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Saratoga Springs looks to combat invasive weeds

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PROVO — Saratoga Springs is looking to rid the shore of Utah Lake from an invasive weed.

The Daily Herald of Provo reports that city officials are hoping to bring in helicopters to spray herbicide on several miles of the lake's shore that are inundated with phragmites.

The weed is a dense, invasive plant from Europe that grows more than 20 feet tall. The weed is fueling wildfires, providing habitat for mosquitoes, wrecking critical wildlife habitat, overtaking native vegetation and making vast stretches of shoreline impassable to fishermen and recreation-goers.

The Utah Lake Commission wants to begin a 10-year, large-scale attack on phragmites across the lake in a few months, starting in Saratoga Springs.

"This is a positive thing for us, especially with the fire danger in the area," said Saratoga Councilman Cecil Tuley. "We have experienced a previous fire that was pretty scary."

In 2004, illegal fireworks around the edge of Utah Lake sparked a fire in the phragmites reeds. The flames erupted into a 60-acre wildfire that came within feet of dozens of homes. In Saratoga Springs' fire assessment plan, phragmites has been named the highest fire threat to the community.

The Utah Lake Commission has applied for a $30,000 state grant to help with the project.

In the past 15 years, phragmites has destroyed most of the important waterfowl habitat around Utah Lake, county officials have said. In many places the plant has spread 100 yards into the lake from the shoreline.

Officials are also targeting Saratoga Springs first because the reeds are most visible to the public there, and seeing success will help build support in other cities, said commission director Reed Price.

"People will be able to see the difference with and without phragmites," Price said. "Most of the other shoreline of Utah Lake is agricultural and the difference probably wouldn't be noticed as much. There was a conscious effort to be visible."

Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldextra.com