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'Rot and stink': Rock Lake residents upset about weed harvesting

'Rot and stink': Rock Lake residents upset about weed harvesting

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SALEM LAKES — A complaint about weed harvesting on Rock Lake and a request for financial support from the Rock Lake Restoration Association (RLRA) to update the lake management plan were heard by the Salem Lakes Village Board Monday night.

Karen Ihlen, an officer of the Rock Lake Highlands Association, told the board the weed harvesting conducted prior to the weekend of Aug. 2 created a health and safety issue.

“It left all the debris in the water to rot and stink,” Ihlen said. “The massive disturbance of silt made the water quality bad.”

She said she also believes the amount of area cut may have been larger than the 30-foot swath allowable by state Department of Natural Resources permit.

“This mess traveled to the public beach area,” Ihlen said, adding the E.coli reading on Aug. 5 was so high it closed the beach for first time in 30 years. “I think the health and safety of our citizens was compromised by the actions of a few.”

The Rock Lake Highlands Association has historically had a difference of opinion from the Rock Lake Restoration Association with regard to weed harvesting that dates back to contentious meetings in 2012.

The conflict over harvesting came to a head June 9, 2012, when a harvester hired by RLRA and permitted by the DNR was blocked from entering the lake by members of the Rock Lake Highlands Association after zebra mussels were discovered on the contractor’s equipment.

That year, the Rock Lake Restoration Association incorporated and created a lake management plan, with some funding assistance from the then town of Salem, that allowed it to apply for a weed harvesting permit.

David Hoke, RLRA president, said much has been accomplished since then.

“We have harvested over 100,000 cubic yards of plant material, which otherwise would have become muck,” Hoke said.

Through implementation of its management plan, RLRA also:

Created navigational lanes to promote access to open water for boaters.

Created cruising lanes for largemouth bass and northern pike.

Reduced the stunted fish population.

“There is an increase in boating, fishing and swimming by lakefront owners and local residents as well,” Hoke said.

Hoke said the DNR is requiring a five-year update to the management plan, which is expected to cost $5,000. He asked the board to consider helping fund the cost of this plan.

Trustee Dennis Faber said when the Camp and Center Lake Rehabilitation District began leasing land from the municipality on which to store its weed harvester, he requested the annual $5,000 payment be set aside for lakes to assist in situations like this. However, that was not part of the final motion.

He asked that discussion about using those funds for such purposes be added to a future agenda. Trustee Mike Culat agreed.

“I think that’s a smart idea,” Culat said.

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