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, DNR carefully regulates activities that may threaten it. Generally speaking, 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, the District’s current “weed” problems center around Flowering Rush and Curly-leafed pondweed, invasive species which require management.   

Some history

Aquatic Plant Harvesting began in 1967, shortly after the District was established.  Initially, mechanical removal of “weeds” was undertaken not only to improve boating and swimming,  but also to remove in-lake nutrients. Subsequent research showed that the nutrient reduction component was relatively small compared to the available in-lake nutrients so harvesting operations shifted to invasive plant control.  

Detroit lake residents did not petition PRWD for a harvesting project until the late 1980’s.  At about the same time there were some unsuccessful attempts to control Flowering Rush using herbicides. Though the Detroit PRWD Harvesting Project started in 1989 for general weed harvesting purposes, from 1995 onward, the main focus has been on Flowering Rush control based upon the strategy that repeated cutting would limit plant growth.

Curly-leafed Pondweed is an aquatic invasive plant that has infested many Minnesota lakes and has the unusual lifecycle.  These plants mature in June, die shortly there-after, and accumulate in mats in the middle of the lake, which blow to shore in large masses. These plants continue to be a major nuisance and are found in Big and Little Detroit, Muskrat, Sallie and Melissa lakes, the Pelican River.

June 1968

June 2002


Flowering Rush

The exotic Flowering Rush was first identified in Deadshot Bay in the mid-1970’s and spread into the Big Detroit by the end of that decade. By the early 1980’s it was found in many places around Big and Little Detroit; and moved down the Pelican River to Muskrat, Sallie and Melissa. Its populations continue to spread and thicken.


A Change in Perspective

Though the DNR’s official Flowering Rush Management Plan still is tied formally to the harvesting strategy,it has become increasingly clear to DNR scientists and PRWD staff (and to residents, for that matter) that the harvesting approach has not dealt effectively with this nuisance plant; indeed,there is some evidence suggesting that harvesting may be contributing to its spread. Accordingly the District, through its Detroit Harvesting Project, and under the strict control and supervision of the DNR has been experimenting with herbicides that might offer some control of Flowering Rush.   

In addition to encouraging continued herbicide testing in small plots, the DNR has given informal approval for the District to do some large scale field testing of certain chemicals near public use areas (the public beach area,public accesses, etc),and to consider applications of herbicide to known areas of curly-leafed pondweed concentrations (these were mapped in 2004). 

The DNR also has signaled a change in policy regarding mechanical harvesting through PRWD projects. General lake harvesting patterns are to be reduced and strictly aimed at providing boating access to shorelines. This will be accomplished by shifting most harvesting tracks from parallel to perpendicular to the shoreline.  In 2005, the agency also announced that it will not permit harvesting of Flowering Rush for purely aesthetic reasons, and will discourage harvesting altogether in areas close to shore.  

PRWD harvesting projects are in a state of transition. It is apparent that there will be less mechanical harvesting, and it seems likely that there will be more herbicide use. Both harvesting and chemically- treated areas will be limited to high density usage areas (public swimming beach, public access,and possibly the sand bar) or where boating is a general problem (for all boaters, not just specific lakeshore residents.

Private residential and commercial treatment efforts will continue to be permitted by DNR, and may expand as harvesting becomes more restricted. However,it is unlikely that control measures (including mechanical or chemical) will be permitted except under very specific conditions, as in the cases of “weed” interference with boat navigation or swimming, and then only if no native emergent plants are present.

As a result of these changes, it may be necessary to re-think the District’s harvest projects.  The original petitioners and the PRWD Managers did not contemplate a project that relies primarily on herbicides, and limits treatment to public use areas. The project is funded by property owners on the theory the value of the harvesting projectto the property owners is related more or less to their front footage. DNR policies are not consistent with the notion that harvesting should be done to enhance the property values or enjoyment of lakeshore property owners.

Likewise, the control of Curly-leafed Pondweed will probably center on harvest or herbicide use in a few, relatively small parts of those lakes where it has been found in homogeneous, heavily populated stands (see the Detroit case). Control efforts would extend over several years.

View the Districts Aquatic Plant Management Plan HERE

Read the Change in Direction Paper HERE

AIS Symposium - St. Paul, MN

March 19th, 2012

Watch news clip HERE

Governor Dayton Signs Aquatic Invasive Species Bill

On Friday May 27th!

To read more click HERE


Playing Smart Against Invasive Species:  Watch Video


Defending Favorite Places: Watch DVD


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 1333.9 ft
Last Updated: 7/24/2017
Floyd(s) 1353.9 ft
Last Updated: 8/3/2017

Melissa 1328.0 ft
Last Updated: 7/24/2017
Sallie 1329.0 ft
Last Updated: 7/24/2017

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