WILLIAMS BAY, WI (Spectrum News 1) — Geneva Lake Environmental Agency and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources discovered an invasive plant named Starry Stonewort in a Lagoon on the southern section of the lake last fall.

The plant could spread outside of the lagoon — located inside of the Trinke Estates development in the town of Linn — if nothing is done to address it.

“It can basically throw that whole biological community out of wack,” said Ted Peters, the director of the Geneva Lake Environmental Agency, or GLEA.

The plant could spread quickly and greatly diminish activities that make the lake popular — like fishing, swimming and boating.

GLEA was hoping to dredge the lagoon in the spring, but bids were much more expensive in the spring than in the fall. So now the organization is planning on dredging the lagoon in the fall, after Labor Day. They will have a tight window to complete the dredging as they will leave the mud and sludge with the bulbs that the plants grow from out to dry so it's cheaper to haul away.

“There's a balance you have to make in terms of risk management versus cost and maybe start looking at alternatives,” Peters said.

Even with waiting until the fall to dredge the lagoon it could cost GLEA between $250,000 and $300,000. Peters said GLEA applied for two $20,000 grants from the state, they will also apply for a loan and do some fundraising. They are collecting donations through a GoFundMe page as well: https://www.gofundme.com/f/starry-stonewort-management?pc=wd_md_campimage_r

Peters said that while it's expensive to take care of now, it will be much more expensive if the Starry Stonewort spreads further into the lake.

“If we can prevent things we're saving money up front rather than having to deal with the problem once it establishes,” Peters said.

GLEA also plans on chemically treating the lagoon. While that can keep the plant from growing, it doesn't get rid of its reproductive bulbs and its ability to rapidly spread.

They also think they can keep it from spreading by focusing on education.

“I think if we can educate the boaters we've gone a long way to work in terms of preventing this stuff from spreading throughout our lake as well as other lakes,” Peters said.

GLEA plans on putting buoys out to steer boaters away from the problem areas, they also want to station people near the effected waters to warn boaters. Peters said the biggest thing people can do is thoroughly clean their boats and equipment before moving it between waters.

Peters is worried that this could spread to other waters in the area too. He said he doesn't think one of the people who docks their boat in the lagoon near Trinke Estates is responsible for bringing in the plant. Peters said it's more likely that came from fishing equipment.