pond weed (by: Peggy - 8/30/2013)
At least Highlands Today's article pointed out the seriousness and danger that Marni is posting about.. The News Sun just talks about residents sounding like they're whining because of their boats. The News Sun missed the point of the meeting the residents were trying to bring across. It's the main part of the lake where people are falling into the weed and getting tangled, not on our shorelines.
pond weed (by: Peggy - 8/30/2013)
I am sorry if the story portrays lake front residents as just concerned about their own shoreline. I assure you this is not the case. If it were as simple as residents just taking care of their own shoreline, I feel most of us would be happy to do that. However, this rapidly growing invasive weed is all over throughout the lake and is returning quickly as we clear our shorelines. Boaters getting stuck in the weeds and skiers, wakeboarders, kids tubing who have fallen and gotten tangled in the weeds was in the main part of the lake. I was informed by FWC that I do not own any rights to the shoreline. People I don't even know can anchor their boats and swim in the open area I am trying to clear. People, kids and skiers are not going to fall in this weed and get tangled to where they have a lot of trouble getting out at our shorelines. It will happen out in the main lake. Please know that we are not just concerned about our own beach front (which isn't ours anyway).
Rebuttle To Joe (by: Marni Drabik - 8/30/2013)
Joe, during the meeting people were told they could not do a lot except a permit for a chemical that doesn't work, or harvesting by hand, which also does not work. The lake is dying, and when it goes, so will Highlands County. I am absolutely certain that someone will have a major accident soon, Lake Istapoka is taken care of because of REVENUE to the state, the fishermen rule the water way's, those who swim, pleasure boat, not so much. No one is asking for a hand out, they are asking for tax dollars to be spent to fix an issue that is concerning all of us, not just them. They do not own the lake, or the beach, anyone can swim there or boat there if they want. Respectfully, I think you are being short sighted about the potential for a disaster. I don't live on the lake by the way, but see the problem.
High class (by: Joe Macy - 8/30/2013)
The residents around the lakes decided to purchase their property on the lake front knowing the high price and higher taxes, just to have lakefront property and own "beach" front. Mother nature is something we can not control most of the time. If you can afford to live in these areas why not get together and put the money to fix the problem? Like always we blame the government. Playing and manipulating mother nature always have its consequences.
Pond Weed (by: Marni Drabik - 8/30/2013)
This story neglects to point out that there is a danger to swimmers and boaters, NOT living on the lake. We have first hand knowledge that a child almost drowned when getting caught in the weed while tubing with her parents. An engine was dropped into the lake when the weed could not be pulled off. My husband got caught in the weed after it seized our motor on our boat and while trying to cut it off, got his leg caught in the weed as well, and luckily was able to get back into the boat safely, but horribly out of breath. The lake conditions have become dangerous and the very least, signs should be posted keeping people off the lake until this weed is taken care of. Will it take a death of someone to get something done? There is not much to Highlands county besides the lakes, and from what I understand those people who rent in the season are asking about the "weed" and not renting because they can't use the lake. If tourism goes under, so will Highlands County.
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