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Archive for Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Water lilies invade KU’s Potter Lake

The surface of the lake is about half full of lily pads. The KU Environs student group is planning to organize a cleanup day for beautification purposes.

The surface of the lake is about half full of lily pads. The KU Environs student group is planning to organize a cleanup day for beautification purposes.

August 29, 2012

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The surface of Kansas University's Potter Lake is about half covered with water lily plants, as seen on Monday, Aug. 27. The KU Environs student group is planning to host a volunteer cleanup day later this semester.

The surface of Kansas University's Potter Lake is about half covered with water lily plants, as seen on Monday, Aug. 27. The KU Environs student group is planning to host a volunteer cleanup day later this semester.

After a much-needed dredging in 2010 and a number of student-led clean-up efforts, Kansas University’s iconic Potter Lake has a new enemy this semester: water lilies.

The plant’s pink flowers may be nice to look at in small doses but they can be aggressive, said Scott Campbell, associate director for outreach and public service for the Kansas Biological Survey.

And once they are introduced to a lake — particularly a shallow one — they spread easily. Today, the plants are covering about half the lake’s surface.

“It sure has done well,” Campbell said, looking out over the lake this week.

The plants aren’t native to Kansas, and Campbell said he isn’t sure how they were introduced to Potter Lake.

Campbell stressed that the water lily issue is merely an aesthetic one, and that the dredging project took care of other, more serious, issues with the lake. The lake was slowly filling in with sediment, and the dredging removed nutrients that had washed into the pond over the last 50 years.

Campbell went to the water’s edge, and pointed out many tiny fish swimming in the lake.

“The water quality of the lake and the overall health of the lake have improved dramatically since the dredging,” Campbell said.

However, the dredging may have unintentionally scattered the water lily plants across the lake.

Now, they’re likely here to stay, he said. The plants are covering most of the water surface where the lake is 6 feet deep and shallower. They are perennial plants, and will require annual removal, he said.

Peg Livingood, landscape architect for KU’s Design and Construction Management office, said a group of KU experts in different areas are working on a long-term plan to manage the lake.

“It’s really kind of a volunteer effort by different groups on campus,” she said.

Companies exist that provide contracted lake management services, but KU in the past has eliminated that option as too expensive.

“We are all trying to do our best to make the best possible use of the funds we do have,” Livingood said.

Members of the Kansas Biological Survey, Environmental Health and Safety and Facilities Services are involved in the planning, Livingood said, in addition to members of the KU Environs student group.

The group has decided that it doesn’t want to introduce chemicals to the lake. Campbell said that option could be costly, and might kill desirable plants. It also would require re-application each year, he said.

In 2009, a group of students organized the Potter Lake Project after several fish kills occurred in the lake and a thin green scum made it clear action was needed. The original organizers of that group have graduated and the group is now defunct.

However, Kim Scherman, a Eudora senior and president of KU Environs, said her group agreed to take over some of the volunteer efforts necessary to help improve the lake moving forward.

“It could use some help,” she said. “A clean-up is definitely in order and we’ll talk about that soon.”

It’s still early in the semester, she said, so the group is just beginning to set its goals for the year. A work day likely would involve several students in boats scooping up the water lily plants by hand.

It’s quite a chore, she said, but the group intends to do what it can to make it fun (including providing food for the helpers).

She said the group hoped to organize one or two clean-ups each year.

Comments

blindrabbit 1 year, 12 months ago

The dredging a couple of years ago was really ineffective long term! Should have done like they did back in the 1950-60's drained the thing, removed the Model T, let it dry-up, then dozed the bottom.

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Rex Hargis 1 year, 12 months ago

That lake has been a mess since I was a student (75). I guess this is serious, BUT, I would sure like to see "The Invasion of the Water Lilies" with their cute little pink and green uniforms, marching in formation, weapons at the ready. Oh, wait, I think I did see that once, a long time ago. I believe alcohol was involved...

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blindrabbit 1 year, 12 months ago

With all the water lilies, all we need is another Monet!

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Rex Hargis 1 year, 12 months ago

I think the manatees were with the invasion force. I also think Teddy Roosevelt was in command. Or maybe Teddy was conducting the orchestra. That night is confusing, but I do remember that the lake water tastes terrible.

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Shane Garrett 1 year, 12 months ago

Are you sure it was just alcohol involved?

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blindrabbit 1 year, 12 months ago

Given the right circustances and the right "stash", the white amurs and manatees will magically transform into psychedelic walruses just like John Lennon penned in the Magical Mystery Tour.

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Matthew Herbert 1 year, 12 months ago

Another classic fools mistake; interpret a pile of opportunity as a problem. I've let water plants like this multiply in my pond before and dealt with it by selling them by the bag on craigslist cheaply. $3/bag and your pond is nearly clear in no time! There are tons of people with ponds that would gladly buy up or at worst come take free water lilies.

2

Chrissy Neibarger 1 year, 12 months ago

My thought exactly! I'd love to have some of this - even if it's to feed my ducks or let a few plants grow in my koi pond!

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Celeste Plitz 1 year, 12 months ago

Yup, that's what I would do. You could even sell them online. Advertise on CL and maybe even sell lilies on Ebay and the problem won't be a problem for long! Or, just open it up to people wanting free lilies, like you said. Wish I lived closer I"d be happy to take some.

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Flap Doodle 1 year, 12 months ago

"I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure." (from a source)

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Ken Schmidt 1 year, 12 months ago

Two sterile grass carp. Problem solved. Total cost, ~$15.00. Time till solution realized, next spring.

Too easy. No doggone committees needed, time spent or money wasted to develop an effective strategy for this issue.

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Betty Bartholomew 1 year, 12 months ago

So if I ever manage to get one picked, nobody will mind, I take it. :)

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gr 1 year, 12 months ago

Sounds to me the easiest solution while having this dry spell is to drain the lake and let it dry and killing most of the weeds.

If what they did was dredge it with the water still in it, that is just pure waste of tax payer dollars.

Drain it, dry it, and then clean it out. Maybe that should be scheduled every so many years.

Same issue with Perry lake. I thought there was talk about dredging it with the water still in it. Now I hear it is low and dry at the north end. Looks like an opportune time to get some fill dirt out of it.

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