October 9, 2012

Belgrade lakes watershed towns muster to battle milfoil

Invasive water plant a scourge for local ponds and lakes, but of 13 towns invited, only Mercer sends a representative

By Paul Koenig pkoenig@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

BELGRADE LAKES -- An effort to make the fight against the invasive plant milfoil a region-wide one got off to a start -- albeit a small one -- Tuesday night when town officials hosted a meeting with other watershed towns to discuss the issue.

click image to enlarge

Milfoil, an invasive water plant, fills a portion of beach a cove in Messalonskee Lake northeast of Bangs Beach in Oakland Thursday.

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Buffy DeMatteis collects a piece Eurasian water-milfoil Tuesday from Purgatory Stream in Litchfield. Members of the Tacoma Lake Improvement Society and Friends of The Cobbossee Watershed collaborated to harvest the invasive plant that clogs waterways.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

The Board of Selectpersons invited 13 watershed towns to attend Tuesday's meeting at the Make Lakes Resource Center, but only Mercer sent a representative.

About 20 people in all attended the meeting at which regional lake and conservation groups lead a discussion about ways to better prevent the spread of milfoil throughout the watershed, which includes seven lakes, several streams and a number of smaller bodies of water.

Belgrade selectperson Melanie Jewell, who first suggested the regional meeting, said the hope is to develop a multi-town committee that will discuss how to control milfoil with more of a cooperative effort. She said she wants to involve people from all of the communities in the watershed.

"The more people we can get involved, the better off we are," she said.

Jewell said she would have liked to see more town representatives in attendance, but she thinks it was a good start towards developing more discussion.

Lynn Matson of the Belgrade Lakes Association told the gathering that staffers and volunteers at the BLA and the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance have been removing invasive plants by hand and with diver-operated suction over the summer, as well as applying benthic barriers to smother and block sunlight from plants in part of Great Meadow Stream and the northwest corner of North Bay in Great Pond, where the stream enters from North Pond.

Matson said BLA and BRCA also found invasive milfoil in the northwest corner of Great Pond toward the end of the summer.

Toni Pied from the BRCA said as of Oct. 1, 48,600 gallons of milfoil were removed from Great Meadow Stream and North Bay this year. They're estimating that around 90 percent of the plants have been pulled, but aren't sure how much will come back next year. Matson said they anticipate another aggressive pulling effort next summer, with the hope that they'll be able to manage the invasive plants with less effort and money in subsequent years.

Matson said the BLA raised $270,000 this year for milfoil prevention and will end up spending around $230,000 for the prevention through the year. He said they're trying to get matching grant money in the future to continue the high level of fundraising.

"The fear is going to kind of subside. People are going to get more complacent," Matson said.

John McPhedran of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection said his department will continue to talk to BLA and BRCA about controlling the plant. He said no controlling method, including herbicides and water drawdown, is off the table.

"You have a real chance with the levels of effort you have to knock this back to a manageable level," McPhedran said.

Jewell expressed concerns over the use of herbicides because of the possibility of damaging the water quality. She said the quality of the water of the seven Belgrade lakes is what draws people to visit and use them.

Paul Koenig -- 621-5663

pkoenig@mainetoday.com

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