- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Volunteers from statewide fishing groups have helped to plant hundreds of bald cypress trees along the shoreline in the Fairfax State Recreation Area as the first project of many that are planned to help maintain and improve conditions at Lake Monroe.

The project was organized by Sandy Clark-Kolaks, a southern fisheries research biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife. She helped on two recent Saturdays when members from Bass Unlimited, Crappie.com and Indiana Slab Masters came to the lake to help secure the shoreline and also provide habitat for fish. Some of the volunteers drove from Crawfordsville, Seymour and Terre Haute to help, Clark-Kolaks said.

Wil Newlin, president of Bass Unlimited Foundation who lives in Terre Haute, was one of 18 volunteers from his organization. He said he and the other volunteers were there to help the natural resources department maintain and improve fishing in Indiana waters. “Bass Unlimited wants to leave the resource (fishing) better than the way we found it,” he said. That means helping with conservation at Indiana’s lakes, including Hardy Lake and Cagles Mill Lake and planting trees at Lake Monroe.

This isn’t the first planting of bald cypress at Lake Monroe, Clark-Kolaks said. “They’ve been planting bald cypress for the past 10 to 15 years.” Most of those have been in the upper portions of the lake including the Pine Grove area, so the recent plantings were the first in the Fairfax area.

There were 400 trees planted near the new boat ramp in the Fairfax rec area, some next to the ramp and some across the bay. “The idea is that they’ll stabilize the shoreline, and years and years down the road, they’ll die and fall into the water and provide fish habitat,” Clark-Kolaks said. Even before the trees die, the “knees” or roots of the tree can provide cover and protection for fish.

Clark-Kolaks said the tree planting is the first of several long-term projects planned at Lake Monroe. She referred to a study done by Indiana University in the 1990s about Lake Monroe. The study said the reservoir “catches a lot of wind action and has a lot of fetch,” which is the distance traveled by wind or waves across open water. The wave action and boat traffic contribute to erosion along the shoreline, which causes sediment to fall into the lake.

“We don’t want the lake to fill in,” especially because the lake is used for flood control, Clark-Kolaks said. So the bald cypress trees, which are native to Indiana, will help protect the shoreline, improve water quality for people who live nearby and drink the water, help fish and improve water clarity for swimmers and fishermen.

With this latest project, Clark-Kolaks began planning a year ago, when she ordered the trees. Then she sent out emails to various organizations that had expressed an interest in volunteering at the lake. That’s the same type of planning Clark-Kolaks expects she will follow in the future.

“We’re working on some projects that will be more focused on creating fish habitat,” she said, adding that there are different ways to create the habitat and those are now being discussed. Although some of the projects may be at other large reservoirs in Indiana, Clark-Kolaks expects more of the projects to be focused at Lake Monroe than at other locations.

“The reservoirs are aging,” she said. “If there were trees in them when they were developed, they are decomposing.” Most of Indiana’s reservoirs were built in the 1960s; Lake Monroe started to fill with water in 1965. It’s now time to help prevent more sediment from filling in the lakes and to provide more habitat for fish and other wildlife in the water.

“The goal is really is to include anglers in this process,” Clark-Kolaks said. “We’re hoping to involve the public in these sorts of projects.”

The next project is now in the planning stage, she said. Because it will more complicated, it will take some time before Clark-Kolaks sends emails to possible organizations asking for volunteers.

“Lake Monroe is probably going to be a focus for us,” she said. That is due to the fact the lake is the state’s largest man-made lake and because of the big economic impact it has. It’s also due in part to the lack of aquatic vegetation for fish to use as habitat.

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Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times, https://bit.ly/1Lo1uh3

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Information from: The Herald Times, https://www.heraldtimesonline.com


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