Human management

Residents call for expansion of aquatic plant management

Residents who live in the Memorial Drive area – where summertime aquatic weed growth is among the most problematic in Sturgeon Bay – are calling on the city to make management of these weeds a priority.

Sturgeon Bay City Council heard from some of these residents on August 2, when they spoke during the meeting’s public comment period. The council had brought the matter back for follow-up discussion after hearing about the extent of the problem on June 7.

Like when he appeared before council earlier this summer to ask the city to do more to manage these plants, Mike Langenhorst presented photos related to problems boats have had navigating aquatic weeds in the bay.

“The size and scope of this problem far outweighs the resources we have to solve this problem,” he said. “It’s time to get off the beaten track a bit. It’s not just about managing aquatic weeds. It’s much bigger.

While noting that fire, police, and public works are the city’s three main departments, Langenhorst suggested that the city either start a fourth department or have a sub-department of public works called Water and Aquatics.

“It wouldn’t just solve the weed problem,” he said. “The person [in charge] would be someone with a background in water science – someone who understands the [Department of Natural Resources] plans [and] someone who understands stormwater runoff in this area.

Langenhorst said someone heading a water and water department or sub-department could also be in charge of municipal marinas, beaches, the small lake, waterfront parks and promenades, and could serve as a link between the town and the marinas and yacht clubs.

“We need a method to grow revenue, using that to have a program like this,” he said.

Langenhorst also suggested contacting nautical engineers to design equipment that would better remove aquatic plants from the bay.

On an annual city budget of $17 million, he called on the council to allocate more than the current $78,000 a year to aquatic plant management.

Kent Wickman, a Memorial Drive resident, urged council to support upgrades to the town’s aquatic weed harvesting equipment.

“This equipment is decades old,” he said.

This photo shows one of the Town of Sturgeon Bay’s aquatic plant harvesters operating along Memorial Drive. Submitted.

Wickman said the city needs harvesters and barges to remove aquatic weeds, and he also spoke out in favor of paying higher wages to people who remove plants from the bay.

“They need to be paid for the expertise they have,” he said. “I really hope you guys maybe incorporate a weed/snow removal dual job, whatever, but make an upgrade for them, so we don’t keep losing the people who have it done in the past for various reasons.”

Tim Graul, a retired naval architect, said the extent of weed growth in the bay looks worse than when he moved to the area about 50 years ago.

“The bay was clear,” he said. “You can sail anywhere in the bay.”

Depending on the direction of the wind, Graul said the weeds in the bay can become impassable.

“My fear, gentlemen and ladies, [is that] if this is not corrected, Sturgeon Bay’s destination as a water-centric town will disappear,” he said.

Graul said something was causing the weeds in the bay to be “growing too prolifically.” If there is some sort of limitation that could be placed on the nutrients that flow into the bay – whether it is lawn feeding or otherwise – but there needs to be a more nuanced and in-depth study “, did he declare. “We need to have a better relationship or understanding with whoever regulates where and how weeds can be cut.”

This map shows the area where the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources allows the harvesting of aquatic plants in Sturgeon Bay. Source: Town of Sturgeon Bay.

Harvest of aquatic plants 2022

Ryan Londo, the city’s harbor master, said 357 loads of aquatic plants were harvested from the bay this year in the two-month period of June and July, compared to 371 loads for the whole of 2021.

Based on a truckload of aquatic plants he weighed at 1,350 pounds, Londo said the total weight of the plants removed from the bay would be about 1.1 million pounds.

“We still have the whole month of August to go here,” he said. “We are starting to lose a few seasonal workers, but as we lose more, I get out on the water a little more.

Londo said he expects aquatic plant harvesting to continue this year in the bay for about a month to a month and a half.

Of the three operational combines, he said the most recent was received in 2018 and the other two were from 2001 and 1995. Londo said the engine had recently been replaced on the city shore conveyor and that there were two operational trucks used for transportation. plants.

weed harvest area

City Administrator Josh VanLieshout said there are about 116 acres in the bay where mechanical harvesting of aquatic plants is permitted under the permit the city has with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Approximately 64 acres, generally located at the mouth of Big Creek, are designated as no-harvest area. Aquatic plants cannot be harvested from the bay in areas outside the harvest zone.

“At some point in the next couple of years the city will update our weed harvest management plan and then go through that process and effort with the regulatory agency, the DNR, again, and maybe review the [harvest] areas and no-harvest areas,” he said.

Due to permit regulations, VanLieshout said the city may not remove all of the weeds it sees impeding navigation in the bay.

“As frustrating as it sounds, that’s the nature of the beast,” he said. “Even if we could [remove aquatic plants in more areas of the bay]like ryan [Londo], [municipal services director] Mike [Barker] and others have pointed out, we just don’t have the machinery to accomplish that level of harvesting and collect that level of tonnage.

Mayor David Ward said the deepest the city is allowed to cut plants is three feet below the surface of the bay. In areas of the bay that are less than six feet deep, the town may only harvest halfway to the bottom of the bay, so “if you’re in a five-foot zone, you can’t go down only two and a half feet”. he said.

Ward said the personal watercraft operating in the bay helped pull weeds and float where they were causing problems.

The city will be getting a new aquatic weed handling conveyor this year, but it isn’t expected to arrive until October, when the weed harvest is complete for this year.

Budgeting for additional aquatic plant harvesting equipment will be difficult for next year, Ward said. That’s because the city has $18 million in net new construction that could generate about $8,000 in property tax revenue for every $1 million in new value — or $144,000 — but the new contract with the police officers will cost an additional $140,000.

“We will do what we can [to provide additional funding for aquatic-plant management]but it’s tight [in the budget]and with inflation, I don’t know,” he said.

Ward said the city’s harbor commission will look into the management of aquatic plants in the bay before the matter is referred to city council.