LAPORTE | Funds are being raised to save the boating season in LaPorte, threatened by a fast-growing weed overtaking Pine Lake.
According to the LaPorte Area Lakes Association, 75 percent of Pine Lake is infected with Eurasian Watermilfoil, a thick weed native to Europe, Asia and north Africa.
The Lakes Association is hoping to secure a state grant to kill the weed with a chemical starting in April. If chemical treatments don't begin then, the fear is the Eurasian watermilfoil will overtake the entire lake.
Pine Lake is used by fisherman and recreational boaters locally and from the Chicago area.
"That's one reason it's very critical to find a solution and carry out the solution to the lakes," said Don Bowman, president of the lakes association.
Bowman said over $20,000 has been raised and donations are being accepted at Huber's Marine, Fay's Marina and Horizon Bank.
The money already collected is enough to provide the local match for a $60,000 grant from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. If the grant isn't awarded, more donations will be needed to pay for weed eradication this year and any additional chemical treatments that might be needed in the years to come.
Lakes Association member Dan Balich said the weed spread rapidly last summer because when cut, Eurasian watermilfoil sprouts more weeds.
"The more you cut it, the more it spreads," said Balich. "We have a really huge problem. We could actually lose the 2013 season for boating, fishing, swimming, water recreation."
According to the DNR website, the presence of Eurasian watermilfoil has been reported in 45 states and has detected in about 25 percent of the more than 600 lakes and reservoirs in northern Indiana. DNR has used chemicals and other methods to eradicate the weed in other bodies of water, including the much smaller Clear Lake in LaPorte last year.
LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo said patches of weed can be seen practically from the entire shoreline and problems navigating the lake were experienced toward the end of the last boating season.
"This stuff has gotten so close to the surface that it's starting to make it really problematic for people to enjoy Pine Lake the way we all love to," said Milo.