Lakeside community pitches in for all-natural algae treatment

[9th, May 2014] One lakeside community in the Poconos looked back in time to combat phosphorus-loving algae that could otherwise leave their waterfronts covered in green slime. The Hideout, a property owners’ association near Lake Ariel, recently completed the first and larger of two phases of wetland restoration on a patch of land between Brook’s Lake and Roamingwood Lake…

The restored wetland should serve as a natural sink of phosphorus, said Fred Lubnow, Ph.D., director of aquatic programs for Princeton Hydro, the Hideout’s environmental consultant.

This way, the Hideout can avoid using algicide chemicals such as copper sulfate, the Hideout’s environmental asset manager John Gigliotti said.

The over-application of that chemical led to a kill of 10,000 fish last summer on Lake Ariel, directly upstream of the Hideout, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The restoration attempts to return the flood plain to its original state, a lazy, meandering channel teeming with diverse plant communities and animal life.

Since the 1950s, human development turned the stream and riparian habitat into a straight, fast-moving channel. Alongside grew a “monoculture of reed canary grass,” Dr. Lubnow said.

“It looked like a flume ride,” he said.

The channelized stream quickly moved phosphorus from animal waste and eroded soil particles downstream to Roamingwood Lake and eventually on to Lake Wallenpaupack, Dr. Lubnow said.

Each pound of phosphorus can generate 1,100 pounds of algae, Dr. Lubnow said, both planktonic, the surface scum, and mat algae, the floating clump of filaments that get stuck to people when they swim.

To restore what was lost, Princeton Hydro added two more channels on 5½ acres and planted native plants: soft rush, sedges, pickerelweed and blue flag iris on the lowlands, winterberry, alder and pussy willow on the uplands. They plan to create another 3½ acres of restored wetland over this summer and fall.

The restored wetland will absorb phosphorus, stabilize the stream banks and slow down runoff from all but the strongest storms, Dr. Lubnow said.

The Hideout’s property owners association paid for most of the project, kicking in $250,000, Mr. Gigliotti said. The DEP also awarded a $76,500 Growing Greener grant.

Because the Hideout isn’t a municipality or nonprofit group, Lake Wallenpaupack Watershed Management District applied for the grant on its behalf, executive director Nick Spinelli said.

“I wish that more of the community associations around the watershed would emulate the Hideout,” Mr. Spinelli said.

Brendan Gibbsons, The Times Tribune

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