What exactly is an aquatic weed?
Throughout my career in aquatic plant management, I have frequently encountered lakefront property owners that look at their lakeshore and see only “weeds.” Today I would like to restore the reputation of aquatic plants, and also explain the city’s rules for shoreline vegetation removal. Submerged, floating, and emergent (rooted in the lake bottom but rising above the water line) vegetation fulfills a critical role in the ecology and stability of a water body. They provide habitat and refuge for wildlife, shoreline stabilization, nutrient/pollutant removal, and can be highly aesthetic and functional components of an aquatic landscape.
Due to the effects of the ornamental plant business, and the travel of humans across the globe, many species of exotic plant have immigrated to Florida. These “weedy” species oftentimes infiltrate the beneficial native plants of your shoreline, and may even completely outcompete and overwhelm original vegetation. There are many resources available to independently determine what species may be present on your lakefront, such as the University of Florida’s Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants website (plants.ifas.ufl.edu); however, you can always schedule a free appointment with the city’s stormwater and lakes management coordinator to individually assess your property.
Section 8-14 of Maitland Land Development Code sets specific standards for shoreline vegetation removal and permitting requirements. Every lakefront property owner is allowed to completely remove 50 linear feet or 50 percent of their shoreline, whichever is less, out to open water to create an access corridor. For example, if a resident has 80 feet of lake frontage, they may clear 40 feet, however if a resident has 800 feet of frontage, they may only clear 50 feet. If you desire to remove vegetation outside of your prescribed access corridor, then you MUST obtain a Shoreline Alteration permit from Maitland’s Stormwater and Lakes Management Division. Clearing of shoreline vegetation outside of the access corridor will require replanting with native vegetation to restore local habitat and prevent future shoreline erosion.
With the creation of our shoreline permitting regulations in 2010, the city established a shoreline protection area around each of Maitland’s 22 water bodies. Application of any type of fertilizer or non-aquatic-use pesticide or herbicide is strictly prohibited within 25 feet of a lake, to prevent spread of these chemicals to waterways. Fertilizer leaching into a lake could lead to a nutrient imbalance resulting in algal blooms, while pesticides or herbicides not designed for aquatic use can cause irreparable harm to birds, fish, and other wildlife we are striving to preserve.
If you have any questions about the city’s shoreline rules and regulations, or would like to obtain a permit, please contact Maitland’s stormwater and lakes management coordinator at 407-539-6203 or [email protected]
Also, please keep in mind that removal of any vegetation outside of your access corridor, or application of any herbicide whatsoever, will require a vegetation removal permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Their permits are available free of charge, and can be applied for online at myfwc.com/license/aquatic-plants
— Marissa Williams, Stormwater and Lakes Management Coordinator