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Image from page 118 of “Coast watch” (1979)
Title: Coast watch
Identifier: coastwatch00uncs
Year: 1979 (1970s)
Authors: UNC Sea Grant College Program
Subjects: Marine resources; Oceanography; Coastal zone management; Coastal ecology
Publisher: [Raleigh, N. C. : UNC Sea Grant College Program]
Contributing Library: State Library of North Carolina
Digitizing Sponsor: North Carolina Digital Heritage Center

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A weed harvester manufactured by the Aquamarine Corp. at work on a Wisconsin lake. Looking at the solutions: a confusing array of choices clear the debris, providing immediate relief for clogged waterways and offended eyes. Mowing and harvesting would have to be repeated, perhaps several times a season, and the machines are still slow—a good machine can cover an acre an hour, according to expert Don Livermore of the Univer- sity of Wisconsin. "Mechanically harvesting 80,000 acres is too much to think about," Livermore confessed. "It boggles the mind." Mowing and harvesting limited areas is con- ceivable, although the machines are expensive. A single harvesting system costs between $50,000 to $100,000, according to C. Brate Bryant, president of the harvester-producing company Aquamarine Corporation. But community groups and counties have purchased them for use on Wisconsin Lakes, he said. In North Carolina, however, counties are not allowed to spend ad valoreum tax money, and prob- ably not any tax money, for any type of aquatic plant control, according to Ron Aycock, attorney for the N.C. Association of County Commissioners. The state has the authority but has not set aside any funds for milfoil control. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can also take on the milfoil battle but only at the request of state or local governments. And any Corps project must be justified on a cost- benefit ratio, according to spokesman Otis Johnson. The financial problems associated with milfoil harvesting might disappear if an economic use could be found for the weed. "If they found a way for it to make people money, there wouldn’t be a sprig left in a year," predicted Coinjock resident Marcus Griggs. Research is underway to find cheaper and more efficient ways of harvesting and to find ways to economically convert milfoil into animal feed, silage (unfortunately, so far, cows hate the taste), fertilizer, compost and other products. Milfoil is also being investigated as a sewage treater and a methane gas supplier, according to Bryant, and is already used as a mulch. Since milfoil depends on light, another way to control the weed would be through shading. Plants such as lotus could be grown over the milfoil to block the light, suggested Ron Stanley, of the En- vironmental Protection Agency. "The milfoil would eventually go, but then you’d have water lotus which is just as difficult to get through," he said discouragingly. "Also it would take many years to stop the milfoil here because lotus grows very slowly." (See "Coping," page i) To the rescue .. Sea Grant tackles the milfoil problem So what do we do about milfoil? UNC Sea Grant began meeting the milfoil prob- lem July 23 and 24 with a conference at the Marine Resources Center at Roanoke Island. State offi- cials and milfoil experts—both scientists and local residents—met and shared what they knew and didn’t know about the weed. Then S. E. Caroon, a spokesman for the Coinjock Ruritan Club, implored the gathering to provide the hard data needed to get some action. "Currituck Sound is Currituck County’s greatest asset and Currituck Sound is sick. It’s sick and it needs help." "I am convinced that people in Raleigh don’t really know how acute the problem is," Caroon told the group. "We who live along the Sound have only the Currituck Sound as our laboratory. Our tools are our eyes, our nose and the taking of life from the Sound. That’s all we have. We know we have a problem, an environmental problem for the people living along the shore of Currituck Sound." "It’s become obvious to me we need your help. We need you to come down and see what we’re talking about. And come in the right season. Come in the fall when Currituck Sound around Churches Island is like a septic tank, a cess pool. It’s not fit to live near." "Currituck Sound is Currituck County’s great- est asset and Currituck Sound is sick," added L. C. Barrow. "It’s sick and it needs help and it needs help beyond what we can do locally." If funding is approved, UNC Sea Grant’s first step toward helping Caroon and his neighbors will be to experimentally mow and harvest selected areas of milfoil next spring to study the growth and regrowth of the weed during a two-year period. Areas will also be sprayed with herbicides and studied. Coping with milfoil. . . (Continued from page S) Black plastic could be spread on the milfoil or black dye dumped in the water, but neither method is particularly practical for Currituck Sound, ad- mitted ECU biologist Graham Davis. A more promising, but still experimental, solu- tion involves using natural milfoil predators. The white amur fish, for example, could be introduced in the Currituck Sound to eat away the milfoil problem. There is no guarantee, though, that the amur—a distant cousin of the minnow although it grows to over 100 pounds—would stop eating once the milfoil course was through. Similar problems exist with other natural biological controls like the paraponyx moth and sea cow. At the same time, Sea Grant researchers will be exploring potential milfoil uses, studying the rela- tionship of milfoil to water quality and determin- ing the impact of milfoil on bass and other im- portant species such as spot, bluegills and carp. The "edge effect" of milfoil will be investigated to see what happens to fish and plants when selected areas are mowed in the middle of a milfoil patch. Finally, Sea Grant will try to attach some eco- nomic values to Currituck Sound and to the impact of milfoil and different milfoil controls, since any action would have to be justified in terms of money. "Milfoil is probably doomed to failure," said B. J. Copeland, Director of the UNC Sea Grant College Program. "But the question is when will the failure occur and can we put up with it while it’s here? If we are expected to deal with the prob- lem, there has to be a gelling of what the problem is and what the choices of action are." For a copy of the proceedings of the milfoil con- ference, write UNC Sea Grant, 1235 Burlington Labs, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C. 27607.

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