The shoreline at Nicola Lake is expected to be tidier this spring as the Nicola Lake Steering Committee (NLSC) gets ready to manage an invasive plant species.

The NLSC is currently developing its plan to deal with Eurasian watermilfoil, an invasive species that competes with native Northern watermilfoil. The group anticipates implementing the plan in late winter or early spring.

The NLSC needs to conduct a fisheries habitat assessment to help determine the timing and location of Eurasian watermilfoil management, Fraser Basin assistant regional manager Tracy Thomas told the Herald.

The group has moved ahead with a number of action items for its Nicola Lake Action Plan since being endorsed by the public at a meeting in Merritt back in June.

Eurasian watermilfoil is an aquatic plant that is dangerous because it can out-compete native species of aquatic plants, change the productivity in the lake and take away from habitat for fisheries, Thomas said.

“The thing about invasive species across the board is whether they’re aquatic or terrestrial, they out-compete native species,” Thomas said. “They grow faster, they cover more ground with [fewer] nutrients. They don’t need much.”

This past summer, the NLSC produced an inventory of the aquatic plants located in Nicola Lake. The Eurasian watermilfoil is located all around the shoreline of Nicola Lake, Thomas said — the same areas in which fish and most people can be found.

“I would say it exists along the whole shoreline, but in varying degrees of cover,” Thomas said.

The inventory is said to provide critical baseline data so that a Eurasian watermilfoil management plan can be developed.

Thomas said she anticipates the fisheries habitat assessment to be completed this coming spring.

Thomas said the NLSC’s plan is to concentrate managing the species around high-use areas of the lake where people access the water, such as boat launch sites, beaches and water-front properties.

“We’re never going to eradicate milfoil from the lake, but what we don’t want to do is spread it to other lakes,” Thomas said, noting there are lakes in B.C. that don’t have this invasive species.

She said the public is concerned with property values, diminished access to the lake, and the milfoil creating a less-desirable swimming area.

Thomas said although aquatic plants are part of a lake’s ecosystem, this species is growing too rapidly in Nicola Lake and becoming densely populated, which creates problems.

She said Eurasian watermilfoil reproduces both sexually and asexually, meaning trying to eradicate it could cause it to spread when fragments are left behind.

Some of the issues with milfoil are that the weeds will grow and become dense, and can get caught in and spread to other lakes via a boat’s propeller, for example.

This past summer, two university students, one from Thompson Rivers University and one from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, provided education and outreach to people at Monck Park and Sagebrush golf course on the Quilchena Ranch. They discussed topics such as invasive species, shoreline erosion, water quality and sustainable agriculture.

They also produced a survey regarding the recreational activities visitors to the Nicola Lake area take part in, and created an inventory of the recreational infrastructure.

Thomas said it is unknown how they will proceed with that recreational information in the future, but it was required as one of the action items.

Thomas said there’s a large section of shoreline at Monck Park being eroded from wake and wave activity and part of the planning process is to try and control that erosion.

“We’re not looking for eradication here, we’re just looking for control, and to have, hopefully, less spread in those high-use areas,” Thomas said.

Erosion control is scheduled to take place in late winter or early spring, weather dependent.

The project is funded by the TNRD, the City of Merritt, Highland Valley Copper and BC Parks.

The NLSC was assembled to provide guidance during the implementation of the Nicola Lake Action Plan.