Invasive fanwort plant to be studied in Kasshabog Lake this summer

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Fanwort, an invasive aquatic plant growing in Kasshabog Lake northeast of Peterborough, will be the subject of a six- to eight-week Trent University School of Environment study this summer to determine how best to manage the aggressive and fast-growing weed.

The Lake Kasshabog Residents Association is contributing $1,000 to the cost of the project and, in a recent letter, asked Havelock-Belmont-Methuen township council to do the same using funds from its newly-budgeted $10,000 environmental grant program set up to help township lake associations with environmental concerns.

“We haven’t got any policies or any plan around how we’re going to distribute that,” Mayor Jim Martin told Tuesday’s council meeting.

“That being said, this is kind of what it is for and fanwort is a real problem. (The study) will probably benefit a lot of links below Kasshabog Lake because it all flows down through the system and it’s starting to spread.”

Council decided to ask staff to create a policy for the distribution of the grant, and respond to the association in the near future. Other lake associations will be informed of the grant policy as well.

In Ontario, fanwort was first found in Kasshabog Lake, part of the Crowe River watershed, in 1991, according to the Ontario’s Invasive Species Awareness Program.

Since then, it has spread within the watershed to North River, South Lake and Big Mountain Lake. It’s the only known wild population in Ontario.

Fanwort spreads forcefully, forming dense mats under or at the surface of the water that crowd out native species, block sunlight to submerged plants, disrupt fish communities and clog drainage canals and streams.

If fanwort spreads outside the Crowe River watershed, it could disrupt plant and animal life in other waterways and interfere with recreation, hindering boaters and swimmers, according to the website of the Awareness Program.

The goal of the Trent University project is to understand how any naturalization may or may not be occurring in order to have a realistic picture of the future, Cynthia Cole, the association’s environment director, wrote in the letter to council.

Someone emptying the fanwort contents of an aquarium into a waterway or boats carrying fanwort may have introduced it to Ontario from elsewhere, according to the Awareness Program.

Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him at bburke@metroland.com.

Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner

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