Civil Air Patrol warns of aviation dangers from invasive plant
The Civil Air Patrol in Alaska is asking pilots to be aware of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's April emergency order to close two lakes near Willow because of an invasive plant called elodea, according to a statement the group sent Friday.
Fish and Game’s order closed Alexander and Sucker Lakes to sport fishing until Oct. 31, 2019.
Elodea is a non-native plant species that can clog bodies of water, impacting fish, wildlife and swimmers.
The Department of Natural Resources says other potential impacts include endangering safe floatplane operations, making boat travel difficult and reducing property values. Elodea the first known invasive aquatic plant in the state.
In the CAP statement, one pilot describes how the invasive plant has changed behaviors on Alexander Lake.
"Taxiing into dense mats of elodea, I cannot even lower my rudders," Ron Chan said.
Elodea spreads easily because broken segments will form new plants and can survive when frozen, as well as travel long distances downstream.
There continues to be concern about aircraft spreading elodea from lake to lake.
"CAP Lt Col Al Senese warns that amphibian aircraft are particularly vulnerable to transporting the malicious plant, since the wheels retract, grabbing and then hiding the plant material out of view. For all of these reasons, pilots should avoid lakes infested with this invasive plant," the statement read.
To help stop the spread of elodea, DNR suggests people remove all visible mud, plants, fish and animals from equipment. Also, use hot water (140 degrees), or salt water if possible, to clean anything that comes in contact with elodea. And allow everything to dry for five days before putting it into new waters.
CAP says there have been successful eradication efforts in four Anchorage lakes, including Lake Hood, and five lakes on the Kenai Peninsula in the last few years.
According to DNR, elodea in Alaska was first documented in 1982 in Cordova’s Eyak Lake, but land managers did not take notice until 2010 when it was found growing aggressively in Chena Slough near Fairbanks.
People are also asked to report any elodea to Fish and Game’s Invasive Species webpage or by calling 1-877-INVASIV.
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