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Invasive species impacting Lake Leelanau; cleanup efforts underway

An aquatic invasive species is growing in Lake Leelanau as the local lake association is working to slow the spread.

The Lake Leelanau Lake Association has been working to remove an invasive species called Eurasion Water Millfoil. The invasive species forms thick mats over the water that kills plants and is so dense boats can get stuck. In the fall when it dies, it decomposes and uses up all the oxygen in the water which has detrimental impacts to fish.

Lake Leelanau is in the middle of Leelanau County and has been the home for many fisherman and tourists to recreate. The President of the Lake Leelanau Lake Association Nancy Popa said the lake is “really important to the economy and the ecology.”


“This is one of the most pristine lakes in North America and we certainly want to keep it that way,” Popa stated.

The lake association has partnered with the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians to deploy burlap over the invasive species. The burlap prevents light from reaching the plant which keeps it from growing.

“For the last three years we’ve been working day and night all summer long with dive teams, three boats, thousands and thousands of yards of burlap,” Popa explained. “We’re laying it on the floor of the lake and so far we’ve had really good results.”

The Lake Association’s Stewardship Chairman, Lonnie Rademacher, said boaters can help slow the spread too. He explained that once boaters are out of the water to wash their boat. He said it will take just three minutes and will stop aquatic invasive species from spreading to other waterways.


“The Lake Association feels that if we give boaters the correct tools, that boaters will do the right thing. Not only is it important to Lake Leelanau, it’s important to the surrounding lakes,” Rademacher said.

The Lake Leelanau Lake Association hopes to have four boat washing stations spread out around the lake by the end of the year.

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