Freedom — October 28, 2004 — It’s a dirty job to root out milfoil at Danforth Pond, but somebody has to do it.
Cliff Cabral, diving coordinator from Brownfield, Maine, and his team hope they can gain a foothold against the lake invader and prove that hand-pulling can succeed against the pernicious plant.
Eradication is a long-term goal, but, pointing to extensive infestations, officials concede that they will be happy with slowing milfoil’s advance in area lakes.
“All we’re doing at this point is managing it,” Cabral said.
The problem of milfoil’s encroachment is that eventually native plants are gone and fish die without food, leaving dirty water where milfoil grows so tall that no one can swim or boat. The Town of Freedom and Ossipee Lake Alliance brought in Cabral and his team to curb the spread of milfoil. The team’s particular focus is Danforth Pond, where the feathery, shallow-water plant has taken hold. A year later, sites in Maine that were treated by hand pulling have remained milfoil free, Cabral said.
The Town of Freedom raised money, including private funds from property owners, to pay the dive team to attack milfoil at its roots.
It’s “cold, wet and dirty” work in murky water from 1 foot to 10 feet deep typically. Cabral said he has scheduled eight more dive days to finish a first stage of the job.
Cabral; Johnny O’Donnell, professional tender; and commercial divers Dennis Holbrook and Mark Spaulding spent last Friday and Saturday hoisting quarter-inch-thick mesh dive bags full of milfoil out of the pond. They started the job the previous weekend on the biggest patch in the pond, a site near a boat ramp. The team removed two truckloads of the plant on their initial outing.
“We probably had anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of plant and mud, because we take the roots with it and we have mud mixed in,” Cabral said. Within a minute to five minutes, three divers could fill a bag.
“We were filling them faster than the tender could keep up with the divers,” Cabral said.
The team used two skiffs and professional dive gear, including drysuits.
“We’re harvesters. This is what we do,” Cabral noted.
One trick with milfoil removal is to prevent its fragments from settling back into a harvested area and reinfesting the waterway. As a creative answer, the team draped a seine, or a large weighted fishing net, into the water as they progressed.
“It’s impossible to kill this stuff efficiently enough without there being fragments around,” Cabral said, so the net “acts as one big catch pocket.”
Danforth Pond, as a waterway linked to Ossipee Lake, is one hotspot for milfoil. Cabral said he expects to develop a bid to tackle the plant in another part of Ossipee Lake.