Updated: Jun 14, 2019
I live in Florida and the lake on my property is full of seaweed and invasive plants. How can I clear it out?
That's a great question. There's a lot of misinformation out there, and in this article we're going to try to save you a lot of time looking up the laws and making sure you can do it.
At the end you'll find links to our sources and how to get a permit in case you need to clear more than you're allowed without one.
What plants does the state of Florida consider invasive aquatic weeds?
There are at least 19 documented invasive seaweed species in the state of Florida. It's best to take care of them early and often, so if you're starting to notice signs of them growing it's time to take action today.
We found a useful guide for plant identification on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection website. Here are some of the invasive plants listed by the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences:
Aquatic Soda Apple (Solanum tampicense)
Crested Floating Heart (Nymphoides aquatica)
Cuban Club-Rush (Cyperus blepharoleptos)
Feathered Mosquitofern (Azolla pinnata)
Giant Salvinia (Salvinia molesta)
Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata)
Hygrophila (Hygrophila polysperma)
Lyngbya (Microseira wollei)
Napier Grass (Pennisetum purpureum)
Para Grass (Urochloa mutica)
Sargassum (Sargassum natans and Sargassum fluitans)
Torpedograss (Panicum repens)
Tropical American Water Grass (Luziola subintegra)
Uruguayan Waterprimrose (Ludwigia uraguayensis)
Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)
Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes)
Water Spinach (Ipomoea aquatica)
West Indian Marsh Grass (Hymenachne amplexicaulis)
Wild Taro (Colocasia esculenta)
Invasive seaweed is difficult to control and can destroy entire ecosystems, killing local fish and other native plants. It can clog up your boat motor, attract mosquitoes and other insects, spreads quickly and lowers property values. Some even cause property damage by giving off corrosive gases when they decompose. All it takes to have a fun swimming season and keep your boat from getting worn out too soon is a rake, a cutting tool and a little elbow grease. Invite a couple friends over, have a few beers... be out on the water by sundown.
Aquatic Plant Management Laws of Florida State
We encounter people with misconceptions of questions about the law out at trade shows all the time, so we sifted through the various laws and departments to make it easier for you. Laws can change and we’ll update these guides as quickly as possible. As always, you should contact your local office of the Department of Environmental Quality or Department of Natural Resources for advice on your exact situation.
Note: AquaticWeedTools is not a law firm. As such, AquaticWeedTools does not provide legal advice. The material in this guide does not constitute legal advice nor does contributing to the guide or communicating with AquaticWeedTools or other contributors about the guide create an attorney-client relationship.
The State of Florida lets you do a lot to remove the weeds in your pond, lake or dockside without a permit. We're assuming it’s your land and you’re using mechanical tools. If you like being able to do what you want with your land without a lot of oversight from the government, tools are the way to go.
According to the Florida Department of Wildlife, invasive aquatic plants can do harm in a lot of ways. Weeds can block waterways and hurt the local economy, or be as severe as to contribute to flooding, property damage and in hurricane conditions, might even make flooding more deadly. That's an extreme example - but there are a lot of ways invasive plants can impact the lives of you, your friends and your family and neighbors.
Florida Aquatic Weed Removal Permit Exemptions
Florida Administrative Rule 68F-20.0035 is pretty long and includes a bunch of conditions that won't apply to homeowners. Here are the criteria you need to meet to not have to get a permit to clear your swimming area or dock:
No aquatic plant control permit is required by the Commission for the following waters or activities:
Natural or Artificial Waters where all of the surrounding (360 degrees) upland property and submerged lands are wholly owned by one person, other than the state, unless there is a direct connection to Waters of Special Concern [...] or there is a connection to a manatee aggregation site that would allow the ingress and egress of a manatee into the waterbody.
Waters that are less than 160 surface acres unless the waters are a public waterbody, or there is a direct connection to Waters of Special Concern.
In that specific area of a waterbody where an Environmental Resource Permit is issued by the Department of Environmental Protection or one of the state’s Water Management Districts and aquatic plants are removed as a part of the permitted activity.
In all freshwater bodies, except aquatic preserves designated under chapter 258, F.S., and Outstanding Florida Waters designated under chapter 403, F.S., a riparian owner may physically or mechanically remove herbaceous aquatic plants and semiwoody herbaceous plants, such as shrub species and willow, within an area delimited by up to 50 percent of the property owner’s frontage or 50 feet, whichever is less.
It's important to know how they calculate the size of the body of water:
The acreage of waters in systems with any connections shall be calculated for each individual water rather than collectively as a system. Natural connections between non-exempt waters shall be considered part of those waters.
Well? Do I need a permit to clear the weeds out of my lake in Florida or not?
We're not lawyers, we can't tell you for sure. It does look like if you own the land and the entire lake or pond and it's smaller than 160 acres, you don't. If it's a freshwater swimming area that's not considered a nature preserve, you can remove up to 50% with your bare hands or mechanically (with a weed rake and cutting tool.) Don't think about chemicals though, or you run the risk of a lot of trouble.
What should I use to clear the seaweed around my dock? (Or pond, lake or swimming area, whatever you call it!)
The Aquatic Weed Rake from Prime Waters Manufacturing is designed to clear pesky weeds out with minimal effort, and safe enough to be used by any contractor or anyone in the family.
For Florida weeds, we recommend using either the Dock Weed Rake or Dock Weed Knife, and the Over and Out Rake to remove them once you're done cutting them down. Then simply dispose of them like you would yard debris, compost them or there are companies you can hire to haul them away.
Having a clear pond all summer has never been so easy and safe for your family. If you have any questions at all, reach out to us. Our experts are ready to help!
Are there any invasive weeds we missed? Do you have a special situation we didn't mention above? Comment below and we'll find an answer for you as best we can.