Aquatic Plant Management in the District

A healthy and diverse population of native aquatic plants is essential to good water quality and a healthy lake. Responsible for protecting that population, the MN DNR carefully regulates activities that may threaten it. Generally, control/removal of native emergent plants (bulrush and cattails) is not allowed; native submergent plants can be removed when interference with recreation or navigation can be shown. However, for the last several years, the District’s  vegetation problems center around Flowering Rush and Curly-leafed pondweed, which are both invasive species that require management.   

Some history

Aquatic plant harvesting hs been a very important activity for the District, and has consumed a significant amount of time and resources throughout its history.  Within a few months of the inception of the District, a petition from Melissa-Sallie residents called for establishment of a project to remove lake weeds.  It was conventional wisdom among limnologists of the time that the most practical way of reducing nutrient levels in lakes was to remove plant material (which contains large quantities of nutrients).  Indeed, the 1967 Overall Plan prominently featured mechanical removal of excess aquatic plants as a means to address lake "eutrophication".  In 1968, the District established the first three projects aimed at removing aquatic plant material from Sallie and Melissa.  Originally funded in large part by grant money and donations from the City, County and lake associations.  Project 1 operated off and on until 1978.  It was succeeded by Project 1A in 1978 and 1B in 1985; successor projects relied heavily upon donations from the District general fund, as well as direct assessment to affected lakeshore property owners.

After several years of systematic evaluation which received national attention from limnologists, research by Dr. Joe Neel (UND) concluded that significant nutrient reduction could not be brought about by harvesting.  In the early 1970's the District shifted its harvesting emphasis towards reducing aquatic plants in order to enhance boating and swimming.  A Detroit harvesting project (1C) was established in 1990, with the added control of the exotic plant, Flowering Rush, to its project purpose.

The projects continue today, but their scope has been considerably narrowed under the direction of the MN DNR which has generally discouraged broad applications of mechanical harvesting to lakes.  Beginning in 2003, the District began experimenting with herbicides to control Flowering Rush under the auspices of the Harvesting projects.  In 2013, after protracted negotiations with the DNR, and elaborate research efforts by national experts and the Army Corps of Engineers, the District began aggressive control measures using the herbicide Diquat.  Control efforts have been widely seen as successful, but research continues on impacts to native plant species.

In 2016 and 2017, the District also chemically treated Curlyleafed pondweed on Lakes Detroit, Curfman, Sallie and Melissa.  The plant reductions have been so great with the chemical treatments that the District Managers felt confident enough to sale the last aquatic harvester, thus moving the District into a new era of lake plant management.


2014 CL Harvest.JPG

District staff harvested Curlyleaf Pondweed on Big Detroit up to 2014.  The harvesters have now been sold.

heavy infestation, including flowers - 2005.JPG 

 Flowering Rush Infestation on Big Detroit Lake in 2007.



View the Districts Aquatic Plant Management Plan HERE

Read the Change in Direction Paper HERE

Governor Dayton Signs Aquatic Invasive Species Bill

On Friday May 27th!

To read more click HERE



2005-2010 Detroit Lake Flowering Rush Comparison Photos


After what appeared to be a very successful experimental treatment in 2004, the District expanded its use of Habitat (Imazapyr)to several treatment sites on Detroit and Curfman Lakes during 2005. Results from this experience were also positive and led to “lake-wide” treatments using the same herbicide from 2006 through 2009. For quite a number of sites on these lakes we had photographs which could be used to illustrate the impacts from the treatments.

Photographic Comparisons of Flowering Rush Infestations

Research Summit on Flowering Rush

In 2010 District Managers and staff attended a two day meeting in St. Paul to discuss future plans for treating Flowering Rush in area lakes.  The meeting was jointly sponsored by the District and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.























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Recent Water Levels
Detroit 1334.03 ft
Last Updated: 11/1/2017
Floyd(s) 1354.10 ft
Last Updated: 11/1/2017

Melissa 1327.86 ft
Last Updated: 11/1/2017
Sallie 1328.94 ft
Last Updated: 11/1/2017

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