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What is aquatic vegetation?

  Aquatic Plants and Fish Pamphlet
Aquatic Plants & Fish Pamphlet

For more information, please write to:
Washington Department of
Fish and Wildlife
Habitat and Lands Program
600 Capitol Way N
Olympia WA 98501-1091
(360) 902-2534

There are two types of aquatic plants: beneficial and noxious.
Beneficial plants (which include native plants) play a significant role in lakes, streams and marine waters, by providing food and habitat for fish and wildlife, stabilizing shorelines, and contributing to nutrient cycling. Sometimes beneficial plants can grow in overabundance. This is usually the result of excessive inputs of nutrients, such as nitrogen or phosphorus. In contrast, aquatic noxious weeds are invasive non-native plants that threaten our native vegetation, fish, wildlife and their habitat.

Do you want to control aquatic vegetation?
The Aquatic Plants and Fish pamphlet streamlines permitting and provides guidance.

Because of the importance of controlling aquatic noxious weeds, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has created a pamphlet titled “Aquatic Plants and Fish.” The pamphlet primarily addresses problems associated with aquatic noxious weeds. Removal of some beneficial plants is allowed for clearing areas around docks, and for swimming. The removal of aquatic beneficial plants is generally discouraged due to their important ecological functions.

The purposes of the pamphlet are:

  • to serve as the Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA), thus expediting the approval process for controlling invasive aquatic noxious weeds, especially early infestations.
  • to expedite the HPA process for limited aquatic beneficial plant control, using small-scale projects only (such as around docks and in swimming areas).
  • to provide guidance in selecting control methods for early and more advanced infestations of aquatic noxious weeds.
Fanwort (Cabomba caroliniana)
Fanwort has distinctive fan-shaped submersed leaves arranged in pairs on the stem. Distinctive, but small, floating leaves may be present. Floating leaves are long (less than one-half inch) and narrow (less than one-quarter inch). White flowers float on the water surface. Fanwort can regenerate and spread by stem fragments.
Important Aquatic Project Definitions
  • Aquatic plants are all plants, beneficial or noxious, that occur within state waters.
  • Aquatic noxious weeds are plants on the state noxious weed list.
  • Beneficial plants are all native and non-native plants, except those on the state noxious weed list.
  • Early infestation refers to the time period in which an aquatic noxious weed whose state of development, life history, or area of coverage can be completely controlled.
  • Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) refers to a permit issued by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife allowing work in or near state waters. All projects in or near state waters must be approved in writing by the department before a project can begin. In some cases, local permits also may be needed for projects.

What projects will the “Aquatic Plants and Fish” pamphlet allow?

The “Aquatic Plants and Fish” pamphlet will allow several types of physical and mechanical aquatic plant control projects including the following:

For noxious weed control, you may use:

  • hand-pulling or hand tools
  • bottom barriers (of a limited size)
  • weed rollers (for a limited area)
  • diver dredging techniques
  • mechanical cutting and harvesting

For beneficial plant control, you may use:

  • hand pulling or hand tools (in a limited area)
  • bottom barriers (of a limited size)
  • weedrollers, diver dredging and mechanical cutting and harvesting may be used provided prior WDFW authorization is obtained (see pamphlet for additional details)

Note: The Aquatic Plants and Fish pamphlet deals only with physical and mechanical methods of controlling and removing plants. It does not address aquatic plant control using grass carp, herbicides or water column dye.

Use of the pamphlet as the HPA for a project does not preclude the need to follow other applicable rules and regulations. State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review of projects, for example, is coordinated through your local jurisdiction. You can find out what other federal, state or local environmental permits you may need for aquatic plant projects by calling the The Office of Regulatory Assistance at (360) 725-0628.