Aquatic plant survey takes stock of Lake Ballinger milfoil

A small white boat putting around Lake Ballinger Wednesday morning was actually conducting an aquatic plant inventory.

Made possible by a $25,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology, the survey is meant to map the various aquatic plant species, with a focus on finding an invasive species of milfoil called Eurasian milfoil. When the location and extent of the milfoil is known, then the data can be assessed to develop a milfoil control plan, said City of Mountlake Terrace Stormwater Program Manager Laura Reed.

Located between Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace, Lake Ballinger is bordered by private homes, a City of Mountlake Terrace-owned park and the Nile Golf and Country Club.

“Unfortunately, Lake Ballinger has a large amount of milfoil,” Reed said. But after speaking to one of those conducting the survey, Reed said that overall, the Eurasian milfoil was located around the edge of the lake.

Of particular concern is a hybrid Eurasian milfoil, a class C noxious weed on Washington State’s noxious weed list. Though not toxic, this strain of milfoil can be more aggressive than the average Eurasian milfoil and therefore more difficult to remove.

According to the State’s Noxious Weed Control Board, the hybrid weed often isn’t found until its removal is attempted, and it survives. However, class C means control is a local option and not required.

The complete map of Lake Ballinger’s aquatic plants will be available to the public by the end of July, Reed estimated. The data will be analyzed by consultant TetraTech and this will start conversations about possible control options. These options will also affect Hall Lake, which has its own milfoil problem and is connected to Lake Ballinger by a creek.

Also participating in those conversations will be a steering committee known as the Lake Ballinger/McAleer Creek Watershed Forum, which includes “people interested in recreation on the lake, lake property owners, aquatic weed experts, and city staff from Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood,” Reed said. The other manager for this project is Patrick Johnson, a stormwater technician from the City of Edmonds.

Two additional public meetings are scheduled for the summer and fall. Grant money will be needed to fund the Ecology-approved integrated aquatic vegetation management plan. Reed hopes that if the project is awarded a grant, the milfoil control plan would be  completed by summer 2019.

“For lake users and lake residents, it means that there will be a path forward with less milfoil, creating a more pleasant environment for swimming, fishing and boating on Lake Ballinger,” Reed said.

— Story and photos by Mardy Harding

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