Milfoil Continues to Challenge the Lake

Freedom — January 2, 2004 — Statistics from the Lake Host program show that while a majority of boaters using the Pine River boat ramp in 2003 had a high level of awareness of the threats posed by milfoil and other destructive weeds, 35% of the boaters there were either unaware or only moderately aware of the issue.

That is one of the findings reported today by Ossipee Lake Alliance, which sponsored trained attendants at the ramp on weekends and holidays from June 14th through Labor Day during which time 770 boats entered the lake. The attendants, known as Lake Hosts, surveyed boaters and conducted inspections for milfoil, hydrilla, and other weeds under the direction of Green Mountain Conservation Group, the Alliance’s partner in the program.

Eighty-two percent of the boats entering the lake at Pine River were registered in New Hampshire, a majority from within a 50-mile radius of the ramp, while 10% came from Massachusetts and 5% from Maine. The 2003 program was the second year that there have been Lake Hosts at the Pine River ramp, a site owned by the state.

“The statistics demonstrate the tremendous value the Lake Host program has brought to the milfoil prevention effort, but they also suggest the extent of the challenge that lies ahead” said Susan Marks, Ossipee Lake Alliance’s director of development. The Alliance estimates that in addition to Pine River there are more than 20 ramps on the lake providing access to thousands of powerboats annually.

The Lake Host findings come on the heels of a fourth milfoil infestation on the lake. In August, volunteers collecting water samples found a thick carpet of weeds in a lagoon in Phillips Brook where it enters Leavitt Bay. Subsequent tests confirmed the mass to be variable milfoil, the same species that has taken hold in upper Danforth Pond, the Danforth Pond narrows, and Danforth Brook where it enters Broad Bay. A small amount of milfoil was also found along the adjacent shore in Leavitt Bay itself.

In October the Alliance and Ossipee’s Board of Selectmen held a public meeting on the Phillips Brook milfoil at which Ken Warren of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services outlined the state’s recommendation to treat the infestation with an aquatic herbicide, a plan endorsed by those in attendance after being assured that the state has successfully used such treatments elsewhere without environmental impact.

Warren said that while the state’s policy is to pay for the first control measure for new infestations, there were so many new instances of milfoil in 2003 that his department does not have the funds to pay for all of the lakes that have applied. While Phillips Brook is currently scheduled to be covered by the state, Phillips Brook residents must first agree to the plan and state permits must be obtained before the treatment can commence. Warren noted that given the state’s limited funding, towns will increasingly be called upon to share the cost of controlling lake weeds in the future.

Variable milfoil is primarily spread by boats and can interfere with recreation and reduce property values. Since it cannot be eradicated, the cost of controlling it is soaring in New Hampshire and throughout New England. Small infestations may be hand-harvested by divers or smothered with mats called bottom barriers, but controlling larger masses requires chemical treatments. Only two companies, both based in Massachusetts, are licensed to conduct such treatments in New Hampshire and the most effective treatment window is confined to early spring.

“We have been working with Ossipee and Freedom Selectmen to establish contingency funds for future milfoil control efforts, but what is most needed is a lake-wide prevention program to keep new infestations from occurring,” Marks said, adding that the Alliance is discussing partnerships with state and local organizations to develop such a program. “We want to help the owners of all of the boat ramps on the lake develop a strong line of defense against destructive weeds,” she said.

Ossipee Lake Alliance is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting Ossipee Lake as a significant environmental, recreational, and economic resource. It maintains a website at www.ossipeelake.org.

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