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Hydroponic "Islands" May Help Revive Hayden Lake

An unusual experiment begins this summer on Idaho's Hayden Lake - testing of man-made floating wetlands that may save the lake from slowly choking to death. The Hayden Area Regional Sewer Board and the Kootenai Environmental Alliance have teamed up to make the artificial wetlands.

They call it "biomimickry technology."

The idea is launch the floating pads, made from recycled plastic and planted with native wetland vegetation, and let them eat up nutrients - primarily phosphorus - which are slowly strangling Hayden Lake.

On the surface, the lake is a sparkling blue gem, but trouble lurks under the water because there's no natural outlet to flush out nutrient-loaded runoff.

So the mats, which have been under study for about four years, will be installed to determine if plant roots will gobble up some of the nutrients. The plan is to build eight mats and put them in four bays around the lake shore.

The experiment will be closely monitored by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, the University of Idaho and North Idaho College students.

Researchers estimate that a 250-square foot wetland island equals the benefit of a full acre of natural wetland surface area.

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