Maine DEP proclaims 2012 “The Year of the Boater Self-Inspection”
Courtesy boat inspectors conducted a record-high 76,105 inspections on Maine’s lakes last year but are stationed on just 116 of the state’s 6,000 lakes that must be safeguarded from the spread of invasive aquatic plants such as milfoil.
Maine is fortunate to have such a successful Courtesy Boat Inspection program, which in 2011, initiated a record-high 76,105 inspections, intercepting 287 invasive aquatic plant fragments with catches on boats entering or leaving waterbodies like Thompson, Messalonskee and Sebago lakes.
But these invaluable inspectors are on the shores of just a fraction of Maine’s 6,000 lakes and ponds and can’t carry all the water in the fight against invasive aquatic plants.
To support the hundreds of CBIs and strengthen its ongoing efforts to proactively protect Maine’s lakes from infestations of the invasive aquatic plants like milfoil and hydrilla that are now present in 23 of the state’s lake systems, DEP has proclaimed 2012 “The Year of the Boater Self-Inspection” and is urging the owners of both motorized and people-powered boats to inspect their vessels and related equipment both before and after they float.
DEP estimates that less than 20 percent of boaters take the three minutes needed to conduct a self-inspection, which should include reviewing and removing any plants from the anchor, lines, live well, bilge, motor prop, all fishing gear and the trailer and its parts where plants could be caught including the hitch, trailer axle and license plate.
This quick but crucial check can save countless hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars in plant management alone and has a huge payoff in the preservation of Maine’s waters and the native species, recreational opportunities, property values, businesses and communities that rely on their health.
As part of the awareness campaign, DEP is encouraging Courtesy Boat Inspectors to continue teaching those they inspect how to do their own self-inspections given that a helpful Courtesy Boat Inspector might not always be there to lend a look. Reinforce to boaters that a thorough inspection takes just a few minutes and helps to ensure that not only will a boater be in compliance with state laws that prohibit transportation of invasive plants, but that they’ll be doing their part to protect the lakes they love.
For more information on the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Invasive Aquatic Species Program and steps you can take to prevent plant invasion, visit www. maine.gov/dep/water/invasives.
To report a suspicious plant population and/or receive information on how to send a specimen of concern to the department for identification, call 207287-3901 or email milfoil@ maine.gov.
The Invasive Species Update is produced by the Lakes Environmental Association with funds generated by the Maine Lake and River Protection Sticker and the support of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Contact: Roberta Scruggs at LEA, firstname.lastname@example.org, 207647-8580, www.mainelakes.org or Maine DEP’s Invasive Aquatic Species Program, www.maine.gov/dep/water/invasives or milfoil@Maine.gov.
Mooselookmeguntic Lake as seen from Height of Land. The lower left foreground is the most likely place for the invaders to take root and the big island is Toothhaker, home of the boater from Massachusetts.
A Double Save at Mooselookmeguntic
Thanks to the persistence of courtesy boat inspectors, a rare double “save” of fanwort and what appeared to be variable milfoil was made on Mooselookmeguntic Lake in July. The story, however, doesn’t end there.
“The take-home message – the one we really want to get out there – is that conducting boat inspections at the launches is incredibly valuable, but it’s not fool-proof,” said Rebecca Kurtz, director of the invasives program at Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust (RLHT).
“We are absolutely committed to prevention by inspecting watercraft and teaching boaters to self-inspect,” Kurtz said. “But this most recent save confirms that it is going to take a balance of Prevention, Early Detection, and Rapid Response to fight against invasive aquatic plants.”
In light of threat posed by invaders, RLHT is increasing its emphasis on shoreline patrols.
“We currently have 10 teams of patrollers on 10 different waterbodies,” Kurtz said. “And as a result of this recent save, we are shifting the scope of our Mooselook patrol effort from the entire lake to the area within a few miles of the launch.”
On Saturday, July 7, a boat launched from Upper Dam Road on Mooselookmeguntic Lake. Gordon Wright, a “veteran” inspector, completely inspected the inside and outside of the boat and trailer before it launched. He took careful notes of where the boat had last launched.
Lost Lake and Knops Pond in Groton, MA
This lake and pond are part of a 204-acre impoundment that is heavily infested with fanwort, Eurasian milfoil, spiny naiad, variable leaf milfoil and water chestnut. Despite incredibly expensive efforts to reduce or contain the plants, the infestations keep spreading.
Despite his careful inspection, Wright was still concerned that the boat had come from such a heavily infested water body. So when his shift ended, he briefed the next two inspectors about the Massachusetts boat. The inspectors, a couple who live on the lake, have been on RLHT’s team for several years and are extremely dedicated to their role in protecting the lakes.
According to Kurtz, the two inspectors were alarmed by Wright’s report so they decided to check out all the trailers that were sitting in the parking lot.
They noticed the trailer from Massachusetts right away and began examining it, from the inside rollers to the outside rails. As they crouched down to eyeball the inside rollers, their hearts skipped a beat. Wrapped around the interior nut and laying on the roller bracket were two plant fragments. They were impossible to see while the boat was on the trailer, and just barely visible once the boat was launched.
The plants were about 1.5 inches long. One has been identified as fanwort and the other is most likely variable leaf milfoil. DNA confirmation of the variable leaf milfoil is pending, said Roberta Hill of the Maine Volunteer Lakes Monitoring Program (VLMP).
“There’s absolutely no way that Gordon (the first inspector) could have ever seen these fragments,” Kurtz said, “He would have had to have crawled under the boat with a flashlight to see them. We are just so grateful and pleased that Gordon shared the information about the boat from the infested lake with the next shift of Inspectors so that they scoured the trailers in the lot”.
The fragments were “fairly dry,” and the boat owner told the two inspectors the boat had not been in Lost Lake or Knops Pond for about two weeks.
“The boat owner was shocked, because he had washed his boat. He was truly sorry and felt badly about it,” Kurtz said. “He had done his best. And Gordon did his best. And there were still plants on the trailer”.
The boat owner travels frequently to Toothaker Island on Mooselookmeguntic. So RLHT’s shoreline patrol team will “scour” Toothaker Island and the entire shore land below the launch and about a mile above it, Kurtz said. They’ll also cover the major launches as much as they can.
“In 2011, RLHT and its seven teams of volunteers spent hundreds of hours surveying 100+ miles of shoreline and did a tremendous job,” said Kurtz. This year RLHT has expanded its number of volunteers to 80 and has added three new teams. In recognition of the program’s success, RLHT and its volunteers received the Shoreline Patrol Leadership award from the Maine Volunteer Lakes Monitoring Program (VLMP).
“We are thrilled to receive this recognition and to provide other communities with a Plant Patrol model that is effective and relatively inexpensive to implement,” Kurtz said. “But when you have over a dozen lakes and ponds in the Rangeley region and several of them exceed 6,000 acres in size, we need more volunteer patrollers.”
RLHT’s inspectors have made three previous saves in the Rangeley region including Eurasian milfoil, curlyleaf pondweed and variable leaf milfoil.
“We’ve got seven or eight lakes that are interconnected and people go back and forth between them,” Kurtz said. “From over 10 years of survey data we know that boaters on Rangeley Lake also go Mooselookmeguntic, Richardson, Cupsuptic, Dodge, and Long Pond. They’re very, very mobile so the chance of spreading an infestation from one regional lake to another is very high.”
Over the past decade, Maine has been pretty successful at controlling infestations, thanks to dedicated associations, plant patrollers and CBIs.
According to the CBIs who are responsible for this most recent save, “There is no doubt this recent discovery of invasive aquatic plants on a boat trailer entering Mooselookmeguntic Lake presents an imminent threat to our waterways. We don’t look like Massachusetts, Connecticut or any of those other places. But we will if we don’t keep up the good work.”
For that reason, there is a critical need for more volunteers committed to the boat inspection program in the Rangeley Lakes Region, and for all boat owners to learn how to inspect their boats, trailers and related equipment.
“Boat inspections absolutely work, because we found these invasive plants,” Kurtz said. “And we are committed to teaching boaters to self-inspect and we always need more volunteers. But it’s got to be prevention and early detection and rapid response – bing, bang, boom.”
CBI Intercepts Water Chestnut at Mousam
By Tammy Well
ACTON (Published July 19)— A keen-eyed boat inspector noticed something that first looked like a blob of grease – but on closer inspection turned out to be a seed pod from the invasive water chestnut. And because Gail Boisvert, a courtesy boat inspector for the Acton Shapleigh Youth Conservation Corps, was so observant, the seed pods didn’t make their way into Mousam Lake.
To those who keep track, like the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program, such incidents are a “save.” Once more, a Maine waterbody has been spared from an invasive species that can be difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate.
According to a 2006 article by Charles R. O’Neill, an invasive species specialist at the State University of New York, water chestnut can form nearly impenetrable floating mats of vegetation, making it hazardous for boaters and others.
O’Neill wrote that the thick canopy created by the water chestnut prevents light from entering the water body inhibiting or preventing the growth of aquatic plants. He wrote that water chestnut was introduced to North America in the 1870s,
Gail Boisvert found three water chestnut seed pods on a boat that last launched in the Charles River in Massachusetts when it was grown at a botanical garden at Harvard. It was found in the Charles River as early as 1879.
Those who live around the lake say the species could wreak havoc with both the health of the water body and property values, because swimming, fishing, boating and other pastimes are inhibited by the plant.
“This was a save,” said John McPhedran of the DEP’s Bureau of Land and Water Quality, which provides small grants to lake associations and other entities like ASYCC to help pay courtesy boat inspectors. Prevention, he said, is key since once infested, invasive plants are very difficult and expensive to control or eliminate.
Pat Baldwin, a former ASYCC board member and now the group’s advisor, called Boisvert “a super hero.”
“At present, there is no known (water chestnut) infestation in Maine,” said Baldwin, a staunch advocate for Mousam Lake.
“She did an excellent job,” said Baldwin, who pointed out that Boisvert had inspected 60 boats in her four hour shift Saturday. When she found the seed pods, she later took them to Baldwin, who passed them on to a plant expert.
“I thought it looked a bit odd,” said Boisvert of her discovery at the Mousam Lake boat launch on Saturday. An education technician during the school year, this is Boisvert’s fourth summer as a courtesy boat inspector for ASYCC.
Echo Lake Volunteers Having a Terrific Year!
Echo Lake Association (ELA) volunteers got off to a great start with a courtesy boat inspection grant from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The first order of business was to contract with longtime volunteer Alecia Tenney to coordinate our efforts.
The ELA includes Hopkins Stream, Parker Pond Outlet, Taylor Pond, Echo Lake and Fayette Mill Pond in Kennebec County. The association, founded in 1944, has a very effective neighborhood team approach to courtesy boat inspections, with four team leaders who work together to schedule and back up each other.
This effort has provided good results and continuity, but required a lot of time and effort from the team leaders. Alecia is now there to identify “soft spots” in our coverage and offer assistance when needed. She also collects inspection sheets and files reports.
So far, the association’s volunteers have provided 252 reported hours and inspected 315 vessels. We have carefully inspected 22 craft which were last on infected waters. We have found no invasive plants!
Of special note is the volunteers’ reports of boater appreciation of what we are doing. When asked if they inspect their boats before and after use, they overwhelmingly respond “YES!” Their support is a terrific morale booster for our inspectors. – Dick McKeen
The seed pod, or nutlet, was on the boat trailer, down near where the middle of the boat rests. “I felt the spikes,” she said of four barb-like spikes on the seed pods. “I knew it was a seed pod. I grabbed all three and showed the boat owner.”
The boat owner was horrified, said Boisvert, and told her he had power-washed the boat after he had launched it into the Charles River two years ago. Last year, he put the boat into another York County lake, and authorities have notified the lake association for that waterbody.
“It felt good,” said Boisvert. “I didn’t want to find anything, but I’m glad I found it.”
Pat Jackson, the technical director for ASYCC, said there were 58 plant fragments taken off visitor boats and trailers at Mousam Lake in 2011, two of which were milfoil. This year, 33 fragments were intercepted, with the water chestnut being the sole invasive plant detected, so far.
“This find by Boisvert prevented an invasive plant from rapidly spreading, costing the lake its good health and recreational value, while potentially saving the town(s) and state tens of thousands of dollars each year,” said Jackson in a prepared statement.
DEP has identified 23 lakes systems in Maine that are infested with invasive plants. New Hampshire has 78 infested water bodies, Jackson said, while Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York have invasive plant infestation as well.
Within 30 minutes of Mousam Lake, three lakes have invasive plants – Lake Arrowhead in Waterboro with milfoil, Pickerel Pond in Limerick with hydrilla, and West Pond in Parsonsfield with curly leaf pondweed.
Acton Shapleigh Youth Conservation Corps was formed in 2001 and is supported financially by both communities, conducts fundraisers like a summer golf tournament to augment its coffers and secures small grants, like the one that helps fund the courtesy boat inspection program, providing inspectors for Mousam Lake and Square Pond. ASYCC also works with lakeside dwellers on steps they can take to prevent erosion and runoff into lakes and ponds.
“We’re lucky she was vigilant,” said ASYCC board member Jane Thomas. “We’re awfully thankful.” Gordon Smith and David Coyne, Saint Joseph’s College students who are interns for the Maine Milfoil Initiative, deploy a “popnet” to capture small fish in the vegetation.
Maine Milfoil Initiative Raises Nearly $50,000
By Jacolyn Bailey
This summer has been a very productive one for the Maine Milfoil Initiative. We were able to raise just over $50,000 from private foundations in Maine. This support has allowed us to continue our research efforts and provide a small grant to each of the nine test lakes participating in the Maine Milfoil Initiative.
The lakes are Sebago Lake, Collins Pond and Little Sebago Lake in Cumberland County, Messalonskee Lake and Pleasant Pond in Kennebec County, Shagg Pond/ Lake Christopher, Hogan Pond and Thompson Lake in Oxford County, and Lake Arrowhead in York County.
The Maine Milfoil Initiative is a collaborative effort between Saint Joseph’s College (on Sebago Lake), the Lakes Environmental Association (Bridgton), Maine Congress of Lake Associations (Belgrade), the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program (Auburn) and the nine lake associations.
Its mission is to address the milfoil infestation threat through a focused program of prevention, research, management, mitigation, and eradication through the application of “best practices.”
Two Saint Joseph’s College interns, Gordon Smith and David Coyne, have been busily working on the lakes setting light traps and popnets, observing fish activity, and a number of other activities in order to collect data on the fish and insect communities found in variable leaf watermilfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum) and native aquatic plant populations.
Once the field season is completed, they will be analyzing this data and identifying the insects they collected. This information will help to evaluate whether variable leaf watermilfoil is negatively impacting these communities.
We are very grateful to The Davis Conservation Fund, Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, Narragansett Number one Foundation and the Margaret Burnham Charitable Trust for supporting our work this year and providing us the opportunity to continue with this important research.
Team Effort Urgently Needed on Some Lakes
By Peter Lowell
The Lakes Environmental Association is now considering taking on the clean-up of the entire Songo River. We have learned a lot about barriers and suction harvesting over the past seven years, but we have limited our scope to dealing with the plants in Brandy Pond and the upper Songo.
The expansion of our work was made possible by the significant progress made this summer by our Milfoil Team. Thanks to a grant from a mystery foundation and the Ram Island Conservation Fund, LEA was able to double the staff working on the river this year. We now have a tarp team and a suction harvester team. They work in concert and have done amazing work.
More daunting than thinking about cleaning up the Songo is the thought of dealing with the numerous and extensive infestations in Sebago Lake. The truth is this problem, and others in Maine, are far too big for any single group to handle. Lakes like Sebago and Messalonskee will probably never be controlled unless a huge “bipartisan” effort is organized. Landowners, businesses, state agencies, foundations and towns will need to join lake associations in this cause. We all fear failure as anyone does, so people like Jim Fredholm on Songo Bayou (see page 10) may hang in limbo with his milfoil problem until the power of collaboration is realized.
The sad irony is the realization that lakes and rivers are public resources, and the state is playing only a small role in the work that is currently being done. The “milfoil sticker” is a finite resource that is slowly eroding in its buying power. It pays for CBI grants, plant control grants, wardens, DEP staff and plant ID and plant survey training and more. There are only three alternatives for Maine’s massive infestations: State money, federal money or a public-private cooperative. It will probably take all three to get this job done.
The first step in considering work on Sebago Lake is to develop a strategy. LEA will be organizing a Sebago Lake summit this year in an attempt to bring together the many parties concerned with the lake. The goal of this meeting will be to develop a plan, or at least to see if there is enough “horsepower” to attempt the project.
China Lake has a New Kiosk
The China Regional Lakes Alliance (CRLA) built a new information kiosk for the head of China Lake. This structure has a new lake map and informational material and also shelter for courtesy boat inspectors. The project was organized by China resident Travis Pitre for his Eagle Scout project. Travis put considerable organizational effort into what became a community project. Materials were paid for by the China Lake Association with Tim Axelson providing oversight and assistance on the kiosk location. The talented crew in the “door shop” at Lakeview Lumber, Tim Fletcher and Ron Mattingly, did the construction with labor costs generously donated by Lakeview. Rick Hayden of CRLA did the design work and Butch Stevens of Stevens Farm and Mike Brown of Meadowbrook Farm provided advice and equipment. – David Landry
Can or Should You Battle Milfoil Alone?
What’s worse than an invasive plant infestation? An infestation with no lake association trying to keep it under control.
Jim Fredholm, who has a shorefront camp on the Songo Bayou in Naples, knows that all too well. He and his neighbors have been struggling to control variable leaf milfoil on their own for decades and this year the infestation is the worst ever.
“Pulling it out doesn’t seem to work – it grows back. We’ve been doing it for 40 years and it still grows back,” Fredholm said.
The Songo Bayou is a shallow offshoot of the Songo River that now winds around to make its own connection to Sebago Lake. Fredholm’s neighborhood was once part of a large estate, he said. The channel that runs in front of his camp was dredged sometime in the 1940s, when the property was broken up to sell. The fill was dumped on an island in the center of the bayou.
The camps on the Songo Bayou are very different kind of waterfront property than you’d find a short distance away on Sebago Lake. Fredholm, who is 75, said many bayou camp owners are “up in years” and many live out of state. So uniting them for a common cause isn’t easy. Efforts to start a road association failed, he said, despite the poor condition of the Bayou Road.
“Believe it or not, this is not a wealthy area to most people,” says Jim Fredholm (above) of the Songo Bayou. “If I hadn’t bought this place in 1972 for $14,000, I wouldn’t be here.”
Fredholm, who lives in Deer Park, N.Y., first rented his camp in the late 1960s. Milfoil was sparse then, he said, but it was definitely present. The local theory is that the plants were probably brought in by boaters who mistakenly thought the channel was still part of the Songo River. When boaters reached the channel’s end, they had to turn around and go back, providing ample opportunities for milfoil plants to drop off their propellers and take root in the shallow water.
“My next door neighbor and a couple of others and myself had small rowboats and we would get out there with ropes and just drop them and pull the plants out each spring,” Fredholm recalled. “When the water would get low, I would get down there with the rake and pull it in. But don’t forget I was 40 years younger then and could do all that.”
Variable leaf milfoil has been in the Songo Bayou for decades, but is flowering for the first time this year. Matt Scott was the first biologist hired by Maine’s Environmental Improvement Commission, a precursor to the state Department of Environmental Protection. He also saw milfoil in the Sebago area in the early 1970s, but doesn’t know if it was native milfoil or an invasive. “We were studying water quality,” Scott said. “We weren’t concerned about invasives then.”
Until this year, Fredholm had never seen milfoil emerge from water and flower in front of his camp. He believes it’s flourished because the winter was so mild that the channel never froze. He hasn’t put in his larger boat, but does take his small runabout with a 20-hp motor through the infested area.
“I know this probably makes it worse in the long run, but it’s the only way I can get out,” Fredholm said. “I just go right through the milfoil and the propeller chops it up. Then I lift the motor and clean off my prop and I go out.”
In July, he was concerned enough to call the Lakes Environmental Association to ask what could be done. In fact, he was one of three Songo Bayou property owners who called about the infestation in a single week. But if they can’t unite to repair their road, Fredholm said, he doesn’t believe his neighbors will band together to battle milfoil.
“They don’t want to do it,” he said, “because they say, ‘Why should we do it and spend our money to do it, when we’re already paying a milfoil tax to have it done?’”
He didn’t realize that Maine’s Lake and River Protection sticker only provides about $1 million annually and that each year more and more organizations apply for grants to prevent and control invasives. He also wasn’t aware of how hard those organizations work to raise matching money for CBI and plant control grants. Individuals are not eligible for grants.
So what can a shorefront property owner do about an infestation? Some of his neighbors are taking matters into their own hands, but he worries that their efforts are not legal.
“People are so independent-minded. Somebody here has already put down tarps on his own, saying ‘I don’t care what they say.’ And it worked,” Fredholm said.
Karen Hahnel, of DEP’s Invasive Aquatic Species Program, said anyone should consult with them before trying to control invasives. For example, tarps cannot be left in place indefinitely and there must be oversight by DEP and/or another designated association.
Fredholm knows the value of his property has been affected by the infestation, but he doesn’t want to sell it anyway. His children can make that decision, he says. But he wonders what will happen in waters, like the Songo Bayou, where infestations are affecting property values and the quality of life, but no one is willing to organize the battle against invasives.
A New Concept: Night Surveys for Invasive Plants
By Peter Lowell
I received a call from Francis Brautigam that seemed a bit odd at first. Brautigam is the regional fisheries biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) in southern Maine.
He asked if the Lakes Environmental Association (LEA) would help alert landowners on Highland Lake in Bridgton about a strangely lit boat IFW uses to conduct electrofishing surveys. We were able to get an email out to landowners as requested, but, since this all sounded quite intriguing, I asked Francis if I could come along.
Electrofishing involves cruising the shoreline with a bank of bright lights aimed at the lake bottom. Periodically, a shock is sent into the water via a contraption that looks like an umbrella frame turned inside out. Fish are stunned, they twitch around and are netted.
Then into a holding tank they go to await anesthesia with peppermint oil and ultimately weighing and measuring. It’s a tough night for the fish by the time they are returned to the lake.
As I watched this operation, it seemed (minus the electricity) like an extraordinary way to search a lake for invasives. So we began to research sources and specifications for lights, a generator and a power inverter to convert household current to DC for the LED lights.
LEA had an old pontoon boat in its flotilla and, with help from the Ram Island Conservation Fund through the Maine Community Foundation, we were able to equip the boat.
Joe Gallinari, a local electrician, rewired the boat’s trailer, running lights and did all the work setting up the lights and associated equipment. Jim Allen of Naples Marina took charge of installing our new motor and getting the boat shipshape.
Late in July, LEA’s new night survey boat was deployed in Crystal Lake in Harrison for its first survey. This trip was followed by surveys of Trickey Pond in Naples and Peabody Pond in Bridgton, Sebago and Naples. Many more trips are planned.
The idea seems to be quite efficient. An area about 24 feet wide is visible on a dark and calm night. The surveys done so far have taken about two hours on lakes about two miles long. There are refinements that will be made, particularly to provide comfortable seating.
Water clarity is the main variable, but even in lakes with low clarity about six to eight feet of the water column is visible, providing a good look at the growing zone. The most fun is watching eels and fish scatter or jumping when logs or rocks pop up suddenly near the boat. The motor is equipped with a prop guard so even those usually unpleasant occurrences are harmless at the low speeds we travel.
LEA looks forward to sharing the design and specifications with interested groups. We anticipate using the survey boat a lot in September when the water clears a bit too. Thanks to all who inspired, supported and helped this adventure.
Save Sebago Cove Research Helps Refine Techniques
By Christine O’Leary
Save Sebago Cove (SSC) is very active this summer with a vital “Pay to Play” Program and more people joining to help us with their individual skills and talents.
Since SSC began in 2006, more than 203 individuals have given time, expertise and labor. We have collected more than $130,000 in public and private monies. We have tapped non-traditional sources to supplement declining public funding.
SSC began its “Pay to Play” program in 2011. We offered property owners in Sebago Cove the opportunity to pay for the removal of variable leaf milfoil from their shoreline by our DASH boat (diver-assisted suction harvester). The charge was $125 per hour, with a minimum of two hours. Customers would buy two hours for themselves and some bought another hour for the cove, so we could harvest milfoil in the public boat channel. In addition, 10 percent of the cost of every hour purchased went back into the Save Sebago Cove financial structure. By last fall, we had sold 90 hours of milfoil removal, accumulating more than $10,000.
Our milfoil mapping survey work (2006) helped us manage our milfoil problem by knowing exactly where it’s located and to what extent the plant growth exists in those areas. We have developed a milfoil management manual/plan and are constantly tweaking it based on an active research and monitoring program. Every year we harvest 50-by-50-foot plots of heavily, moderately and sparsely infested areas and record the time to harvest and volume of plants extracted. The next year, we return to harvested areas to determine how much regrowth occurred and compare time needed to harvest the plants.
We have found the following from the research:
- SSC efficiency has increased 200 percent because of improved administration, modification of equipment and technique. We can do twice the area for the same money.
- SSC has observed a very significant amount of regrowth in harvested areas, with 50-75 percent of the plant volume returning the following years.
- Milfoil mapping has allowed us to better calculate the budget we’d need to harvest the entire cove. This information has been useful for grant writing and to help property owners better understand the problem and what is needed to address it.
A big commitment to benthic mats
SSC is developing an extensive benthic mat program to supplement the ongoing DASH harvesting and to improve efficiency and results per dollar.
Benthic mats are generally not seen, nor are the results unless the supporter snorkels. However, based on our findings in the cove, we are directing a significant portion of our funding to benthic mats. We also intend to manage the program as we do our successful Pay to Play program, reporting results to each investor/supporter.
SSC was referred to the “mat guru” Jim Chandler of the Community Lakes Association, who gave us a training seminar on mat building and management. We have retrofitted our barge (the Timothy O’Leary III) with special brackets to handle mats and it has a hydraulic boom (donated by Great Northern Docks and Bob Calileo) to move mats and manage navigation buoys.
SSC has secured navigational buoys from the Department of Conservation and permits to mark a navigational channel through the cove to help control boat traffic. Public funding for milfoil removal has been dedicated to the public channel. We are making headway on public education and boaters have been respecting the channels, which will improve management.
Lake Arrowhead Team Running at Full Speed
By Dave Sanfason
Lake Arrowhead Conservation Council’s team is going “full speed ahead” to control the spread of invasive plants in Lake Arrowhead and all Maine’s waters.
With one of the most robust diver assisted suction harvester (DASH) programs in the state and a seven-day per week, sixty-hour courtesy boat inspector initiative, the Lake Arrowhead team is beginning to make large gains in combating the variable leaf milfoil, which has taken root in the 1,000-acre waterbody.
LACC employs a total team approach, led by its Board of Directors. It has more than 100 members and is constantly recruiting new members and encouraging existing members to renew. Leading this prodigious effort is Mike Fitzpatrick, LACC president, assisted by his nine-person board. Jean Burke keeps track of all expenditures and payroll as LACC’s treasurer.
Our CBI team is made of seasoned professional inspectors who have manned the Ledgemere Dam public boat ramp for many years. They are Michelle Sanfason, Bob Gilchrest, Lucille Gilchrest, Paul Carey, Carol Carey and Colleen Carey.
This inspection program, which has been operating for eight years, has accounted for more “catches” of invasive plants either entering or leaving Lake Arrowhead’s waters than all other CBI programs in Maine combined.
LACC describes its DASH program in glowing terms, saying “Our divers are the best; our captains trained and seasoned; our support staff without peer.”
LACC CBI Colleen Carey checks for “hitchhikers.”
The LACC dive team is Gino Valeriani, Delian Veleriani, Steve Church and Jim Robichaud. The boat captains are Bill Jufre, Steve Dawson, John Sanfason, Peary Valeriani, Mark Whittaker and Roger Ridley. Ridley and Whittaker also are mechanics, along with Scott Davis, who also leads the ground support team which empties the full milfoil baskets daily.
Mark Harris leads the effort to collect data on where milfoil has been harvested, how much and by whom. LACC still uses the Maine Milfoil Initiative (MMI) data forms, coupled with GPS tracking.
LACC was recently awarded a $2500 grant from MMI, which will help increase the number of DASH shifts from 10 per week to 11 or 12.
By all accounts the enormous effort is making a difference. Surveys of the many coves, amounts of floating fragments, and amounts of “catches” on exiting boats all indicate the LACC’s dedicated team is proving that when a lake organization creates a dedicated team and employs it in an organized manner, great results are possible.
Balch Lake has Removed 15 tons of Milfoil
By Lee R. Willson, BLIMP Committee President
From May through July, in just the second year of DASH boat operation, more than 15,000 tons of variable milfoil has been removed from Balch Lake.
This year the primary focus of the Balch Lake Improvement Committee (also known as BLIMP) continues to be the control of milfoil.
We now have six Balch Lake associations (out of 12) that have their BLIMP payment included in their dues ($25) and we encourage the remaining six associations to consider this policy. In 2011, we had contributions from 395 of the 700 cottages on Balch (56 percent), up from 45 percent in 2010.
Our 2012 variable milfoil chemical treatment application package, which included our long-term management plan, was approved by the New Hampshire Division of Pesticide Control. Approximately 27 acres of the New Hampshire side of the lake was treated with Navigate (2-4-D granular) by Aquatic Control Tech (ACT) from Sutton, Mass. The cost was $13,975. Depending on the results, there could be another treatment in late September.
Last year was a successful year even though the season was slow to start due to set-up of our DASH boat and finished early, Labor Day, due to a lake draw-down for dam repairs. Once the DASH boat was operational, we had one diver on the hose and other divers on mesh nets. The DASH boat had a crew of two and, most of the time, we had a kayaker for each diver. Kayakers watch divers to insure safety, ferry mesh bags to the boat, and skim floating fragments.
In addition, there were several individuals who volunteered to mark their shorelines with markers made by BLIMP from concrete anchors, line and pieces of foam noodles.
Since milfoil tends to return to the same locations, there were multiple dives to the same sites. There were also several new sites and several shorelines where the milfoil was absent after being removed prior years.
The DASH boat definitely has increased the divers’ productivity. However, some infested areas have widely scattered plants, making net transport productive.
The DASH boat makes an excellent platform for divers, increases our exposure to homeowners and, consequently, helps our fundraising.
In the New Hampshire end of the lake, we have treated some heavily infested areas with the herbicide 2-4-D. We carefully monitor and dive on scattered plants in those areas. Some of that area is shallower, with a bottom containing a high content of sawdust from a saw mill that was operated in that area many years ago. Milfoil likes sawdust. We have experimented with benthic barriers in that area, finding water depth critical to ease of deployment.
We give credit to Dave Sanfason and Scott Davis at Lake Arrowhead for sharing their experience with us.
The milfoil removal operation at Lake Balch has evolved due to the unique nature of the lake. The DASH boat hose works well for heavy milfoil beds. The divers with nets attack the scattered plants.
The shallow, muddy areas in the New Hampshire end are responding to the 2-4-D.
Lovell Keeps Many ‘Eyes on the Water’
By Ann Williams
The Lovell Invasive Plant Prevention Committee (LIPPC) is a town committee made up of 18 interested hardworking citizens and taxpayers of Lovell and the Kezar Lake watershed.
Committees oversee our CBI program, education efforts, volunteers, grants and fundraising, communication, local rapid response and shoreline stewards. Task-oriented committees are formed as the need arises. This past year these have included:
- A survey to determine all private boat launch sites on Kezar Lake and the
six ponds in the watershed.
- Development of appropriate signage.
- Installation of non-lockable swing gates at the two public launch sites with signage indicating the responsibility for self-inspection of boats before entering the lake and after pulling out when there are no CBI personnel on duty. These gates are to remain closed when there are no CBI personnel present, but can be opened for launching and pulling out.
- Installation of additional kiosks for self-reporting inspections.
- We also are slowly developing our own team of IAP surveyors, and were fortunate enough to host a VLMP IAP Training Workshop in June. CBI: We have dramatically increased the numbers of days and hours of CBI coverage, thanks to the able direction of Marty Prox, our CBI coordinator. As of July 14, we had logged 22 volunteer-hours of inspection. Essential to the core of the LIPPC program is the continued recruitment of volunteers (or money to pay our CBI workers) for the CBI program and stewards. The message is being carried to all road associations, indeed, to any group holding a meeting! CBI paid personnel and volunteers covered boat inspections on weekends in May, and this year reported 65 more inspections than the same time last year.
Starting in early June we have coverage seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. and until 8 p.m. on Fridays. Main coverage is at the Narrows public landing, but the North End public landing is included when possible. As of July 14, 400 inspections were complete (last year we completed 1,042 inspections during the whole season).
Stewards Program: LIPPC has recruited volunteers willing to coordinate a cadre of neighbors and friends to ‘Keep Their Eyes on the Water’ along a given section of shoreline throughout the watershed. So far, the group consists of 20 people, covering roughly 40 percent of the Kezar Lake shoreline, while five of the six ponds have stewards.
The stewards will receive training and materials from the Education Committee, and are encouraged to participate in the Plant Paddles. The stewards have been given an identifying T-shirt.
Eyes on the Water: The ‘Eyes on the Water’ program is a collaboration of LIPPC and the Kezar Lake Watershed Association’s Education Committee. We had an active presence at Lovell Old Home Days, with samples of native aquatic plants and some photographs from the IAP training of both native and invasive plants. We also had a mock CBI training, complete with boat. All children who found the plants draped in all the usual places on the boat received a “Jr. CBI” sticker, which they wore proudly.
There will be three plant paddles this summer; two will be on Kezar Lake and one on Horseshoe Pond, with Jacky Bailey, who is our expert for the day.
In conjunction with Roberta Hill of VLMP and Maggie Shannon of the Congress of Lakes Association, we developed a set of “Know Your Natives” plastic cards, designed to slip into a pocket or attach to a belt with an accompanying carabiner. The set of five cards (depicting three native and two invasive plants), will be augmented next year by 10 more cards, primarily native species.
The initial set of five will be given free of charge to those attending the Plant Paddles, and to the Kezar Lake Watershed Association board, as well the members of the LIPPC steering committee. In addition, a list of the plants most commonly found in Kezar Lake and the ponds in the watershed was developed, in order that they might be added to the educational materials given out at the Plant Paddles.
No invasives were found on the plant paddle, although some plants were quite tricky to identify.
The Plant Paddle on July 23 was attended by 10 people, including two participants from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, our partner in the Eyes on the Water program.
It was a beautiful day, after early morning showers, and the excited chatter as people came back with samples was notably different from the first outing a year ago, when no one quite knew what we were doing! No invasives were found, although some plants were quite tricky to identify.
AND, all this is starting really to pay off! Earlier this summer, a resident approached a CBI person on duty with the news that he had spotted a ‘different’ aquatic plant growing near his dock. Upon investigation, and the trial launch of our developing Rapid Response plan, the questionable plant was sampled, passed under several pairs of eyes, taken to Auburn to be looked at by the experts, and finally determined, thank goodness, to be a plant native to Maine. People are really starting to “Keep Their Eyes on the Water!”
BRCA Crew Works to Contain Milfoil on Great Pond
By Charles Baeder
While the Belgrade Lakes area has the good news to report that Eurasian Milfoil in Salmon Lake appears to have responded well to one herbicide treatment in 2009, we are actively working to contain an infestation of variable milfoil in Great Pond.
Variable milfoil was positively identified in Great Meadow Stream in July 2010. By September 2011, the infestation had spread into North Bay of Great Pond.
Hand-pulling was undertaken in 2010 and 2011 to control the infestation. A much more aggressive plan is in place for 2012 that has four major components:
- Community awareness and education
- Controlling access to milfoil infested areas
- Field action:Hand pulling in Great Meadow Stream and North Bay, placing benthic barriers, surveying Great Pond and Long Pond for new milfoil outbreaks, fundraising.
New England Milfoil, a professional milfoil mitigation company, is conducting milfoil removal work in North Bay and Great Meadow Stream. An additional six-person milfoil field crew team is hired for the summer to remove milfoil and to survey the lake for milfoil. A temporary surface use restriction was granted by the state departments of Environmental Protection and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife banning all watercraft from Great Meadow Stream and the infested areas in North Bay. A gate has been installed at the stream access point with signage about the surface use restriction. Closure buoys and markers have been positioned at the mouth of Great Meadow Stream with signage.
The Maine Warden Service has stepped up coverage on Sam Mathes of BRCA’s Milfoil Crew hand-pulls variable milfoil on North Bay in Great Pond.
Great Pond to provide awareness, education and enforcement of the surface use restriction.
New kiosks and signage are installed at the Great and Long Pond public boat ramps to provide information about the milfoil infestation and the surface use restriction. Volunteers have been trained to assist with milfoil removal, milfoil surveying, education and awareness, and a variety of other tasks.
Courtesy boat inspectors check boats at seven ramps in the Belgrade Lakes region conducting over 10,000 inspections per year. CBIs are a combination of paid staff and volunteers and are funded by lake association partners, towns, Maine DEP and private donors.
Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance (BRCA) and Belgrade Lakes Association (BLA) are co-managing this effort. The collaboration is working:
- More than $150,000 has been donated to the STOP MILFOIL Capital Campaign to date.
- Over 25,000 gallons have been hand-pulled to date (an estimated 75 dump trucks).We hope to hand-pull over 80 percent of the milfoil by the end of 2012 and plan a second year of aggressive action in 2013.We hope to have achieved sufficient containment so that a more modest, less expensive and more sustainable effort is possible. We expect a long-term management effort will be required to contain the infestation to Great Meadow Stream. Please wish us well.
No Eurasian Found so Far on Salmon Lake
By Craig Grosby
It’s been nearly three years since the state carried out a controversial plan to rid a cove in Salmon Lake of an aggressive, invasive milfoil, and the plant has yet to reappear.
John McPhedran, of the Department of Environmental Protection’s invasive aquatic plants program, said last week that several surveys over the past two years failed to turn up any evidence of Eurasian water milfoil in Kozy Cove on Salmon Lake. Divers most recently checked the cove on July 16.
“That’s good news, but we still have plenty of growing season ahead of us,” McPhedran said.
The DEP is planning one more survey in Augusta if there is adequate water clarity. Divers have focused their attention on Kozy Cove, but the DEP, the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance and volunteer organizations have monitored the rest of Salmon Lake and McGrath Pond and Great Pond.
If there is no sign of Eurasian water milfoil this year, the state would consider removing Salmon Lake from the list of infested waters, McPhedran said. Even if the lake is removed from the state’s list, however, that does not mean the threat is over. McPhedran said it will be important for volunteers to keep a close eye on the parts of Salmon Lake that provide good habitat for Eurasian milfoil and other invasive aquatic plants.
“While this news is encouraging, I’ll never feel we can turn our back on Salmon Lake,” he said. “It has to be monitored, because some of these plants are very resilient, and there’s no guarantee it won’t come back at a later date.”
Meanwhile, the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance continues to lead the effort to remove variable-leaf milfoil from Great Meadow Stream and Great Pond. Tony Pied, who leads the alliance’s milfoil program, said crews have been removing milfoil since the end of May. That work will continue at least through August.
“Because we’ve had such great weather, it’s been really good growing weather for the plants,” Pied said. “They’ve really taken off.”
She estimated crews of divers and those working to hand-pull the plant have removed a little more than half the variable-leaf milfoil from the stream and the lake.
“The good news is we have not found any other infestations yet,” Pied said.
All watercraft are restricted from Great Meadow Stream and that section of Great Pond, which is marked off with buoys, through at least Sept. 21. The plan is to allow non-motorized craft after that date, Pied said. The alliance will work with the DEP to determine whether those restrictions must be extended.
“It all really depends on how much we can get done in the next couple of months or so,” Pied said.
Eurasian water milfoil, which can form dense mats and congest waterways, was first discovered in Kozy Cove in August 2008. Divers began removing the plant from the six-acre cove within a week of the discovery, but it continued to swell. Divers removed 325 plants in 2009, was nearly twice what was collected in 2008.
The DEP announced in July 2009 that it was seeking a permit to spread a chemical – best known by its trade name, Navigate – to control the milfoil in the cove. The department held two public hearings, during which residents expressed concern that the chemical might harm other plants and wildlife in the lake. The DEP applied the chemical in September 2009.
McPhedran said he has noticed no harmful effects from the chemical in Kozy Cove. State officials said at the time that they hoped the herbicide would push the milfoil back to a level where it could be controlled through dives and other harvesting methods. The chemical has at least met that objective.
“It hasn’t shown up; but if it did, I feel like we could control it manually at this point,” McPhedran said.
“While this news is encouraging, I’ll never feel we can turn our back on Salmon Lake. It has to be monitored, because some of these plants are very resilient, and there’s no guarantee it won’t come back at a later date.”
– John McPhedran, Maine DEP
Day on Cathance Lake Inspires CBI Efforts
By Karen Holmes
A summer day boat trip last August is what convinced me to get more involved in protecting Cathance Lake, which is located in Cathance Township and Cooper.
The warm and sunny day was a perfect setting to go out in our new pontoon boat for the first time. We appreciated the navigational buoys that marked the locations of rocks and shallows and felt quite comfortable exploring around the over 2,900 acres of Cathance Lake.
As we cruised along, I understood again why such places have inspired poets and painters by their beauty and life-giving properties. Some common loons swam alongside us. Majestic ospreys and bald eagles soared overhead. All kinds of birds were singing and calling from the shorelines. Starkly white lofty clouds towered overhead and were reflected down into the bright blue and calm water.
We anchored in a cove, ate our lunch and enjoyed the magnificent silence of Cathance Lake. We observed many forms of aquatic life swimming near the boat. As writer Pete Hamill said: “I don’t ask for the meaning of the song of a bird or the rising of the sun on a misty morning. There they are, and they are beautiful.”
In 2012, I volunteered to be the coordinator for the Courtesy Boat Inspection Program at Cathance Lake.
The members of the Cathance Lake Association love the Lake and are “dedicated to preserve, protect and respect it.” Indeed, the protection of water and water resources depends on such groups and individuals here in Maine and elsewhere.
In my role as CBI coordinator, I respect and applaud all the CLA volunteers who inspect for many hours. They have been trained to look carefully for invasive plants and animals that could be attached on boats, trailers, and fishing gear. They respectfully teach boaters how to do this before and after entering water bodies.
So far no invasive plants have been found during CBIs at Cathance Lake. The water remains pristine and with remarkable water clarity of 35 feet.
When you conduct a courtesy boat inspection, you put serious beliefs into actions. How can people satisfy human needs such as water while protecting the ecological integrity of natural systems? How can we balance water usage with responsibilities of maintenance of water quality and availability for future generations?
CBIs help encourage responsible answers and actions for these questions.
Aldo Leopold in The Sand County Almanac wrote: “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community in which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
Substituting water for land in this eloquent statement is what CBIs do every time they inspect our lakes, ponds, rivers and streams in Maine. I am proud to be a CBI coordinator for the Cathance Lake Association and hope to do so for many more years.
A reminder for all CBIs
Please send all suspicious plants to the Volunteer Lakes Monitoring Program (VLMP) for identification and keep the survey form to fill out until you hear back from VLMP to accurately record the information. If VLMP does not identify the plants as invasive, then the catch isn’t recorded and the group doesn’t get credit for a save. Sometimes a group may say they had a catch of an invasive plant, but there is no record on the survey form or at VLMP’s database.
– Roberta Hill, VLMP
Collaboration Works for York County Plant Patrol Team
By Laurie Callahan
York County Invasive Aquatic Species Project (YCIASP) has received a Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund award for the 2012 season. With the grant, YCIASP will be able to continue with its educational outreach and Invasive Plant Patrol (IPP) team-building activities in 2012.
This year’s efforts will be focused on surveying portions of the Saco River watershed, including the Ossipee and Little Ossipee Rivers’ watersheds, for variable milfoil and other invasive aquatic plants (IAP). The York County Soil and Water Conservation District is sponsoring the 2012 YCIASP.
Other activities this summer will include:
- Providing invasive aquatic species educational outreach in York County
- Assisting York County individuals and groups to build IPP teams
- Surveying sections of the Saco River to better deter
- Encouraging and supporting the effort to build a collaborative IPP team in York County
For the first YCIASP event of the 2012 season, Jeanne Achille of Wilson Lake (Acton) invited other IPP volunteers in York County to come to Wilson Lake on July 19 to assist with an invasive aquatic plant screening survey at the boat launch cove and another cove. Jeanne and Gail Murano (both of Wilson Lake), four folks from Mousam Lake, one from Square Pond and YCIASP Coordinator, Laurie Callahan, met at Jeanne’s property on Wilson Lake that morning. Under near perfect weather and water conditions they had a great time seeing the variety of native plant species that occur in Wilson Lake and helping Jeanne and Gail kick off their 2012 IPP season. And there were no invasive aquatic plants found in the areas surveyed that day! The event marked the beginning of a season of collaborative IPP efforts in York County. Jeanne’s comments about the day were, “… an inspirational day on the lake. I learned so much….Can’t wait for the next collaborative effort!”
York County groups and individuals are encouraged to contact Laurie Callahan at email@example.com to be a part of the collaborative effort.
The towns of Brooksville and Sedgwick have joined forces to prevent the spread of invasive aquatic plants in Down East Maine. The boat launch on Walker Pond is not yet completed, but the public has been able to access the water and launch boats. The town’s selectmen felt it was important to establish an attitude of caution prior to the official opening.
Encouraged by the award of a CBI Cost Share Grant, the towns pooled their resources to initiate a meaningful program. Funds were allocated to cover payroll and administration, and an inspector was hired to work Fridays through Sunday. Plans have been made to construct a small building where the inspector can store supplies and escape inclement weather, and to assist in attracting volunteers. The Friends of Walker Pond are eager to expand coverage on week days.
Response to inspections has been very positive. The towns are pleased to have found a responsible and invested employee as this is clearly the key to success.
– John and Joanne Kimball
Invasives Test Towns and Lake Associations by Jeff Clark
This story, published July 2012, is reprinted by permission of the Maine Townsman, a monthly magazine sent to more than 4,500 elected and appointed officials and employees of member municipalities and other readers interested in municipal issues.
The Maine Townsman
In 2007, the Town of Limerick had to reduce some shorefront property valuations on Lake Arrowhead by as much as 20 percent. This summer, the assessor in Belgrade is reviewing values on part of Great Pond. In both cases, the reason was the same – milfoil.
Invasive aquatic plants, chiefly two species of milfoil, have developed into a major concern for Maine lakefront property owners and the towns that depend on them for a substantial part of their revenues. At last count, almost three dozen bodies of water had confirmed infestations.
Lake associations that once concerned themselves chiefly with the annual Fourth of July picnic and Parade of Boats are now raising and spending tens of thousands of dollars each year on efforts to control hydrilla, curlyleafed pond weed, Eurasian and variable leaf milfoil, and hybrid milfoil. Towns are being asked for annual appropriations to underwrite boat inspection programs and weed harvesting machines.
Although variable milfoil was found in Sebago Lake as far back as 1970, invasive water plants began generating statewide interest in the late 1990s as invasives spread to other lakes. The Bridgton-based Lakes Environmental Association held its first “milfoil summit” 13 years ago, and it has become an annual event.
In 2002, when the state instituted a mandatory $10 “milfoil sticker” program for all boats and seaplanes launched in fresh water in Maine ($20 for out-of-state boats), the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had confirmed infestations in only 10 water bodies. By 2010, there were 34 known cases in 23 lake systems. (Depending on who is doing the counting, Maine has between 2,400 and 6,000 lakes and ponds; the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife puts the number at 3,400.)
“We have to recognize that a huge resource that is very important to the state and local economies is being threatened,” said Toni Pied, the milfoil coordinator for the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance.
The Belgrade Lakes Association is raising $500,000 over the next three years to fight a milfoil infestation in Great Pond’s North Bay – which has been closed to boaters this summer – and its associated Great Meadow Stream. On a sunny June day, Pied noted that Great Pond was hosting a large bass tournament, one of several during the summer that have become important parts of the local economy.
“The local economic impact of these infestations can be very high,” said Ernie Rice, Belgrade’s interim town manager and former selectman. “I’d estimate that shorefront properties make up half or more of our tax base. It’s a very large topic of conversation around here.”
“If a significant amount of tax money comes from shorefront owners and aquatic plant infestations cause values to go down, that tax burden is shifted to other landowners in the town,” Pied pointed out. “That has already happened in other states. It could happen here very easily if these infestations aren’t controlled.”
A 2002 University of New Hampshire study showed “that property values on lakes experiencing milfoil infestation may be considerably lower than similar properties on uninfested lakes.” The Lakes Environmental Association and local lake associations have fielded inquiries from people trying to sell or buy shorefront properties asking about the effects of invasive plants on property values.
Left unchecked, milfoil forms dense mats of vegetation on the water’s surface.
“You can’t get through it swimming and boats can’t penetrate it,” Pied said. “There have been cases of kayakers getting trapped, overturning, and drowning in milfoil.” The weed has also been blamed for several drowning deaths of swimmers in recent years, although none has occurred in Maine yet.
Milfoil and other invasive plants spread when pieces of the plants get snagged on boats, motors, trailers or even fishing gear and piggyback to the next lake or river. Milfoil requires only a small piece of the plant to survive to establish itself in new water.
“Basically milfoil’s purpose in life is to fragment and spread,” Pied said. The spread of invasive plant infestations in Maine closely follows the I-95 corridor, she added, supporting the conclusion that boats are the most likely carriers.
Using mats, hands
The most common control methods are so-called benthic barriers – mats spread over the lake floor to block sunlight and kill the plant’s roots – and hand harvesting using DASH (diver-assisted suction harvesting) boats. Chemical suppression is controversial and only works in specialized situations.
Stopping the infestations before they start is a large part of the anti-invasive effort. Maine now has an extensive courtesy boat inspection program run by local lake associations where trained inspectors make sure that boats entering or leaving a water body are free of aquatic plants, as well as educating boaters on the importance of self-inspecting. Last year more than 76,000 inspections were done and 287 “saves” were recorded, where invasive plants were found. (By mid-June this year inspectors at the seven Belgrade Lakes launches had made five saves.)
Lake associations have taken the lead role in fighting infestations more by default than design.
“The lakes and ponds of the State of Maine belong to the people of Maine – until there’s a problem,” said Michael Fitzpatrick, founder of the Lake Arrowhead Conservation Council (LACC) in Limerick. “Then they belong to the lake associations.”
But lake association members admit that their local towns usually don’t hesitate to contribute money toward eradication efforts, and the
DEP has awarded annual grants of up to $6,000 each to local programs, funded through the milfoil sticker income.
“We’re very much aware of the work the association does,” said Nancy Brandt, the town manager in Waterboro, which includes the southern half of Lake Arrowhead. “The town for the past several years has appropriated $3,000 or $4,000 each year to help control milfoil.”
Funding from towns
“We routinely approach the surrounding towns for funding,” said Charlie Balder, executive director of the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance. “Town support is critical, and we get very high repeat support. They recognize that what we’re doing is important to them and that we’ve made a difference.”
Still, lake associations raise many thousands of dollars themselves. Last year the Little Sebago association, for example, received a $6,000 DEP grant and raised another $58,817 from local sources. The West Pond Association, which is battling the state’s only infestation of curly-leafed pond weed, also received $6,000 toward a budget of $18,137. (It has in the past run up to $50,000 a year.)
Lake Arrowhead has one of the worst infestations of milfoil in the state.
“We were watching this plant grow out of control,” Fitzpatrick recalled. The warm-water lake has an average depth of only six feet, prime milfoil territory, and Fitzpatrick is convinced that, left unchecked, the plant would have completely choked the water body by now.
“We all felt there was a lot at stake here,” he said. “Property values were dropping; the lake was getting a bad name.”
Starting five years ago, the Lake Arrowhead Conservation Council secured funding for two DASH boats. They now work almost full-time through the summer pulling up milfoil by the ton for composting ashore. LACC also hires courtesy boat inspectors at the lake’s launch ramp and has a regular lake survey to keep track of the infestation.
“I’m employing 19 people and operating a $70,000 a year budget these days,” Fitzpatrick said.
“The biggest lingering problem I think is that the plant control folks are carrying a lot of water here without much help,” said Peter Lowell, executive director of the Lakes Environmental Association, in a recent video interview. “They really are cleaning up a state resource. When the folks at Little Sebago are taking those plants out of the lake, it’s not their land, it’s our land.”
It’s a job with no end in sight. “I don’t think it will ever go away,” said Joe Howes, of the West Pond Association. “It’s too persistent. We’ll be doing this for the foreseeable future, I’m afraid.”
“People want a silver bullet, the magic treatment that will make milfoil or hydrilla go away forever,” Pied said.
Intern R. J. Legere works on the Lakes Environmental Association’s Milfoil Crew. – LEA photo “But there isn’t any magic. You just have to keep working at it and hope to manage it.”
While milfoil and curly-leafed pond weed are bad, “there are other aquatic plants out there a lot worse that we haven’t seen in Maine yet,” Pied noted. “Things like Brazilian water weed are in nearby states that we don’t have here, yet. After all, we didn’t have Eurasian milfoil until five years ago.”
As town budgets come under more pressure, lake associations are feeling the squeeze. Limerick’s voters this year turned down Fitzpatrick’s request for $3,000 in funding, for the first time in four years, even as he argued that towns may need to take on more of the burden in the future.
“It can’t be just lake associations,” he said. “Towns need to protect their lakefront assets. If they don’t, they’re going to lose a lot of money.”