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Posted: Apr 24, 2009  14:24

Weevils To Be Released In Lake Pend Oreille This Summer

Fundraising for milfoil control project successful

      Executive Director

SANDPOINT, Idaho - A new tool for fighting Eurasian watermilfoil will be introduced this summer in Lake Pend Oreille following a successful fundraising campaign by the Partners for Milfoil Control.

The Partners announced Wednesday, Earth Day, that more than $175,000 has been raised from private foundations, government grant programs, businesses, in-kind donations, and individual contributions from the community to implement a control and research project using tiny native insects that feed on milfoil.

Members of the partnership expressed appreciation for the support of the community and grantors. More than $13,000 was raised in the past three months from individual contributions alone, helping to make the project possible for this summer.

"It's really great to see such broad-based support for finding alternatives to the application of herbicides in our beautiful Lake," said Diane Williams of the Tri-State Water Quality Council. "Now that the funding goal of this ambitious project has been met, we will turn our attention to research design and project implementation."

Tri-State is the fiscal sponsor for the project, and secured grants from Avista Corp., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and local private foundations. Partners for Milfoil Control also includes the Selkirk Conservation Alliance, Panhandle Environmental League, Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper, Sandpoint Mothers for Safe Water, and the Idaho Conservation League.

The project also benefits from in-kind contributions from EnviroScience, a Midwestern-based company that specializes in stocking weevils to fight milfoil, and from Dr. Michelle Marko of Concordia College, who will be conducting independent research on the efficacy of the weevils to control Eurasian milfoil.

The Partners are working with members of the Bonner County Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force to assist with decisions such as stocking and control locations. EnviroScience will be collecting, propagating and stocking the weevils. The Tri-State Council will form a technical advisory committee to oversee the design and implementation of the two-year research component that aims to produce credible, scientific data and a published, peer-reviewed research paper on the project results.

Coordination is necessary to make sure that herbicide treatments planned for the summer do not overlap with weevil stocking or control areas. The county estimates that 700 to 1,000 acres of milfoil are still in Lake Pend Oreille and the Pend Oreille River.

State funding the last three years has been primarily directed toward herbicides, with a small portion going toward diver hand-pulling and bottom barriers. The state funding could be in its last year, however, leaving the county and others wondering how to continue the milfoil control program.

Community concern over the potential effects of applying hundreds of thousands of gallons of herbicides into the Lake Pend Oreille watershed was the primary catalyst for the weevil project.

The weevil is a biological control tool that could provide ongoing milfoil management in some areas of the lake at a lesser cost than other options. Plans are now being made to collect native weevils and rear them in aquariums. The plan is to release approximately 50,000 weevils among three to five lake locations yet to be determined.

"There's been so much interest in weevils as a management tool," said Susan Drumheller of the Idaho Conservation League. "It's about time we gave them a chance to do their thing."


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