Aquatic plant control always seems to be a controversial issue. Rock Lake located in Southeastern Wisconsin is no exception. Last year residents opposing harvesting formed a human barrier to keep the aquatic plant harvester from entering the water.
This year the Rock Lake Restoration Association has once again applied and received a permit to harvest aquatic plants on the Town of Salem lake. Craig Helker, water resources biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issued the permit for mechanical harvesting. “Harvesting is a recognized tool in Wisconsin,” Helker said.
Warden Jennifer Niemeyer had some words of warning for those who might contemplate trying to block the activity again. “Any impediment by the citizens could be construed as disorderly conduct,” Niemeyer said. “(Harvesting) is nothing new or special on Rock Lake that we haven’t done on other lakes.”
Wisconsin is the birthplace of the aquatic weed harvester. Built in 1902 by the Hockney Company, the machine was not originally built to meet recreational purposes; it was made in response to fussy Chicago housewives! Around the turn of the century, ice was harvested from Wisconsin lakes destined for Chicago iceboxes. The housewives there didn’t like cleaning out the weeds when the ice melted. The boat was designed to cut down the weeds in the fall so that clean ice could be harvested in the winter.