This drone image shows a linear “aquatic garden” just off Inspiration Point on Big Glen Lake. What will this same location look like in two years?
GLA, in partnership with Zero Gravity, LLC and owner Dennis Wiand, now has the 2019 shoreline survey data available for analysis. In today’s world, drone technology has proven to be very helpful in benchmarking our shoreline as well as helps us learn critical information about shorelines of the Glens and Fishers as well as the Hatlem Creek sub-watershed.
Using high resolution imagery and from a “birds eye view,” those shorelines will again be evaluated in a variety of ways and noting the changes from our first survey done in 2017. What will we be looking for? More than you might think!
We will be looking for evidence of shoreline erosion, measuring shoreline buffer health, finding locations for invasive plants– both aquatic and land-based– and riparian practices that play out in both good and not so good ways as it relates to our lake health.
For example, looking for what works best for lake health, we like to count how many riparians are using lake water irrigation for their shoreline buffer, hoping to find that there are more systems being used now compared to two years ago. In this case, the more systems the better versus using well water to feed your irrigation system. Remember, using a lake water irrigation system eliminates the need for fertilizers in our sandy soils, and protects our groundwater that ultimately feeds our lake.
Another example of looking at the data is to find the locations where there are engineered sea walls made of wood, steel, or concrete. Our hope is that we will see fewer sea walls this year compared to two years ago. Engineered sea walls are not the best way to protect your shoreline from erosion and more lake friendly choices are available for your consideration.
The GLA would also like to monitor our aquatic gardens for the presence or absence of aquatic invasive plants. We are keenly interested in how the size of aquatic gardens have changed. All lakes depend on aquatic gardens to produce needed oxygen in the water so life can flourish, so monitoring the area they occupy is important as we evaluate the health of our lake.
Stay tuned in future emails about what the 2019 shoreline survey data will reveal. In some cases, the data may affect you directly or in other cases it may serve as a way for you to learn more about not only your shoreline, but what is happening around all the other neighboring shorelines.
Have you heard of “Gateway Communities?” Glen Arbor and other nearby cities and villages are called Gateway Communities due to their proximity to a national park. Learn more of what it means at these upcoming conferences.
Tuesday, September 24th
Glen Arbor Township Meeting Hall
Business Owners/Entrepreneurs Meeting – 9:30 to 11:00 AM
Board Workshop- 12:30 to 2:00 pm
Municipal Organizations/ Non-Profit Groups/Residents – 3:30 to 5:00 PM
Wednesday, September 25th
The Garden Theater, Frankfort, MI
Municipal Organizations/ Non-Profit Groups/Residents – 9:30 to 11:00 AM
Board Workshop – 12:30 to 2:00 PM
Business Owners/Entrepreneurs Meeting – 3:30 to 5:00 PM
For additional information on Gateway Communities, their issues and opportunities, click here: SBGC Talking Points
Yes! Our lakes are special but did you know that when it comes to Swimmer’s Itch, Glen Lake is not unique? Nearly all “up north” lakes have some form of the itch; in fact this is the case on a global scale. A well-documented ecological zone of itch-causing worms exists at or near the 45th parallel and not just across North America, but Europe as well. So what can we do?
Management to reduce itch remains an important part of our strategy. GLA removed record numbers of broods this year. 171 mergansers from 17 broods were relocated, while on other nearby lakes, there were zero to two broods. Why are our numbers so much higher than other lakes in the region? It may be that the great August storm of 2015 created an abundance of nesting habitat, making our watershed irresistible to merganser ducks. And we’ve continued to receive unprecedented reports of new broods into August! Is it possible that hens that evade capture with their chicks are capable of producing a second brood in a season? These highly intelligent and adaptable waterfowl continue to provide scientific mysteries to solve.
Even with our best efforts to control the issue, it is clear that parasites causing Swimmer’s Itch will continue to persist in the natural environment. Our ecosystem is more complex than we ever imagined. As of last year our research efforts identified six different worms (one was a newly-discovered species!) with 3 different host birds in our watershed alone. So what else have we learned and what can we do to avoid the unpleasant side effects of exposure? The snails that shed the itch-causing worms live on the bottom and need light to survive. In the ever clearer waters of our lakes they have been found in water up to 8 feet deep, so swim very deep! The light seeking worms are shed by snails in the morning, quickly moving to the surface where they hope to find their preferred bird host. Avoid swimming before noon! Preferably swimming after 4 pm when worm numbers will have dropped significantly. The worms concentrate in the upper 18-24 inches of water and are easily moved by wind. Do not enter the water if there is an onshore wind at your location. The wind can accumulate very high numbers of worms at the shore. Some swimmers have reported application of waterproof sunscreen or baby oil before entering the water and applying hand sanitizer and/or vigorously toweling off when leaving the water to be helpful. But not all worm species are created equal and given the wide variety of itch causing worms in our watershed these methods are only partially effective.
So after all that, what can you do if you still get “the itch”? Treat it just like you would an annoying batch of mosquito bites. Avoid scratching! Scratching or breaking open the skin will increase the itchy sensation, prolong recovery and can lead to a secondary skin infection. Use a topical itch relief product such as an ice pack or hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion or other anti-itch cream. Take an
oral anti-histamine such as Benadryl for general itch relief. Remember that while in more severe cases the “spots” can remain visible for weeks, the itchy sensation should subside after a few days with no lasting effect. Take appropriate measures to “Swim Smart” and keep enjoying the water!
It has been said that, “if you want to go quickly, go alone – but if you want to go far, go together.” It is widely believed that the Leelanau Conservancy has been and continues to be a wonderful and vital partner in our mission to preserve and protect our watershed. They use tools like “conservation easements” and “donated land” that turn into preserves to help us protect our surface and groundwater resources.
For example, the Leelanau Conservancy has helped us preserve a large part of the wetlands that make up our Hatlem Creek Preserve sub-watershed which affords clear, clean water flowing into Big Glen. Further, the Palmer Woods Preserve in the uplands of our watershed has been managed in such a way that it will be protected from development thereby protecting valuable groundwater that ends up in our lakes. In addition, some of the Crystal River Wetlands are now protected from development and combine with the boundaries of the national park giving our delicate Crystal River the protection that it deserves as evidence by the clear water that some of us take for granted.
The conservancy also can work with individual landowners in our watershed in an effort to preserve the natural shorelines that filter out excess nutrients that can cause our lake to deteriorate. If you would like to consider a “conservation easement” (a legal agreement between a landowner and the conservancy that permanently limits a propter’s use in order to protect its conservation values) for your property, why not consider setting up a meeting with their staff and consider how you, too, might contribute to the mission of preserving and protecting our watershed.
Bring a neighbor or friend to our annual meeting Saturday, August 10. The program will include the state of the lake report, a brief business meeting, strategic plan update and recognition awards. Lunch will follow and there will be free wildflower seed bombs for all!
Held at the Glen Lake Community Church, 4902 W. MacFarland Rd. in Glen Arbor, the meeting begins at 10 am.
The Glen Lake Association is a member of the Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program (CLMP) which is a volunteer inland lakes water quality monitoring program. Every week during the summer volunteers measure water clarity (secchi disk visibility depth) and at various specified dates sample for phosphorus and Chlorophyll. We measure and sample on Big and Little Glen, Brooks, and Big Fisher lakes.
The CLMP website has data on Big Glen data going back to 1979 for secchi depths and to 2001 for chlorophyll and phosphorus. Water clarity has been improving on Big and Little Glen giving it that look of the blue Mediterranean. You might think this is a good thing, but maybe not Clarity is affected by suspended solids and algae. We believe clarity is increasing due to the removal of zooplankton and algae by zebra or quagga mussels. This means less food for small fish and greater depth where aquatic plants can grow. Our lakes have a lot of mussels. When we do our yearly invasive aquatic plant survey, we often bring up small mussels attached to the plants.
The following chart shows the numbers.
Phosphorus levels for Big Glen are averaging about 4 parts per billion over the last 18 years, dropping slightly. This is very good, indicating that we don’t have a lot of fertilizer or septic runoff into the lake. Some phosphorus is essential for plant and algae growth which is food for fish. Our level is very low.
Chlorophyll is the pigment that allows plants (including algae) to use sunlight to convert simple molecules into organic compounds via the process of photosynthesis. Measuring chlorophyll concentrations in water is a surrogate for actually measuring algae biomass.
The chlorophyll has been steady at less than 1 part per billion for 18 years. These are very low levels which indicates little fertilizer and septic runoff.
In some lakes, as septic systems get older and homes are upsized and lived in for more of the year, phosphorus and chlorophyll levels ramp up. This has not happened to Big Glen. The same is true for Little Glen, Brooks and Big Fisher lakes.
For the last 30 years, controlling Swimmer’s Itch used to be more simple – one duck, one snail, one parasite. Break the life cycle of the parasite that uses Common Mergansers and Stagnicola snails and you’re on your way to having a respectable lake-wide control of Swimmer’s Itch.
Unfortunately, based on last summer’s outbreak of itch despite our efforts, we now fear that itch on Glen Lake it is no longer that simple.
– Are other ducks, geese or swans contributing to the itch by serving as hosts to multiple species of itch causing worms?
– Are migrant waterfowl in the spring and fall contributing to the itch that undermines the effort of trapping and relocating resident merganser broods?
In order to unravel the mystery of the complex issues surrounding Swimmer’s Itch, we need to conduct weekly waterfowl surveys on Big and Little Glen lakes.
Waterfowl Survey Defined:
What does a waterfowl survey entail? Our surveys include weekly boat rides around the shoreline where we record the numbers and locations of any ducks, geese, and swans. Also, we attempt to collect fresh fecal samples of the waterfowl on docks, analyze the samples in the lab, and determine which parasite is in what bird (there are at least five different parasites that cause itch in our lake).
Three surveys have been completed so far. The surveys will continue throughout the summer and end the first week in November. GLA has developed a three-member waterfowl survey team that includes Rob Karner, Watershed Biologist along with our summer intern Cecelia Denton and our GLA assistant for water quality studies Laura Wiesen.
It is our hope that the waterfowl survey, together with the water sampling program that was mentioned in the last email blast, along with the help and expertise of Freshwater Solutions, the mysteries of Swimmer’s Itch will be solved. Stay tuned in December of 2019 for a full report of our findings and what it may all mean for managing Swimmer’s Itch in the future.
For more information, contact Rob Karner at email@example.com.
Cecelia Denton and Laura Wiesen are part of survey team.