County to treat Lone Star Lake for aquatic weed

Douglas County officials are planning once again to use a chemical treatment to control an aggressive underwater weed that is plaguing Lone Star Lake, even though they recognize there is divided public opinion about that, especially among bass fishermen.

“This is a weed that really needs to be kept under control or it will take over the lake,” Public Works Director Keith Browning told county commissioners today.

Browning said he has heard from fishing enthusiasts both for and against treating the lake. Some say the weed is a nuisance that makes fishing difficult, while others are opposed to putting any chemicals into the county-owned lake.

But Browning said the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is strongly urging the county to use the treatment, in part to help prevent it from spreading to other bodies of water.

The weed is called Eurasian watermilfoil, an exotic plant that scientists believe was accidentally introduced into North America in the 1940s.

The plant resembles seaweed but grows in fresh water and often becomes so thick that it gets tangled in boat propellers. It also blooms earlier than other aquatic plants, and thus can easily crowd out native species of plant life in the lake.

Last year, after being notified the weed was present, county officials treated the lake with an herbicide called Aquathol-K, which is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for water application.

Browning said that out of caution, the county closed the lake for three days after that, although there is no requirement to do so.

This year, Browning said the infestation is not as bad, and the lake will only be closed for 24 hours after the treatment.

Browning said that is scheduled for next week, either Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on weather and the availability of state officials to apply the chemical. He said if those dates don’t work out, they will move the treatment to July 30 or 31.

In other business, county commissioners:

• Received an annual audit report on county financial statements for the year ending Dec. 31, 2012.

• Approved a 15-year tower access lease with the Kansas Department of Transportation to give the county access to a KDOT tower west of Lawrence on U.S. Highway 40, for a total cost of $16,682 over the term of the lease.

• And authorized purchasing six vehicles for various departments through Shawnee Mission Ford using a regional cooperative bidding process, at a total cost of $268,903.