Wrangling needed on the Chain O’ Lakes to corral breakaway bogs

Floating islands that slam into piers, boats and sea walls could be the plot of a Hollywood horror film.

But it’s reality on the Chain O’ Lakes, where recent flooding has spawned large floating islands of vegetation, muck and weeds that break free and require some bog wrangling to get them under control.

“These bogs are certainly the last thing you want to deal with on a 7,100-acre waterway that is barraged after a flood,” Fox Waterway Agency Executive Director Joseph Keller said. “Between the branches and trees and the clean up that needs to be done on the Chain, the last thing you want is to chase these small islands floating around out there.”

Bogs are floating tangles of muck, cattails, tall grass and other vegetation growing on top of the water. They are often anchored because their weight allows vegetation below the surface to reach the lake bottom.

Because of flooding in the last month on the Chain and Fox River, several bogs have detached from the lake bottom and floated away.

When they get caught up in a swift current or pushed by high winds, they will travel in one piece and slam into piers and sea walls, Keller said. Or, large islands break into pieces and scatter across lakes, blocking access and making boating dangerous.

“The one we removed today on Lake Catherine started as a much larger bog that split into multiple pieces,” he said. “It won’t be months of work, but rather years of work, to remedy the problems from this one flood event.”

At first glance, the small bog on Lake Catherine near Antioch didn’t look out of place. But, after a boat roared past at a speed fast enough to create a wake, and the 50-foot by 20-foot island rocked up and down, banging into a section of a pier, pushing it slightly.

Agency officials used two giant barges — one carrying a construction excavator — to systematically remove the bog bucket by bucket.

“When the larger bogs get caught up into current or begin moving, look out,” said Bob Beyers, owner of Shoreline Marine Contractors and Sons, which assisted in Friday’s bog removal. “We saw one on Grass Lake a couple weeks ago that was the size of a football field. If it hit anything, it would cause serious damage.”

Keller said there are two ways to wrangle breakaway bogs.

One is to break apart a bog and haul the material to a drying site. There, the vegetation turns to compost, and the…

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