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State steps in to stop elodea invasion

By Shannon Ballard Photojournalist: Rachel McPherron - 8:43 PM July 10, 2014

A serious problem is rising to the surface near Scott Norman’s South Anchorage home.

“You can see it all right here,” Norman pointed out.

He’s a floatplane pilot and the weed taking over the lake in his backyard is a pain in his neck.

“It wraps around the water rudders when they are down in the water and you can’t steer the aircraft, not at all,” Norman explained.

It’s called elodea and is the only known invasive aquatic plant in Alaska.

It hurts property value, fishing and recreation.

The state is preparing now to put an end to the invasion.

“It’s a monster,” said Heather Stewart, a researcher with Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources.

“It’s been quite a bit of an issue because people haven’t been seeing things get done as fast as they want them to, so we’ve kind of tried to accelerate the process of figuring out where it is specifically, how thick it is, who it’s going to impact.”

Stewart has proof the weed is spreading.

It has roots in at least 15 rivers, lakes and streams across Alaska.

“The important thing is that we identify it properly, figure out where it is and manage it correctly despite where it came from,” Stewart said.

But warmer winters and nicer summers will only make it harder to contain the elodea, according to Stewart.

Fewer ice days means increased floatplane traffic — a major way the weed travels and finds new homes.

“That would be a double whammy if we were to have higher temperatures and more ice-free days,” Stewart said.

State and federal biologists are testing herbicides in elodea-infested lakes in Kenai to see if they work.

If they do, that could be a possible answer to solving Sand Lake’ s problem.

At this point Scott Norman doesn’t care what’s done. He just wants the elodea gone.

Sand Lake is a main focus because of just how many people live nearby and rely on it. In Anchorage, elodea is also found in Little Campbell Lake and Delong Lake.

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