Lake Leland Integrated Aquatic Plant Management Plan

Lake Leland is located in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains in eastern Jefferson County five miles north of Quilcene, Washington. It is a small (100 acre) shallow lowland lake that was created by a glacial process and has a mean depth of 13 feet and a maximum depth of about 20 feet. Nearly 60 percent of the 2.8 miles of shoreline is developed with residences, weekend camp lots, and the Jefferson County Park.

Lake Leland offers varied recreational activities for residents and visitors alike. Easy access from state Highway 101 brings many people to the Leland County Park for camping and picnicking. The park includes 22 campsites, a boat ramp, swimming area, and fishing dock. Private docks also provide boaters and swimmers access to the water. The lake supports an excellent warmwater fishery, including largemouth bass, bluegill, black crappie and yellow perch. Rainbow trout are stocked annually. Camping, swimming, fishing, boating, bird watching, and relaxing in a peaceful rural environment are some of the enjoyable amenities that make Lake Leland one of the most popular lakes in the county. Due to its rural location and diversity of native vegetation, the lake supports a wide variety of wildlife. Both eagles and osprey are known to nest in the area and great blue herons and pileated woodpeckers are frequently sighted. In winter the migratory trumpeter swan is present along with Canada geese and an assortment of other waterfowl. Additionally, the lake provides several residents with domestic water.

In 1994, a Department of Ecology (Ecology) aquatic survey of the lake revealed the presence of Brazilian elodea (Egeria densa), a non-native invasive waterweed. This popular aquarium plant, now illegal to sell in Washington State, is listed as a noxious weed by the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board. The plant has been steadily spreading since its introduction in the south end of the lake and can now be found in patches along most of the shoreline. The south end of the lake is becoming impassable to motor boats, which become entangled in the dense aquatic weed. The invasive plant has also impacted fishing and swimming around numerous private docks and other shoreline areas. Brazilian elodea occurs near the county park swimming area and boat ramp and may become a safety issue. Visual aesthetics are being affected, and an altered ecological balance may affect fish and wildlife. An important concern is the possibility of this weed spreading to other non-infected lakes. Brazilian elodea spreads by fragmentation and can easily be transported to new locations on boat motors, trailers, and fishing gear.

Another non-native invasive weed, reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea), is a problem aquatic weed in Leland Creek, which drains Lake Leland. This water tolerant grass, introduced into the area to provide forage for livestock in wet areas, is notorious for growing in stream channels and causing drainage problems. Canary grass grows densely in the 2000 feet of Leland Creek immediately downstream of Lake Leland and is a major factor in the flooding problem and high water level in Lake Leland. Historically, there has been a problem with high waters in the area, much of which can be attributed to canary grass and beaver dams in Leland Creek. The higher water table has contributed to flooded roads and has caused some problems with septic systems. Impaired septic systems could result in an excess of nutrients and fecal coliform bacteria in the lake. To date, two homes have been flooded and others are at risk. Several properties are in jeopardy and useable farm lands have decreased. Dead trees resulting from high waters can be noted around the lake shoreline.

These problems have been of great concern to the community. Several years ago interested residents approached county and state officials to seek solutions to improve the situation. In June of 1997, the Jefferson County Conservation District was awarded a grant by Ecology to develop an Integrated Aquatic Plant Management Plan for Lake Leland. The report that follows is the result of over a year spent searching for a feasible solution to the aquatic weed problems at the lake. As part of the plan process, a steering committee was formed with interested representation from the community, county agencies, Ecology and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). The committee formed a set of goals and evaluated all currently available aquatic plant control options. Goals dictated that the chosen control option be cost effective, environmentally friendly, and meet the needs of the community. After several meetings in which the different types of control methods were considered, it became apparent that there is no ideal management tool that is 100 percent effective and meets all the above criteria. After much deliberation and evaluation of the pros and cons of each control option, the steering committee reached a consensus of opinion. The following are the committee’s recommendations.

The first and most important recommendation is that the Leland Neighborhood Improvement Club take on a permanent role to address lake water quality issues. This will assure coordination and continuity over the long term.

For the long-term, large-scale reduction of Brazilian elodea, the steering committee favors the use of a biological control agent, triploid grass carp. However, there are several factors to consider when choosing to use grass carp; the most important of which is the possibility of total eradication of aquatic plants in the lake. This would be detrimental to fish and wildlife and possibly to water quality (increased turbidity). Because of the unpredictability of grass carp as a control method, the committee recommends that grass carp not be introduced into the lake at this time. Water quality and plant biomass studies, which are required prior to stocking grass carp, have been completed, and grass carp are certainly an option for the future. The committee, including Ecology and WDFW, will periodically reassess lake conditions, especially the distribution and density of Brazilian elodea and the health of the fishery. Based on these conditions, the committee will reevaluate the use of grass carp as a control.

For localized reductions around docks and short stretches of shoreline, the steering committee recommends hand pulling or cutting the weed and the placement of bottom barriers. These methods can improve swimming safety and fishing conditions in limited areas.

To address the reed canary grass problem in Leland Creek, the steering committee feels that the use of the herbicide RODEO (glyphosate) would be appropriate. It is the least damaging and most cost effective method of control. This herbicide is applied directly to the emergent plant and is inert in water. Also, there are no known domestic water intakes on Leland Creek. A spring and fall follow-up application by hand spraying should clear the channel of canary grass. Maintenance spraying will probably be needed in future years to keep the canary grass under control. If feasible, tree planting along the treeless stretch of the creek bank would help eliminate the grass.

The steering committee recognizes that the effective management of both Brazilian elodea and reed canary grass will be an on-going concern and will require a long-term commitment. Monitoring of the plant community and beneficial uses such as fishing, boating, and swimming needs to be continued. This aquatic plant management plan is not static and is expected to change as conditions change.

Public education is an important element in the control of aquatic nuisance plants. Signs have been developed by Ecology to bring attention to the Brazilian elodea infestation in Lake Leland and to show fishermen and other lake users how to avoid transporting aquatic plants from one lake to another. These signs are being installed at Lake Leland and other eastern Jefferson County lakes. Educational flyers have been distributed to visitors and residents alike and it is recommended to continue this practice. Yearly mailings to inform residents of Best Management Practices that reduce nutrient and sediment inputs to the lake are also recommended.

This plant management plan is a result of the work of a dedicated group of people. Many thanks to all of you who have contributed your volunteer time for all aspects of the process. This includes hours on, in, and around the lake surveying aquatic plants, reading staff gages, monitoring water quality, demonstrating weed control methods—and attending meetings, meetings, meetings. We could not have accomplished this without all of you.

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Questions about this page?
Contact Kathy Hamel by e-mail at kham461@ecy.wa.gov