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Phragmites to be sprayed in Green Bay area

Phragmites near East River in Allouez, August 23, 2016 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

ALLOUEZ (WLUK) -- The battle to stop an invasive grass in the Green Bay area should begin this week.

Phragmites can tower up to 20 feet, and choke out natural vegetation.

Those doing the eradication will have a short window to complete the job.

When Don Zich moved into this Allouez neighborhood 24 years ago, he says it was easy to spot the East River nearby.

"Oh yeah, the phragmites came and they kind of put the kibosh on seeing the river. Seeing what's going on. People going up and down the river. We don't see that no more," said Don Zich, Allouez.

The tall invasive reed known as phragmites towers over areas around river banks and wetlands and more.

"It makes it difficult for natives to come in, and makes it difficult for any animals to create any habitat in it," said Angela Kowalzek-Adrians, Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission Natural Resources Planner

But help is on the way. The Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission approved a plan Tuesday. In the coming weeks three separate contractors will spray about 800 acres of phragmites in areas from Allouez to Green Bay. Scientists say the reeds will be ripe until the first frost, which is typically in mid-October.

"So an individual with a back pack that has the herbicide mix in the back, using a wand to do the treatment. Also a number of vehicles, like ATVs, amphibious vehicles. We also have contractors that will use boats, small boats," said Amy Carrozzino-Lyon, Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission Phragmites Project Coordinator.

Scientists say the eradication process is two-fold. After the phragmites are sprayed, mowing operations will begin.

"At that time the plants are dormant for the winter. So mowing will be done with equipment that will essentially mulch up the dead material, get it down on the ground, and start that decomposition process," said Carrozzino-Lyon.

Scientists say any surviving grass will be treated next year.

Don Zich says he can't wait to see the river again.

"I'll be glad when they spray, and finally get this stuff taken care of," he said.

The two-year project is expected to cost about $1 million.

A federal grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is covering the bill.

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