Pilot project to study control method for Eurasian Milfoil on four Sudbury lakes

Four lakes in Greater Sudbury — Ramsey, Richard, St Charles and Long Lakes — will be part of a pilot project this summer focusing on control methods for the invasive aquatic plant, Eurasian Water Milfoil.

Two test sites set up on each of Ramsey, St Charles, Richard and Long Lake using benthic barriers

A summer pilot project to be conducted on four lakes in Greater Sudbury will study control methods for Eurasian Water Milfoil, using benthic barriers. (Martin Bilodeau/Radio-Canada)

Charles Ramcharan is hoping a summer pilot project will find answers to how to reduce Eurasian Water Milfoil.

The invasive aquatic plant first turned up in Ontario in the 1960s, and has spread to about 18 to 20 lakes in Greater Sudbury.

It shades other aquatic plants, reduces oxygen in the water for fish and other creatures, and the thick mats of greenery get in the way of people who just want to enjoy a day out on the lake.

The invader is hard to remove because attempting to break up the stems scatters pieces of the plant further, causing it to spread.

But some jurisdictions, like Upstate New York, have been successful at killing Eurasian Water Milfoil with benthic barriers.

That's the method Ramcharan, a professor of aquatic ecology at Laurentian University and lead on the pilot project, will attempt this summer on Ramsey, St Charles, Richard and Long Lakes.

Ramcharan compares the benthic barrier to how landscape cloth works.

"This is where you put some type of material on the bottom of the lake to cover the sediment so the plants can't grow up," he said.

"Unfortunately it kills all of the plants that are underneath."

Charles Ramcharan is an aquatic ecology professor at Laurentian University, and lead scientist on the pilot project this summer on four Sudbury lakes. (Samantha Samson/CBC News)

The pilot will use several different types of benthic barriers to keep the sun away from the plant life underneath.

Each body of water will have two test sites, with each test area measuring 2.4 metres square.

"It's a stop-gap measure until we can come up with a better solution."

Marker buoys will be attached to each test site, and lake users are asked not to disturb them.

"Our goal this summer is to find out do the barriers work, how effective are they, can we replant those areas with native aquatic plants?" Ramcharan said.

The team will replant those aquatic plants which had once been previously shaded by the Milfoil.

Ramcharan says he also wants to know if the benthic barriers will impact invertebrates that live in the sediment.

"It just spreads further and further"

It was the Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance that first approached Ramacharan about doing the pilot.

That group participates in the Aquatic Invasive Species committee with local stewardship committees from various lakes.

Scott Darling has lived on Long Lake for 60 years, and is the chair of the Long Lake Stewardship.

He says Eurasian Water Milfoil has spread throughout the entire body of water and residents are fed up.

"There is no way of eradicating milfoil once it gets into the lake."

"If we don't come up with some sort of solution, it just spreads further and further, so our hope is that we can demonstrate a control mechanism, and then come up with a commercial application that limits its spread."

Volunteers and a shoestring budget

Ramcharan says he has just $2,000 in a grant from Laurentian University to conduct the project.

That's why he calls this a "citizen science project." It will be getting help from three undergraduate grad students, as well as volunteers from the four lake stewardship groups.

"We become, as we call it, citizen scientists," Darling said.

"Understanding just the invasive aspect of Eurasian Milfoil and what we can do as individuals to try to prevent the spread."

There is an information session on the pilot project planned for 7 p.m. on Tues., June 25, at the Vale Living With Lake Centre on Ramsey Lake Road, in Room 202.

About the Author

Angela Gemmill


Angela Gemmill is a CBC journalist who has covered news in Sudbury, Ont., for 14 years. Connect with her on Twitter @AngelaGemmill. Send story ideas to


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