WACF Hosts Lake Talks And Eats

Matt Kerkhoff, president of Hoosier Aquatic management, Inc., installed a living log along the bank of Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation's property on Lake Wawasee to stop shoreline erosion.

Matt Kerkhoff, president of Hoosier Aquatic management, Inc., installed a living log along the bank of Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation’s property on Lake Wawasee to stop shoreline erosion.

The first of three Lake Talks and Eats, hosted by Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation, Syracuse, kicked off this morning focusing on lake health.

WACF hosts informal and hands on activities from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. the first Saturday each month June through August.

The next sessions include “Water Bug Catch!” on July 6. Nancy Brown will lead the group in catching water bugs. This is a great activity for grandparents or parents and kids to compete for prizes catching aquatic critters and learning why these bugs are important.

The final session will be Aug. 3 with Jed Pearson, DNR fish specialist, speaking on invasive species. He will lead a discussion on the topic plus there will be an opportunity for some cooking up some invasive plants to try.

Lake Health

Dr. Nate Bosch, Grace College Professor, enlightened the 20 plus individuals what is below the surface of Lake Wawasee, lake levels and applied studies.

Matthew Kerkhoff, president, Hoosier Aquatic Management Inc., Indianapolis, presented information on products available to help erosion problems, what products work, which ones don’t. The event included a demonstration on the installation of two living logs planted with native vegetation along a portion of the WACF property at Lake Wawasee.

Bosch pointed out everyone lives in a watershed, made up of various streams, rivers and lakes. Water from the Lake Wawasee watershed flows through the lake to the Elkhart River or St. Joseph River and onto Lake Michigan. Another watershed, the Tippecanoe Watershed, south of Wawasee Lake, eventually makes its way to the Mississippi River and to the Gulf of Mexico.

Details of the stream ecology was reviewed, comparing it to the food chain, where things work from the bottom up. The bottom of this chain is nutrients, followed by periphyton and  macrophytes (algae that attaches to rocks, and algae that clumps together), followed by insects and mussels with fish at the top. Examples, of what makes up each of these areas, were presented.

The lake ecology is similar but with different components. Nutrients remain at the bottom, followed by phytoplankton (free floating, good algae), zooplankton (those that eat the phytoplankton), planktivorious (fish that eats plankton such as blue gill) and the piscovorious fish (fish that eat other fish like northern pike, largemouth bass).

Another area presented was the seasonal mixing of the lake. (See video). “Sometime each year it mixes, other times it doesn’t,” Bosch stated. Spring and autumn are times for the mixing. “In November you may have turnover, you’ll get a sulfur smell. That’s an indication the lake is turning over.”

Eutrophication of lakes was a third topic, or the aging of a lake, going over the characteristics of an aging lake. He started with first stage, oligotrophic when lake water is clear and blue in color, few fish and deep. Mesotrophic is the second stage, which is the stage of the majority of lakes, including Wawasee Lake. There’s more sediment, weeds, diverse fish population, however the oxygen level of the lake also lowers. The final stage is eutrophic, fewer fish varieties, a lot of carp and catfish, the lake’s color is green and shallow. “It takes thousands of years for that to happen but can be quicken with the dumping of nutrients … we want to keep the clock turned back as far as we can.”

Studies on lake levels, educational programs and applied research were touched on. “I never do research that does not have application for all who live at the lakes,” noted Bosch. The applied research included blue-green algae, now in its final year (five-year-study) to develop a scientific understanding why sometimes it’s toxic and other times not. He noted new technology is being developed for a test to be done in connection with use of a Secchi dish and a mathematical formula on when to have the health department  run a water sample. It was pointed out there is no treatment. If the blue-green algae bursts open it makes it worse. The only way to control it is starving it of what it wants, phosphorous.

Another study was the lake levels. He noted that a lake’s level is influenced by precipitation, evaporation, ground water and human activities. Use of lake water for irrigation is also a factor, however a majority of the level is natural. A look back at lake levels since 1942, Bosch found there were only five times the lake went as low as last summer, down approximately 18-inches. “History repeats itself,” he noted, adding in each case, the following year the level bounced back. “We’ve never seen two years in a row with low (lake) levels.”

The effect of drought on the aquifer, which does replenish itself, was noted through a stream study of four streams. The study was May 15-21 with 27 samplings. “Over time 4 million cubic meters of water flowed into the lakes in that time, but the lake raised 8 million cubic meters.” He said 4 mcm was from ground water and that springs started flowing.

He expressed the aquifer in the area is “just fine,” but with one caveat, “Lake Wawasee has a little watershed … other lakes (such as Camelot Lake) has no stream flowing into it. It’s all ground water.” Bosch pointed out Camelot Lake is still down 2 ½ feet. “That tells me the ground water has not recharged, but some … water table still depressed.”It was noted that Dewart Lake’s water level is back to normal.

Erosion Control

Kerkhof provided information on soft armor and hard armor for controlling erosion control.

Soft practices, use of living logs or coir log used from coconut fibers, living soil tubes and geotextile tubes, were explained. These products allow native plants to be planted into the products.

The use of native vegetation is effective in providing erosion control immediately and provide stability as well as a buffer. It noted these products are also a goose barrier and captures sediment as a filter for runoff. It also provides protective vegetation barriers for children. The type of native plants uses is site and customer specific.

The hard armor such as rip-rap or vinyl, metal or concrete seawalls along the shoreline are damaging. Hard armor products do not offer that buffer as it doesn’t hold the soil above slopes. The soil goes between the rocks and eventually bleeds out into the lake. The use of dropping cement slabs also does nothing to hold the soil in place.

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