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Allouez Bay habitat project undergoes revision

The new plan calls for mechanical methods to control invasive cattail that inhibits marsh bird habitat.

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A pair of common goldeneyes leave a splash trail as they run across the water of Allouez Bay to take flight off of Wisconsin Point Sunday, March 29, 2020.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — A plan to restore marsh bird habitat in Allouez Bay is moving ahead without plans to use herbicides to address invasive cattails.

Instead, the plan calls for using mechanical methods to control the invasive plant in the bay.

David Grandmaison of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources provided an update on the plan Tuesday, Aug. 9, to the Wisconsin Point Committee.

The scope of the project was revised because the Douglas County Land and Development Committee wasn’t willing to authorize an exemption to the county’s pesticide ordinance. It prohibits the use of any substance intended to prevent, destroy, repel or mitigate any plant or animal life on county-held lands.

Multiple mechanical methods are planned to address the invasive cattail, including cutting and shearing; channeling and potholing will be used in areas with monotypic cattail.

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According to the plan, a hand-held cutter will be used by crews when working in sensitive areas like the wild rice restoration buffer. However, aquatic equipment like a marsh master or mowing deck mounted on watercraft could be used in less sensitive areas of the bay.

Channeling and potholing will also be used. Working with engineers to design the location, layout and depth profiles to complement existing features, the work would be done under frozen conditions with an excavator or other equipment to remove cattail rhizomes and roots. Soil will be removed to create the designed features.

Grandmaison said the idea behind channeling and potholing is to bring oxygen back into areas that have high-density cattail and create a more diverse structure conducive to marsh birds.

Monitoring will provide insight into the frequency of repeated treatment.

Committe Chair Tom Bridge asked what the anticipated difference was for the mechanical treatments compared to the original plan to use herbicides to treat the cattails.

“We believe that it will require more frequent and some repeated treatments to maintain that,” Grandmaison said. While he believes utilizing a herbicide would be more effective in terms of time and resources that will be used, Grandmaison said monitoring will show whether that’s true.

The committee members approved of the revised plan even though no approval was needed.

“Thank you for looking at the mechanical,” said Supervisor Keith Allen, the Douglas County representative on the committee. “It means a lot to me.”

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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