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FWC to conduct Lake Okeechobee aquatic plant management starting Monday

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will conduct aquatic plant management on Lake Okeechobee throughout the week beginning Monday, Sept. 26.

Management areas include dense cattail marsh in Moonshine Bay at the western end of the lake with smaller treatment areas in the northwest marsh between Buckhead Ridge and the Indian Prairie Canal. A total of 1,000 acres of aquatic plants will be managed with a selective herbicide that does not negatively affect beneficial native species, such as bulrush, spatterdock, spikerush, duck-potato, Kissimmee grass and maidencane. This treatment will allow these native plants to expand and quickly colonize the areas. In addition, 0.52 acres of Carolina willow will be controlled in Fisheating Creek to allow watercraft navigation within that part of the channel. Management will be conducted using helicopters. There are no restrictions related to fishing, swimming or drinking related to this management effort.

Lake Okeechobee provides high-quality foraging and nesting habitat for the endangered Everglades snail kite, wading birds, waterfowl and other marsh species. In addition to improving habitat for fish and wildlife, this project will also increase lake access for anglers and hunters.

The cattail management areas proposed by the FWC have been approved by the Lake Okeechobee Aquatic Plant Management Interagency Task Force (an advisory group of state and federal agencies with public input on aquatic plant management conducted by the FWC, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Water Management District on Lake Okeechobee) and Audubon Florida.

Approximately 3-6 months after the herbicide application, the cattail areas will be managed with prescription fire to quickly open the area up for wildlife use and consume the dead organic material so that it does not drop to the bottom of the lake as it decays. Prescribed fire following herbicide application extends the efficacy of the treatment and reduces the amount of herbicide used over time.

Habitat enhancement using multiple selective management techniques, such as herbicides and prescribed burning, coupled with occasional drying events during low water periods, is part of an integrated management approach used by the FWC on many lakes and wetlands throughout Florida.

For general waterbody information, fishing forecasts, virtual tours, plant control operation schedules and annual workplans, boat ramp information, and more, visit the “What’s Happening on My Lake” website at MyFWC.com/Lake

Management areas will be posted at boat ramps and FWC staff will be present throughout the treatment. For questions about this project, contact FWC biologist Alyssa Jordan at 863-697-2181.