Lose the Loosestrife! Purple Loosestrife Management along the Michigamme River
Spring 2020 to December 2024
Management of invasive species on a watershed scale can seem a daunting task, but the reality is that the pieces impact the whole and often times the management of even a select few of these pieces can improve the health of the entire watershed. For this proposed project, the infestations of invasive Purple Loosestrife along the Michigamme River are of particular focus. The Michigamme River represents a significant piece of the MRW, being one of the two rivers (along with the Brule River) that form the head waters of the system. At the confluence of these waters, the Menominee River is born. Therefore, before it even begins, the health and quality of the Menominee River is dependent on the condition of the systems that proceed it. In this instance, the Michigamme River is impacted by a persistent and fairly contiguous infestation of invasive Purple Loosestrife, which disrupts the biological productivity of the natural shoreline and, in turn, threatens to impact the entire MRW system.
However, since 2009, management efforts have been underway to slow the downstream spread of Purple Loosestrife and to prevent it from escaping into the Menominee River. WE Energies crews along with assistance from the Wild Rivers Invasive Species Coalition (WRISC) have been mapping and manually removing Purple Loosestrife twice each season from an approximately six-mile long section of the Michigamme River beginning at the Marquette/Dickinson County border down to where the river widens as it approaches the Michigamme Reservoir (Way Dam) near Sagola, MI. Extensive data relating to plant location, density, age, size, etc. has been obtained during these efforts. After compiling the multi-year data and presenting it in an annual report (Appendix B), it is suggested that the management is having a positive impact on the river system by reducing the number of stands, plants, and stems observed recently over several years. However it is also evident that an additional seed source must be present upstream, leading to reinfestation events. In additional survey work conducted in 2010 and several years after, large source populations were located upstream in the area of Republic, MI. Therefore, this proposed project identifies the need to expand this management effort beyond the lower reaches of the Michigamme and seeks to address the invasive seed source populating the river upstream.
To do this, several regional partners have come together in support of this project and to secure continuity and expansion of this management effort. The Wild Rivers Invasive Species Coalition (WRISC) and the Dickinson Conservation District (DCD) will act as the primary project team by being the main contact and administering the grant. The Lake2Lake CISMA (L2L) and the Marquette County Conservation District (MCCD) will constitute a second project team and the Western Peninsula Invasives Coalition (WePIC) and the Iron-Baraga Conservation District (IBCD) are included in the remaining team. Each Project Team will be responsible for survey and management efforts along one of three sections of the Michigamme River approximately seven (7) miles long each, beginning at the dam in Republic and continuing down to where the river outlets to the main reservoir basin (Appendix A).
The Project Teams will implement survey and management procedures comparable to those that have already been established by WE Energies crews. These procedures will involve two separate “river runs” for each year of the project where crews will canoe/kayak along the banks of the designated stretch to locate any and all Purple Loosestrife plants. Once located, these plants will be georeferenced, aged and counted, and then removed. Removal will be done by first cutting and bagging any flower heads and then digging and hand pulling of the main plant, which will then be bagged for later disposal. With assistance from WE Energies Nuisance Plant staff, formal protocol will be modified from existing WE Energies procedures.
Additionally, Project Teams will assess the natural regeneration of native vegetation from year to year at locations where manual removal of plants has occurred. If a management effort disturbs the shoreline to the point where the disturbance could serve as an opportunity for reinfestation or introduction of secondary invaders, or that it could result in erosion activity (exposed soil near water), young native plant species or native seed will be planted at the site. Native species will be selected to mimic the natural biodiversity of the system and will include species already present along the river. This restoration effort will be conducted alongside management and control during the same river run or in following years if an area is failing to rehabilitate naturally. The restoration effort proposed in this project is expected to compound with the active control and removal to increase the efficacy of the management of Purple Loosestrife along the Michigamme River. This integrated and adaptive approach highlights returning the ecosystem to its natural state by encouraging the rehabilitation of the shoreline directly alongside management activities. Aside from simply improving the natural health and status of the ecosystem, the introduction of native species back into the system in place of the invasives decreases the opportunities for secondary invaders to move in and seek a foothold in the now unoccupied habitat spaces left by the Purple Loosestrife removal. The native plants will also act as competitors against Purple Loosestrife and other invaders, further preventing widespread establishment of invasives throughout the system. Sites where restoration activities are implemented will be documented and georeferenced so they can be monitored in subsequent years. Secondary invaders, such as reed canary grass or non-native phragmites, will also be noted and location, density, and area of infestation will be recorded.
With a concentrated, coordinated effort, our Project Teams can impart tangible habitat improvement along the banks of the Michigamme River through the removal of aggressive invasive Purple Loosestrife and the restoration of native plant communities. In turn, this effort will translate to the preservation of the integrity of the entire MRW system.
Spring 2020 to December 2024
Goal 1: Collaborate with regional partners to secure vital continuity and expansion of current purple loosestrife management efforts on the Michigamme River System in an effort to protect the full extent of the Menominee River watershed.
Goal 2: Thoroughly survey and monitor the Michigamme River project area to locate and actively control invasive Purple Loosestrife throughout the system, effectively limiting the spread and decreasing population numbers, size, and densities in an effort to protect the full extent of the MRW from the ecological impacts and degradation of natural habitats that results from aggressive invasive species infestations.
Goal 3: Utilize an integrated, adaptive management approach which includes active restoration of native shoreline plant communities alongside control efforts to mitigate potential impacts from manual management techniques and/or secondary invaders, while helping to rehabilitate the biological productivity and integrity of the river system.