Aquatic plant life has taken over the swim area at Aqua Park.
On the recent 90-plus degree afternoons, children playing on the swim area barrier logs could be heard exclaiming “Yuck,” and “You can’t swim in this seaweed.”
Many of the tall, green, slender plants measure more than a meter tall and are growing plentifully at depths of approximately four feet and deeper.
Samples were collected and photographed for identification by Aquatic Invasive Plant Specialist for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Ben Scofield.
Mr. Scofield identified the species as Potamogeton pusillus known by the common name of thin leaf pondweed. It is not related to the invasive Eurasian Watermilfoil found in Lake Coeur d’Alene and the St. Joe River.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the conservation status of the thin leaf pondweed as “least concern” which means it is not in danger of being threatened.
Removing the plant is a matter of cutting it or pulling it up from the riverbed or using herbicide. Finding someone to remove it may prove more complicated.
Mayor Tom Carver said he was uncertain who is responsible for the swim area.
“I don’t think it is our department,” Mayor Tom Carver said. “I would think that would be Waterways but I would have to ask around.”
He deferred to City Supervisor Mark Reynolds.
Mr. Reynolds said that he believes the swim area is the responsibility of the county.
“We put new sand on the beaches, weed and mow. But from the shore out the city doesn’t do anything, and it’s all insurance driven,” Mr. Reynolds said. “The city hasn’t had a swimming area for many years. The city used to have a swim dock years ago. Then ICRMP said if we don’t have a lifeguard on duty, we should not promote swimming. That’s why city has the swimming pool.”
ICRMP or Idaho Counties Risk Management Program provides liability insurance for local governments throughout the state.
Head of the Benewah County Waterways Subcommittee Al Townsend said the swim area belongs to the city.
“All wrong. The swimming area is all the city. We have never taken care of it at all. At one time they had a swimming dock out there. We have never done anything in that section there. The only thing we take care of are the boat docks. The only thing the county owns is the boat ramp,” Mr. Townsend said.
According to Benewah County plats, the city owns the river frontage in the park area except for the boathouse and ramp, which is owned by the county.
The water and the pondweeds may belong to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture or the Idaho Department of Lands.
“I’m not sure it would be in our purview for us to be the solution to that unless they were digging,” Idaho Department of Land St. Joe Supervisory Area Manager Rick Arcano said. “The person to ask would be Mike Amer. He handles our navigable waterways in the area.”
The IDL oversees mineral rights for the state to include waterways.
Mr. Amer did not respond in time for comment.
The Idaho State Department of Agriculture coordinates statewide management and control programs for aquatic noxious weeds.
There are 16 plant species that the State Department of Agriculture considers aquatic noxious weed species in Idaho. A noxious weed is one that is designated as harmful to livestock, crops, natural habitats or humans.
The thin leaf pondweed is not considered a noxious weed. However, it is a nuisance to swimmers and dock owners in the area.
Nearby Kootenai County advises residents tired of all the water weeds around their dock and swim areas to manage it themselves by cutting or pulling and then discarding the weeds on dry land. According to the Kootenai County website, “Starting in 2012, all herbicide treatments will be conducted by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.”
The ISDA did not respond in time for comment on this article.