The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is conducting aquatic plant management on Lake Okeechobee this week.

Management areas include dense cattail marsh in Moonshine Bay at the western end of the lake with smaller treatment areas in the northwest marsh between Buckhead Ridge and the Indian Prairie Canal. A total of 1,000 acres of aquatic plants will be managed. Due to the large scale of the project, management will be conducted using helicopters.

Lake Okeechobee provides high-quality foraging and nesting habitat for the endangered Everglade snail kite, wading birds, waterfowl and other marsh species. In addition to improving habitat for fish and wildlife, this project will also increase lake access for anglers and hunters.

Cattail will be managed with a selective herbicide (imazamox) that does not negatively affect beneficial native species, such as bulrush, spatterdock, spikerush, duck-potato, Kissimmee grass and maidencane. The management should allow these native plants to expand and quickly colonize the areas. Imazamox is approved for use in water bodies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. There are no restrictions related to fishing, swimming or drinking in affected areas of the lake.

The cattail management areas proposed by the FWC have been vetted through and approved by the Lake Okeechobee Aquatic Plant Management Interagency Task Force (an advisory group of state and federal agencies with public input on aquatic plant management conducted by the FWC, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Water Management District on Lake Okeechobee) and Audubon Florida.

Approximately 3-6 months after the herbicide application, the cattail areas will be managed with prescribed fire. Prescribed fire will open the area up quickly for wildlife to use and will also consume the dead organic material so that it does not drop to the bottom of the lake as it decays. Prescribed fire following herbicide extends the efficacy of the herbicide management and reduces the amount of herbicide used over time.

Habitat enhancement using multiple selective management techniques, such as herbicides and prescribed burning, coupled with occasional drying events during low water periods, is part of an integrated management approach used by the FWC on many lakes and wetlands throughout Florida.

For general waterbody information, fishing forecasts, virtual tours, plant control operation schedules and annual workplans, boat ramp information, and more, visit the “What’s Happening on My Lake” website at  Management areas will be posted at boat ramps and FWC staff will be present to ensure all agency protocols are being followed. For questions about this project, contact FWC biologist Alyssa Jordan at 863-697-2181.