Phragmites treatment underway at White’s Beach

Tim Barnum
Scott Hostetler, of Aquatic Nuisance Plant Control, spot-applies glyphosate to some phragmites near White’s Beach.
Tim Barnum
This boat lift along the shoreline illustrates the accessibility issues overgrown phragmites can cause.
Tim Barnum
Phragmites growing out of the Saginaw Bay near the shoreline in Standish Township have grown dense and tall, blocking homeowners’ views of the bay.

STANDISH TWP. — With funding from a $20,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Arenac County Conservation District is having the Saginaw Bay shoreline from the Bay-Arenac Line to Sagatoo Road treated for phragmites removal.

Ryan Allen, a conservation district technician, said the project originally began Oct. 3 but was slowed due to weather issues, and that the phragmite removal really picked up Oct. 9

Phragmites is a tall, semi-aquatic grass with a tufty plume at its top, Allen said. The plants can grow as tall as 16 feet.

“They don’t specifically cause damage,” he said. “They do push everything else out, like the cattails. They are very dense, so it makes for bad fish habitat.”

No animals live in phragmites either because of the plants’ density when they grow in large stands, Allen said. The plants also have sharp roots that have been known to pierce hunting dogs’ feet, he added.

Plus, because of how tall and dense the phragmites grow, they can cause scenery and recreational issues for people living along the Saginaw Bay, Allen said.

“If you’ve got property, you’re looking at (phragmites) instead of what you’re paying taxes for,” he said. “And if you want to get out in the water, it’s all the more difficult.”

Using grant funds and a local match, the conservation district hired Aquatic Nuisance Plant Control, of West Branch, to apply a chemical called glyphosate to the stands of phragmites along the shoreline, Allen said. He said glyphosate is a plant hormone that tricks the plant into growing too much, too fast.

“It’s going to pull it down to the roots, and it’s going to tell the plant it’s springtime,” he said. “The way it’s actually killing the plant is by forcing it to grow.”

Glyphosate will sit in the plant, dormant, for about five days, and then cause three days of intensive growth before the plant dies, Allen said.

Once the large, numerous phragmites are removed from this project, Allen said homeowners along the bay will still have to perform some annual maintenance to keep the phragmites growth down.

Removal of the phragmites is positive news for anyone who lives on, or uses the bay, according to Allen.

“It’s good for the landowners that live on the bay. It’s an eyesore. It devalues the property,” he said. “It’s also good for anyone who wants to use the bay. When people go ice fishing, they’d have to clear a trail through all this dense growth. It would have to be cleared back from the public accesses.”

Phragmites removal is only being performed along the shoreline at properties where the Conservation District was cleared by the owners to enter onto, Allen said.


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