Oakland University publishes research on swimmer's itch at Congregational Assembly beach
Scientists from the Biology Department of Oakland University have carried out research on swimmer's itch at Crystal Lake since 2015. Under the direction of Professor Thomas R. Raffel, the group has focused on the study of environmental factors that affect the abundance of the parasites in the water that cause swimmer's itch. One of the most valuable assets available to them is the collection of data compiled each summer by the lifeguards at the Congregational Summer Assembly beach, on the southwest corner of the lake, a unique resource that cannot be matched at other lakes in Michigan. A detailed scientific study of this data has now been released by the Oakland University group. READ THE FULL REPORT HERE
The primary conclusions of the study are that risks of contracting swimmer's itch are greatest in the morning and when there is an onshore wind. Temperature and other environmental factors had no apparent impact. For more on the research carried out by the Oakland University team, see Crystal Whitecaps vol. 12, no. 2 (Fall 2016), p. 4.
Help fight swimmer's itch – report merganser broods
Spring is here and the mergansers are returning! Once again, you can assist the CLWA's efforts to control swimmer's itch by reporting sightings of merganser nesting behavior and broods on the lake. As in summer 2017 the CLWA is contracting with Swimmer's Itch Solutions LLC to trap and remove merganser broods from Crystal Lake. To report CLICK HERE. Last year's program successfully removed all broods from the lake, and as a result the SI infection rate is expected to decrease in 2018. SIS is also seeking to locate and eliminate nesting sites, to discourage future breeding around the lake.
For Swimmer's Itch Solution's final report on their work in 2017, CLICK HERE.
Water quality testing results for 2017 now available
As part of the Michigan Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program, the CLWA sponsors comprehensive scientific testing of Crystal Lake’s water. Monitoring provides advance warning, so that early action can be taken to protect Crystal Lake. The latest results are consistent with past years and show no significant problems. The full data report is available here: http://crystallakewatershed.org/pdfs/CLMP-Crystal-Benzie-2017.pdf The Benzie Conservation District carries out the testing on CLWA’s behalf, continuing the practice of water testing that was established by CLWA’s predecessor organizations decades ago. This invaluable body of data enables CLWA and other lake stewards to detect water quality degradation at an early stage, before any problems become extensive and irreversible.
Swimmer's Itch Data from Congregational Assembly Beach 2017
Swimmer's Itch Data from Congregational Assembly Beach 2017
The Congregational Summer Assembly beach, on the southwest corner of Crystal Lake, has been producing the most complete and accurate data on the occurrence of swimmer's itch since 2013. The latest statistics, from the 2017 season, have now been analyzed and summarized by Al Flory of the CLWA Swimmer's Itch Partnership. Flory's report emphasizes two important conclusions: incidence of swimmer's itch is higher when there are onshore winds and during the morning hours. There is also some evidence that swimmer's itch on Crystal Lake may be stabilizing or decreasing.
Final report on swimmer's itch control for summer 2017
CLWA contracted with Swimmer's Itch Solutions LLC to conduct swimmer's itch control activities on Crystal Lake during summer of 2017. It concentrated on trapping merganser broods and moving them to other waters where the swimmer's itch parasites are not present. By reducing one of the parasite hosts, the cycle that releases the parasites into Crystal is broken and swimmer's itch will be decreased. Glen and Higgins Lakes has already had positive results with these methods.
The public greatly assisted the success of this program by reporting sightings of merganser broods. As a result, SIS captured a total of 14 broods (including 116 ducklings) which have been relocated to Lake Michigan or Lake Huron. By late July, all merganser broods had been removed from Crystal Lake. This reduction in the merganser poplulation is expected to result in a lower infection rate in 2018. To read the final report on the summer's work, CLICK HERE
Benzie area students experience 25th annual Walkabout in the watershed
On October 5 the CLWA conducted its 25th annual experiential educational project for middle school students, the Crystal Lake Walkabout. Classes from Benzie Central and Frankfort/Elberta public schools visited locations around Crystal Lake to learn about the ecology of the watershed and the ways its qualities can be threatened. One aim is to foster appreciation for the important role that the watershed plays for the whole community, and to foster a sense of responsibilitty for its preservation. Some of the topics covered were water chemistry, invasive species, and swimmer's itch. CLWA volunteers were assisted by experts from the Benzie Conservation District and the NW Michigan Invasive Species Network. A grant from the Benzie Sunrise Rotary provided support for the Crystal Lake Field Notebook, a specially designed workbook that each student received.
For more information, see the main Walkabout web page.
CLWA completes second phase of aquatic weed survey
In August 2017 a team from the Water Quality committee of the CLWA completed the second phase of its comprehensive survey of Crystal Lake to update information on established native submerged plants, monitor invasives like Eurasian watermilfoil that are already present, and look for any new species that may have found their way into Crystal's waters. This year's surface-based investigation was supplemented by drone photography conducted by Zero Gravity Aerial. Both surface and drone components will be used again in 2018 to complete full coverage of Crystal Lake.
The 2017 survey focused on the south shore and most of the west end of the lake. Less invasive Eurasian milfoil occurs in these areas than was found in the 2016 investigation of the east end of the lake, particularly at Beulah Beach. However, the drone survey showed that Eurasian milfoil is much more extensive than was expected. The survey also found that the most common weed in the lake is Chara.
The 2016 survey identified at least eighty sample sites, with Eurasian or hybrid watermilfoil the most common invasive. This plant was observed to be particularly prevalent around the boat launching sites in Beulah and at Mollineaux Road, which suggests the weeds are being carried from other lakes by visiting watercraft.
The CLWA Aquatic Weed Survey is being conducted under the auspices of the Michigan Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program and is intended to update a study done in 2008. It aims to compare the amount and type of weeds and determine if beds are beginning or expanding and if treatment is needed. The identification and control of invasive species has been a long-time concern of the CLWA, leading to the construction of the boat washing station at the Mollineaux Road launch site in 2013. Dr. Jo Latimore of Michigan State University, who oversaw the launch of the survey in 2016, commented, "I've never had the pleasure of working with a more organized crew!"
According to CLWA board member Jim Hamp, who led the survey, “Invasive plants and animals can easily out-compete and dominate native communities of plants, fish, mussels and snails, and radically change the populations and health of the ecosystem of the lake. This is already happening in Crystal Lake, and we are working to reverse the impact.”
For more resources on invasive species, go to: http://crystallakewatershed.org/water-quality/invasive-species
CLWA annual members meeting held on July 22
The CLWA's annual members meeting took place on July 22. There was a brief survey of the CLWA's ongoing projects to prevent invasive species, control swimmer's itch, monitor the quality of Crystal Lake's water, and protect the shoreline. Curt Blankespoor of Swimmer's Itch Solutions LLC presented the work he is doing on Crystal Lake this summer, primarily the trapping and location of merganser broods. A full report on his work will be posted here at the end of the summer. New board members and officers were elected. Read the draft minutes here.
Michigan Lake and Stream Associations names CLWA "Lake Association of the Year"
The CLWA received the Michigan Lake and Stream Associations' "Lake Association of the Year" award at the MLSA's 2017 annual conference, held at Crystal Mountain Resort on April 21-22.The citation recognized the CLWA for its "outstanding leadership, teamwork and dedication to preserving and protecting Michigan's freshwater heritage for future generations." During the conference, the CLWA hosted an exhibit booth that featured its ongoing survey of aquatic plants on Crystal Lake, and highlighted other programs such as boat washing and the annual school Walkabout.
SICON LLC reports on 2016 swimmer's itch research program
During the summer of 2016, CLWA contracted with SICON LLC to implement a multi-faceted pilot program of swimmer's itch research and assessment on Crystal Lake. In September they submitted a report to the CLWA on their season's work, which includes several important conclusions:
Only one species of snail (Stagnicola emarginata) harbors the SI parasite. The primary waterfowl carrying SI parasites is the common merganser.
The severity of SI presence, as reflected in the infected snails, is generally low in comparison to other northwest Michigan inland lakes for which data exists. However, the ten sites around the lake that were sampled varied widely in the severity of their snail infection rate. The factors that determine this variability have not yet been identified.
The full report is available here. Additional results from lab analyses of cercariae and lake water are expected in the coming weeks.
SICON LLC, led by Dr. Curt Blankespoor from the University of Michigan and Ron Reimink, a biologist, is an organization that carries out research on swimmer’s itch and conducts control programs on inland lakes. It has previously provided effective swimmer's itch control programs for Glen and Higgins lakes. SICON’s website includes information on swimmer’s itch and control methods and provides a system for reporting SI cases.
CLWA is now evaluating the results of SICON’s 2016 program to decide whether it should be expanded into a broader control program during the summer of 2017.
Map showing sites where SICON collected snail samples.
Approved Watershed Plan points the way to future protection of Crystal Lake
The never-ending work of protecting northwest Michigan’s water received a major boost in September with federal approval of the Betsie River/Crystal Lake Watershed Management Plan. The document calls for investing more than $17 million in projects to protect lakes and streams in the 240-square-mile watershed, which extends from Frankfort Harbor on Lake Michigan to Interlochen and Mayfield Township in Grand Traverse County.
In its approval, the United States Environmental Protection Agency did not make any review comments, an indication of a "very good plan," according to district representatives of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, who also judged it a "well-written document that provides an appropriate mix of both broad and focused actions needed to protect the watershed's environmental quality."
This achievement marks a transition – not an end to the process – said plan co-author Ed Hoogterp, past-president of the Crystal Lake & Watershed Association (CLWA). “In the planning stage, the Steering Committee identified problems in the watershed and developed strategies for addressing them,” Hoogterp said. “Now, we move to the next phase, where we work to put the plans into action. This approval means the state and federal folks agree with our priorities and are ready to help. But the responsibility to make it happen still rests with our local communities.”
While the overall quality of the watershed is good, the 450-page plan calls for spending to address such ongoing problems as eroding bridges and culverts. pollution from fertilizers and septic systems, bacterial contamination on public beaches, swimmer’s itch, and the spread of aquatic invasive species. It also recommends protection of resources including groundwater, wetlands, forested slopes and other sensitive sites which can have an impact on water quality.
The WMP was completed through a $162,000 grant to Networks Northwest (formerly the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments) with CLWA as a subcontractor. Partners represented on the Steering Committee included the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, Conservation Resource Alliance, Benzie Conservation District, Green Lake and Duck Lake Association, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Friends of Betsie Bay, and state and local government agencies. CLWA President Joel Buzzell chaired the Steering Committee, while Hoogterp and Networks Northwest regional planner Scott Gest compiled the maps, data and other plan elements for review by the Steering Committee.
Watershed Planning is a requirement of the federal Clean Water Act. Approval by EPA means that implementation of the plan will be eligible for state and federal grant funding over the 10-year life of the document. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality endorsed the WMP earlier this summer.
The Betsie River/Crystal Lake Watershed Management Plan may be viewed or downloaded at the Networks Northwest website. Printed copies will be distributed to libraries and township agencies.