Underwater foliage takes over Lake Helen

Underwater foliage takes over Lake Helen

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -An invasive aquatic plant is taking over Lake Helen at Elmer Thomas Park, and now there is a plan to rid the lake of it.

The plant is called Eurasian watermilfoil. It has feather-like underwater foliage that has been slowly spreading across the lake for the past two years. It's so overgrown that it is reducing the level of oxygen for fish, and making it difficult for people to fish.

The Lawton Enhancement Trust Authority is working with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation on a two-part treatment plan that's expected to start in March.

First, they will put in an aeration system that will send air bubbles from the bottom of the lake to the top, providing oxygen to the fish. Second, they will use a chemical treatment to kill off the majority of the milfoil.

Lawton Enhancement Trust Authority director Richard Rogalski says they want to keep it beautiful, because Lake Helen and Elmer Thomas Park are places many people go to enjoy.

"We really feel like it is important for Lake Helen to be an urban fishery. You know, you don't really have a lot of urban fisheries and not everybody can get in a truck and head out to Lawtonka or Ellsworth. So, for many people, this is the only place they have to go and fish," Rogalski said.

The plan is expected to cost about $22,000. While the city covers the majority of the cost, the Department of Wildlife will pay for the chemical treatment.

At some point, they will add a specific breed of fish called the grass carp, which will eat the plant if it comes back and will keep it under control.

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