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Program targets invasive plant species at Steel Lake

Milfoil is an invasive plant species found at Steel Lake. Milfoil can overtake a body of water in a season, and can affect oxygen levels in lakes, which in turn affects all the other organisms in the lake. - Mirror file photo
Milfoil is an invasive plant species found at Steel Lake. Milfoil can overtake a body of water in a season, and can affect oxygen levels in lakes, which in turn affects all the other organisms in the lake.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

To help maintain a healthy ecosystem at Steel Lake, the Federal Way City Council unanimously approved the renewal of the Steel Lake Management District (LMD) for another 10 years.

Dan Smith, who is the water quality coordinator for the city's Surface Water Management Division, explained what the LMD is for, and how it helps keep Steel Lake as healthy as possible.

"An LMD is a governmental mechanism by which property owners can embark on a program of lake improvement and maintenance," Smith explained at the Feb. 19 council meeting, "which is funded through assessments of lake-area properties."

The current LMD has been in place since 2003, and has been mostly used to combat noxious weed species and educate property owners surrounding the lake, Smith said. Smith explained some of the activities for both areas of attack.

"One product that we produce is a survey and a report. So our contractor goes out and they map Steel Lake. It's a very comprehensive survey, and they locate the noxious weed species," he said. "Those locations are indicated by GPS coordinates, and they can go back and find those noxious plants and control those individual plants. The Washington State Department of Ecology has said our program enhances native plant communities, and does promote the ecosystem health of Steel Lake."

The biggest noxious weed the LMD has dealt with is known as milfoil, Smith said. Milfoil is an invasive plant species that's capable of overtaking a body of water in a season, and can affect oxygen levels in lakes, which in turn affects all the other organisms in the lake, he said. Another issue with milfoil is that it presents a hazard to both boaters and swimmers.

Keeping milfoil out of Steel Lake also stops the spread of the invasive species to other local lakes, Smith said.

The public education part of the LMD includes printed notices and flyers, a quarterly newsletter, information for boater education, a website dedicated to Steel Lake, and an annual report.

"It's information concerning lake health, storm water impacts, pollution prevention and natural yard care practices," Smith noted.

With the renewal, Smith said the LMD would expand the scope of its operations and tackle issues like water quality, Canada Goose management, outlet channel maintenance, and the management of hazardous algae blooms.

In order to fund these extra activities, a $3 increase in the current $95 annual fee would be required, Smith said. However, it appears that Steel Lake property owners are on board.

"We got (this process) kicked off with a petition that was submitted to the clerk, and per the RCW (Revised Code of Washington), we needed 10 landowners to sign, and had 37. We needed 15 percent property acreage signing, and we got 20 percent," he said.

A few Steel Lake property owners were in attendance, and gave a small round of applause with the council's unanimous approval.

 

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