Eco-Harvester Pledge Drive is QLIA’s Top Priority in Fall 2018

Eco-Harvester Pledge Drive is QLIA's Top Priority in Fall 2018

DATE: October 17, 2018 (Updated 10/18/18 at 8:35 p.m.)

TO: All Members of the Quiet Lakes Improvement Association (QLIA)

FROM: Dave Neuswanger, QLIA President and Executive Committee Chair

SUBJECT: Critical Deadline for Pledges toward Purchase of Mechanical Weed Puller

At the Annual Meeting of the Quiet Lakes Improvement Association (QLIA) on July 29, 2018, we initiated a pledge drive to raise $75,000 by November 1 so we can order an Eco-Harvester aquatic plant puller in early December and place it into operation in spring of 2019. The Executive Committee believes this is the only viable option to effectively control invasive Hybrid Eurasian Water Milfoil (HEWM) in Lost Land Lake, and contain it before it spreads to Teal, Ghost, and other nearby lakes.

Eco-Harvester Pledge Drive Form

As of October 18, 2018 at 8:35 p.m., we have received pledges totaling $18,400 from 37 individuals representing 18 QLIA family memberships (see list below). Thanks to all these foresighted members for their prudent acts of civic responsibility. It is my hope that many of the remaining 160 family memberships (90% of total) will join the early birds (10% of total) in pledging to donate the funds needed to buy this critical piece of equipment. If we are to succeed, those who share the benefits must also share the responsibilities.

Eco-Harvester Pledge Drive Supporters as of October 18, 2018 at 8:35 p.m., listed in chronological order by date of submission:

Dave, Sandy, and Bryan Neuswanger on 7/29/18 – $1,000
Carole and Richard Dujmovic on 7/29/18 – $1,000
Fred and Peggy Haueter on 7/29/18 – $1,000
Orlin Johnson and Gail Nicholson on 7/29/18 – $1,000
Wish to Remain Anonymous on 7/29/18 – $1,000
Bob and Sue Dale on 8/2/18 – $1,000
Lynn and Donna Wulf on 8/10/18 – $500
Brenda Brueske Kolve (Cable Chiropractic) on 8/15/18 – $100
Wish to Remain Anonymous on 8/23/18 – $300
Ray and Kay Schafer on 8/23/18 – $1,000
Dan and Jane Brandenstein on 9/5/18 – $500
Nancy and Dane Skow, and Jerry Kuchta on 9/15/18 – $1,000
Dave and Mary Kallal on 9/18/18 – $1,000
Dan and Jan Gavin on 10/12/18 – $1,000
Donna and Jim Nickel on 10/12/18 – $500
John and Emily Sleichter on 10/17/18 – $2,000
Laura and Rick Zaksas on 10/17/18 – $500
Wendy and Guy Franzese on 10/17/18 – $2,000
John and Sue Grady on 10/17/18 – $1,000
Gary and Michelle Keil 10/18/18 – $1,000

The relatively slow start to this pledge drive is my fault. I placed too much trust in this relatively new website as a platform to communicate our needs and solicit pledges. In recent conversations with supportive friends who do not visit the website regularly, or have trouble navigating it successfully, I have learned that many folks who want to pledge have been unable to locate the pledge drive form online. Therefore, everything you read on this home page has also been sent by e-mail or U.S. Postal Service to all QLIA members on October 17, 2017.

If you wish to make a pledge, simply click on the link below, print the attached PDF form (will need Adobe Acrobat reader installed on your device), and mail it to the listed post office box in Hayward or scan it and e-mail the completed form to me at dneuswanger@gmail.com. Please do not send money yet. We will ask for money only if we reach the $75,000 pledge drive goal. If you wish your pledge (and ultimately your donation) to remain confidential, check the appropriate box on the form.

Eco-Harvester Pledge Drive Form

As of October 18 at 8:35 p.m., we still need pledges totaling $56,600 by early November in order to be relatively assured of procuring the weed puller in time for late spring operations (optimal time period for effective HEWM removal) in 2019. Prospective donors must step up, and soon. I urge all members to make a pledge in proportion to your capacity to afford such support. We expect the amount to vary with each membership, which is fine. Other potential sources of funding that I contact for support will want to know that riparian landowners have significant “skin in the game,” so numbers matter almost as much as amounts. All we ask is that you pledge what you can reasonably afford in order to keep our lakes navigable and healthy.

I know we can do this. And we should not have to go it alone. Before this pledge drive is over, I will solicit financial help from the Quiet Lakes Tourism Association, the Township of Spider Lake, Walleyes for Northwest Wisconsin, the Hayward Lakes Chapter of Muskies, Inc., and the Northwestern Wisconsin District of the Wisconsin Realtors Association. We may also be eligible for a Wisconsin Recreational Facilities Boating Grant (RFBG) which would be awarded only after purchasing the Eco-Harvester and submitting an application for partial reimbursement (up to 35%) by the February 1, 2019 application deadline. If we raise enough funds to buy the Eco-Harvester outright, the Executive Committee will seriously consider refunding up to 35% of all donations targeted to its purchase, depending on whatever reimbursement may or may not be approved under the RFBG program after their Advisory Board meets in mid-April of 2019. In summary, we promise to do everything we can to leverage QLIA member dollars in raising the full amount needed to buy a mechanical weed puller and effectively manage our HEWM problem.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q: Why must we BUY this machine? Why not just RENT it, as needed, from a dealer or another nearby lake association? Or why not share the cost with another lake association?

A: There are no franchise dealers of Eco-Harvester. These custom machines are not sitting on a commercial lot somewhere pending sale or rental. If you need one, you must order it, make a non-refundable down payment, and wait for several months while they build it for you. The nearest lake association that owns and operates an Eco-Harvester (Chetek Chain of Lakes) uses it every day throughout the summer to skim duckweed and filamentous green algae from the surface of their nutrient-enriched lakes. It is not available when we would need it most during the optimal weeks in late spring when HEWM is most readily pulled out by the roots without also pulling lots of non-target native plants. For similar reasons, we would not want to share the cost of purchase and ownership with another lake association due to liability issues and high probability of timing conflicts. There are only a few weeks each year when operating conditions are optimal. We will need it when we need it. In summary, neither renting the machine ourselves nor renting it out to others are viable options.

Q: Could this large, one-time equipment purchase be funded by a loan to be repaid with future income or donations over the next several years?

A: Currently we do not think a loan is possible, but we would be reluctant to borrow tens of thousands of dollars even if we could find a willing lender. We have no collateral. We hold no physical assets against which a lending institution could place a lien. The Eco-Harvester itself would probably not qualify simply because it is such a rare piece of equipment. We suspect no responsible lender would want to be stuck with something so difficult to sell after repossessing it if we defaulted on our loan payments. Also, we have no guaranteed income. Even if a lender were to give us the benefit of the doubt on voluntary dues payments, we take in only $3,000 annually in dues. Assuming we could borrow $50,000 for 5 years at 4.5% APR, our loan payments would be $932.15 monthly and $11,185.80 annually. We cannot imagine that a lender would simply trust that we could generate enough income from donations every year for five years to make up the $8,000 difference between $3,000 in annual “income” (from dues) and $11,000+ in annual loan payments. Who would co-sign the loan, and who would be liable for repayment if the organization defaulted on the loan due to lack of member support? That said, there are no finance professionals currently serving on the QLIA Executive Committee. Any QLIA member with expertise in finance is encouraged to contact us if you believe we are making a mistake to dismiss the possibility of borrowing money to fund all or part of this purchase.

Q: Why us? Why doesn’t the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources handle this?

A: For aquatic plant management, WDNR has only General Purpose Revenue (GPR) funding appropriated by the State Legislature. There is no federal funding. Minor GPR funding for WDNR personnel to actively manage aquatic plants in the state’s 15,000 lakes disappeared in budget cuts over a decade ago. Currently WDNR uses their limited GPR funding to support highly competitive cost-share grants for plant surveys, boat ramp inspections, planning activities, and a handful of nuisance plant control operations if conducted under an approved Lake Management Plan. We have tapped those sources already by experimenting with chemical control and developing our 2017 Aquatic Plant Management Plan (click on link below), which calls for mechanical control of HEWM. Implementation is up to local entities like QLIA.

Quiet Lakes Aquatic Plant Management Plan 5-5-17

Q: Why us? What about lake residents and users who do not even belong to QLIA?

A: We (the Executive Committee) do not have time to contact all potential members and implore them to join QLIA. At our Annual Meeting in July, Terry Conroy of Boulder Lodge suggested that every member visit personally with their neighbors and offer a Membership Application Form (available online) to non-members. Whatever the outcome, let’s be proactive and control what we can, rather than waiting for everyone else to join and contribute.

Q: Why not try winter drawdowns like they do on the Chippewa Flowage, in part to control nuisance aquatic plants?

A: We have no water control structure to significantly alter the levels of Lost Land and Teal lakes. There is a rock dam that slightly impounds the Teal River Flowage downstream of Teal Lake, but there are no valves, stop-logs, or other water level control structures. Drawdown is not an option.

Q: Why not try some biological control method to eliminate the Hybrid Eurasian Water Milfoil?

A: Biological control is the first option we explored. In a nutshell, the only known biological control is an aquatic weevil that selectively eats milfoil but is highly vulnerable to predation by bluegill. WDNR fishery surveys reveal that we have an over-population of bluegills in Lost Land Lake. No number of introduced weevils will have any impact whatsoever on the HEWM in our lake. The bluegills would virtually eliminate them within days. There is no way to reduce the bluegills enough to matter.

Q: Why not contract a chemical applicator to control the Hybrid Eurasian Water Milfoil?

A: We tried that twice and failed both times. Chemical control will not be cost-effective. The first attempt in spring of 2015 was ineffective because 2,4-D (recommended by a consultant we no longer use) was the wrong chemical to use in spot-treating HEWM. The dilution factor around scattered patches of HEWM in open water did not allow the required 30-day contact period at an effective concentration. HEWM exhibited little impact. Our late spring 2017 application of Diquat Dibromide to several patches of HEWM in just under 10 acres of water had the intended effect of killing over 90% of HEWM along with associated native plants; and desirable native plants re-colonized the treatment areas by late summer with little evidence of HEWM. We were cautiously optimistic that Diquat Dibromide (sold as Reward herbicide) might be the answer until HEWM came roaring back in early July of 2018 in all 2017 treatment areas, while expanding significantly into new areas of Lost Land Lake. In 2017, Diquat Dibromide application cost more than $600/acre. I conservatively estimate that HEWM has now expanded to at least 20 acres in Lost Land Lake. Treatment of this area would cost at least $12,000 annually. QLIA’s income from member dues is only about $3,000 annually. With or without unreliable and administratively burdensome cost-share grants from WDNR, our budget cannot sustain an annual $12,000 operating cost. The potential fiscal burden would likely increase over time as HEWM spreads to other areas, as it did in 2018 despite the 2017 treatment. Despite some valid concerns expressed about the unknown effects of long-term chemical application, most Executive Committee members are not philosophically opposed to a careful chemical treatment strategy. But we’ve learned from experience that such a strategy simply isn’t cost-effective. Therefore, we are done “pouring sand down the rat hole” of chemical treatment.

Q: Won’t a noisy mechanical weed harvester make the problem worse by cutting HEWM into numerous small fragments that float away on wind-driven currents to take root elsewhere?

A: In a word, no. Not the Eco-Harvester. Unlike the old-style, noisy, diesel-powered, prop-driven mechanical weed harvesters used to cut weeds (like a sickle-bar brush cutter), the Eco-Harvester operates with a quiet, gas-powered generator that powers a shallow, paddle-wheel propulsion system and a bow-mounted, vertically adjustable rolling drum that extracts tall plants by the roots (rather than cutting them) and loads them into a storage bin with a patented conveyor system. Floating fragments are negligible and can be removed completely by operating the Eco-Harvester in “skimmer mode” after pulling all HEWM in an infested area. Your Executive Committee has done its homework on this, including a field trip to the Chetek Chain of Lakes to observe the Eco-Harvester in action. We learned of Eco-Harvester’s many innovative and easy-to-use features from volunteer operators on the Chetek Chain. On a good day with a boat ramp nearby, it may be possible to harvest HEWM from up to 10 acres of water per day. You can learn all about the Eco-Harvester by visiting the “Mechanical Control” sub-page of the “Aquatic Plants” page of this website.

Q: If we buy this Eco-Harvester mechanical weed puller, who is going to insure it, operate it, trailer it, store it, and maintain it; and might those costs be prohibitive?

A: QLIA will insure the equipment and license the custom trailer that comes with the harvester. We are counting on volunteers to operate it – chief among them QLIA Vice-President and Aquatic Invasive Species Program Leader, Norm Bratteig. We suspect others will want the two-hour training required to operate it safely and effectively. Norm has also offered to keep it docked at his place when not in use, and to store it in a large machine shed overwinter – all at no cost to QLIA. Maintenance of this well-engineered equipment will be minimal (mostly aluminum and stainless steel), and all minor operating costs (fuel, oil, etc.) will be paid from the QLIA operating budget.

Q: What are we going to do with tons of dead aquatic plants once harvested?

A: Norm Bratteig has a dump trailer that we can back down to any nearby boat ramp where the Eco-Harvester can conveniently offload plants by reversing the conveyor system. Other lake associations who have used mechanical harvesters have had no problem finding private entities nearby to take the harvested plants for mulch. We must obtain a permit from WDNR for transportation and proper disposal. We are confident we can cross this bridge if and when we get to it.

Q: Are we over-reacting to the threat here? Can’t we just wait and see how this problem develops before committing so much time and treasure to its solution?

A: Our “wait-and-see” years are over. We have “tried and seen” already. We will soon enter the “monitor-and-regret” phase of this invasion if we don’t act decisively. In 2018 we watched HEWM come roaring back after a 2017 chemical treatment – probably doubling the infested area in one year. If HEWM continues to expand at or near that rate, here is what we can expect in the next 5-10 years:

– A potential decline in property value of ~16%. That was the average reduction in lakeshore property sales prices in lakes infested with HEWM in two rigorous socio-economic studies – one in northeastern Wisconsin (13% in Vilas County) and one in Washington State (19% in the Seattle area). If this sounds like hyperbolic rhetoric to you, please read the reports (available on the “Milfoil ID and Impacts” sub-page of our “Aquatic Plants” page) at www.quietlakes.org and judge for yourself. The average sales price of property around Lost Land and Teal lakes has been just over $300,000 in recent years. Are you prepared to see that decline to $255,000? Would you donate $1,000 now in order to reduce the very real risk of a $45,000 personal property devaluation over the next 5-10 years? Wouldn’t most financial advisors consider that a prudent investment?

– A notable decline in the quality of pontoon boating, kayaking, and fishing. Imagine hundreds of acres of Lost Land Lake (and Teal if it should spread there) where HEWM has “topped out” and is laying horizontally across the surface in a dense mat that is virtually impossible to drive through, paddle through, or fish in. And if you should run into such a patch, chances are good you will inadvertently fragment some stems that will float off to start HEWM beds elsewhere.
Fishing over the tops of popular weed bars with surface lures for muskies could become a thing of the past. Excellent native aquatic plants like large-leaf pondweed (also called large cabbage or “musky” weed) and clasping-leaf pondweed (also called small cabbage) could be replaced by dense thickets of HEWM that do not offer the type of “plant architecture” that promotes healthy fish community interaction. It could become impossible to fish for “weed walleyes” on those bars, too, except for fish that may occasionally swim alongside the vertical “weed walls” formed by HEWM. Many of the things we love about our lakes could change for the worse if HEWM is allowed to become the dominant plant species.

To join the pledge drive, please download, print, and complete the form below:

Eco-Harvester Pledge Drive Form

You can mail it to our post office box in Hayward, or scan and e-mail it to Dave Neuswanger (QLIA President) at dneuswanger@gmail.com. Any additional questions, feel free to give Dave a call at 715-462-4485. We need your support now. Thank you!