Phragmites Eradication Effort Moves Up the Coast

The struggle to control phragmites on Door County shorelines was highlighted at the Jacksonport Town Board meeting on June 25 when Greg Coulthurst of the Door County Soil and Water Conservation Department outlined plans for a two-year treatment program for Jacksonport, southern Baileys Harbor and Egg Harbor shoreline owners.

With a $30,000 matching grant from the U.S. Forest Service, Coulthurst said the affected municipalities and landowners will be expected to try to match the grant in order for the eradication effort to work.

With a similar grant last year, 36 acres of shoreline in Southern Door communities, including Sevastopol, were treated for the phragmites invasion. For that effort, 248 individual landowners contributed $13,800 and municipalities added $19,790 to the pot.

Coulthurst said letters will soon go out to the Jacksonport landowners about taking part in the two-year treatment program to eradicate the invasive reed.

“If the landowner has phragmites and they want it treated, they will have to sign a permission form. Without a permission form, we will not treat it,” he said.

The product used on the invasive plants is an aquatic herbicide called Habitat.

“It works like Roundup, attacks any green growing plant, but an aquatic version,” Coulthurst said.

He added that the earlier efforts in Southern Door proved that a second-year application is necessary because they saw a 10 percent to 15 percent return of phragmites in the patches treated the previous year.

A contractor will begin the herbicide applications in mid-September and go through October.

“Why we treat it in September, the roots are really the problem. We want the herbicide to really reach the roots,” Coulthurst said.

He mentioned that landowners have the option of applying the herbicide themselves by becoming certified to administer the aquatic herbicide through the Soil and Water Conservation Department.

Coulthurst also acknowledged that phragmite eradication is an issue that will not be going away for a while.

“It’s a never-ending process,” he said. “The goal is to knock this down to a more manageable level. Even though we were treating it, it was still beating us, leapfrogging, spreading faster than we could treat it. Many of these populations are monocultures. Once you have a population of phragmites that’s 100 x 100, that’s the only plant that’s growing there.”

The good news: “We have seen some native plants coming back after the treatment,” Coulthurst said.