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Phragmites cutting in Green Bay

Phragmites cutting machine called a Marsh Master, October 20, 2016 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- The battle against an invasive species called phragmites is taking to the field.

Clean-up Crews are targeting the shoreline of the waters of Green Bay and areas along the Fox River upriver to the De Pere Dam.

When it comes to battling phragmites, contractors say an open-air three-ton tank is the way to go.

"It's just going to basically drive right through the phrag, and wetlands and stuff. the Marsh Master can get around just about anything," said Jason Behrends, Restoration Technician, Applied Ecological Services, Inc.

Applied Ecological Services is one of three contractors hired to eradicate about 800 acres of the invasive reed in the Green Bay area.

"It's also pretty detrimental to some of our other native plants, especially our wetland plants. When it takes over an area it prevents those plants from establishing and providing good habitat for wildlife," said Amy Carrozzino-Lyon, Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission Phragmites Project Coordinator.

Scientists say phragmites can be very tough to control. Feathery plumes can tower 20 feet in the air, and the root system can reach six feet down, and another 10 feet across.

Crews sprayed the phragmites with a chemical back in August.

"The hope is that those plants will translocate that herbicide, to the root system, and effectively, kill the roots," said Carrozzino-Lyon.

Now, crews are back to mow down, the dying reeds.

"Then you'll see the mower deck kind of knock it down, shred it up just a little bit, and it will be kind of clean and flat looking almost after that," said Behrends.

A ride on the bumpy tank, can be an adventure.

"There's a lot of hidden potholes, and logs, and rocks and stuff, that you just can't see coming until you're basically on top of them already. So it can get a little hairy sometimes," said Behrends.

But with a crusing speed of six miles per hour, crews can cut about 20 acres of phragmites each day.

"We are hopeful that many of these treatment areas will see a good response from other vegetation, including our native species," said Carrozzino-Lyon.

The price tag for the two-year project is about $1 million.

Federal money from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is covering the cost.

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