Invasive species at Loon Lake leads to new legislation
SPRINGFIELD -- Invasive species have invaded Loon Lake in Lake County and other bodies of water across the state, and a proposal from a suburban lawmaker could help limit further damage.
Legislation sponsored by Rep. JoAnn Osmond would require boaters to clean off their boats after use to prevent the spread of invasive plants and animals to other lakes.
Osmond says the proposal is a response to problems at Loon Lake near Antioch, where two invasive species -- the Eurasian watermilfoil plant and zebra mussels -- have already been introduced.
Their presence has endangered natural species at the lake and dealing with them has cost tens of thousands of dollars, said Mike Clifton, president of the Loon Lake Management Association.
"We want awareness here and to make sure we're not bringing plants to other lakes," Osmond said. Eurasian watermilfoil forms thick mats that hamper boating, and zebra mussels compete for food with other aquatic animal populations, causing them to decline.
Michael Adam, a senior biologist with the Lake County Health Department, said the species have damaged recreational opportunities at Loon Lake as well as disturbed its ecology.
The association spends about $50,000 a year to preserve the lake, but Clifton said the cost could increase to remove invasive species.
Osmond said her plan would be used to raise awareness of the problem facing Loon Lake and other lakes in Illinois from these and other invasive species.
"We're trying to isolate the area, so whatever the vegetation there can be treated and taken care of and not have these others brought into it," she said.
Under Osmond's plan, police could make a person clean off his or her boat, but the proposed law specifies no penalty for refusing.
The plan, if it becomes law, would apply to all bodies of water in Illinois.
Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana have enacted similar laws in the recent years to prevent the spread of invasive species.
With several more plant invasive species reported in Wisconsin and other bordering states, Adam said cleaning off boats could be critical to prevent future problems for Illinois lakes.
"Things could be a lot worse if we're not careful," he said.