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Weed explosion at Lake Hefner threatens recreation on the water

OKLAHOMA CITY - An explosion of a common water plant is causing problems for boaters on one of OKC's most prominent lakes.

"We ran into one. We stopped. We didn`t move at all. you park when you hit it pretty much," said Dan, an OKC sailor, about the weed explosion at Lake Hefner.

The tangles of vines and leaves are technically called Milfoil, but most refer to them as Coontail.

They are wreaking havoc on sailboats, wrapping around the keels and propellers.

"Some of the boats would actually be sailing thru the weeds and get stopped by it, it would be so thick," said Craig Bilodeau.

Bilodeau is with the OKC Boat Club. He has been boating at Lake Hefner all his life. He says the weeds are a threat to one of the best sailing lakes in the region.

"It's never become a widespread problem until recently, it is concerning a lot of the sailors," said Bilodeau.

The City of Oklahoma City is aware of the weed outbreak.

"We think it's been a combination of the amount of rain and water that we`ve had plus all of the sunshine and hot temperatures have caused it to grow more than it has in past years," said Jennifer McClintock of OKC Utilities.

McClintock says the Coontail is native to central Oklahoma and is not an invasive species. But some think another invasive species is to blame for the huge rafts of weeds.

"The zebra mussels that became established a couple of years ago, they purify the water and since the light column can go into deeper water it allows the weed to grow in deeper water," said Bilodeau.

What can be done about the gooey greens? Well, spraying chemicals is out of the question.

"The number one reason why we have these waters in Oklahoma city is as a source of drinking water. We cannot introduce any types of unknown chemicals or herbicides into that water," said McClintock.

McClintock says it might be a pain for boaters but it won't affect water quality.

"There is not an issue at all with the weeds affecting the quality of the drinking water."

The City stresses that it's great that people use the lake for fun, but water quality comes first. They say anyone caught trying to spread chemicals to kill the weeds could face large fines and loss of sailing privileges.

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