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Scuba divers sink to new depths to pull Perch Lake weeds

Scuba divers gathered at Perch Lake to help pull Eurasian milfoil, an invasive aquatic plant, from the beach area.

Roughly 20 people dove into Perch Lake on June 20 to help rid the beach of Eurasian milfoil.

The scuba divers, organized by Terry Nooner, owner of St. Croix Scuba in Hudson, pull weeds three times a year in an effort to control the aquatic plant.

"They don't use any chemical in the lake so this is really the only way to control it," Nooner said.

Eurasian milfoil was introduced to Perch Lake at the boat launch, Nooner said. It grows several feet tall and during the winter months lays flat along the lake floor. That's when new roots form and the weed spreads.

At Perch Lake, because the milfoil was not treated immediately, it spread fast.

"The weeds took over the beach area," Nooner said. "Since they don't use chemicals in the lake, I kind of came up with the idea to do a dive and get in there and pull it out by the roots."

Groups of divers - ranging from six to 30 people - pull weeds three times each year, Nooner said.

"Each time we're out here diving (and pulling weeds), it thins it more and more," Nooner said.

Hiring a company to clear the lake would be too costly, said Jessie Herrman, site manager at Perch Lake. All divers that participate during the weed pull are volunteers.

All equipment and air is provided by St. Croix Scuba.

"We advertise the weed pull in the dive store," Nooner said. "It gets people out here diving and gives people the opportunity to meet other divers and make friends."

Along with scuba divers, Hudson-area Boy Scouts were in the lake with nets helping to catch any weeds floating in the water.

Without the help of the volunteer divers and Boy Scouts, the milfoil would eventually form a mat on the surface of the lake, making it impossible for boats to navigate or people to swim, Nooner said.

The matted weeds would also cut off all sunlight to other plants, killing the native vegetation.

Saturday's dive marked the last weed pull of the year; however, those interested in recreational diving are encouraged to contact St. Croix Scuba (715-381-5300) and ask about the fun dives scheduled for the summer.