Not Only Free, a Madison Boat Wash Could Save Boaters $1,000 Fine

Madison — August 4, 2005 — Boaters who refuse to submit to milfoil checks and boat washes at the town boat ramp could face stiff fines—$1,000 or more—under a proposed ordinance under review by selectmen.

“The only question I did have,” selectman’s chair Mike Brooks said over a draft copy of the ordinance Tuesday, “I’m just wondering if $1,000 is enough. If we get infested with one of these parasites, it’s going to be very expensive to clean it up.”

The virile milfoil weed is a creeping, non-native invader that has rooted in about 50 water bodies statewide, including nearby Ossipee lake. Environmentalists say just one fragment from these waters, stowed in a live well or a boat motor, could slip off into Madison’s still pure Silver Lake, and hatch an offensive colony.

Town and state officials have already set up a checkpoint at the town’s Silver Lake boat launch, where Lake Hosts paid by the state ask boaters to submit to checks and free washes. Almost everyone has let them aboard, but a few haven’t, according to Jerry Gaspary, member of a local group trying to stave off the spread of invasive weeds to Silver Lake.

“It’s free,” a flabbergast selectman Mike Brooks said, stunned to hear that even a few would turn down a free service designed to protect arguably the town’s most pristine asset.

“We’ve had a 95 percent cooperation level. I’m looking for 100 percent or close to 100 percent,” Gaspary told selectmen Tuesday. “And signage when nobody’s there.”

Gaspary, a member of the Silver Lake Association of Madison, has been working with selectman on an ordinance that would post signs and enforce mandatory washes and inspections at the checkpoint with a fine- possibly $1,000 or more.

Boaters refusing inspections now are not breaking any laws, but could end up facing the stiff fines for violating the Madison ordinance if it passes.

Selectman John Arruda, citing some “trepidation” in putting civilians in a quasi-enforcement role at the inspection station, said he’d like to run the proposed ordinance past the town attorney.

Gaspary assured state-trained lake hosts are non-confrontational. “We don’t want them to have any confrontation,” he said. “There’s been a couple of people (who declined an inspection) and our lake host kind of backs off.”

A town hall administrator, Sue Stacy, went through lake host training and told selectmen that hosts know to back off when a boater refuses. If boaters appear angry, or agitated, she said, hosts are instructed to call police. Later, hosts will follow in the boat’s wake after it has moved on, looking to skim off any torn bits of several species unwanted exotic plants.

Gaspary noted with irony that milfoil is apparently beloved by a popular sport fish—bass. “I hate to even say this,” he said. “Lakes that have milfoil represent some of the best fishing lakes you can find. You’re going to find your best fishing in lakes that are infested, because bass love to hang around the milfoil.”

Arruda surmised that informed Silver Lake fishermen will probably have already dipped their boats in infested waters at some point before coming to Madison. “That means those guys are going to be in those lakes before they are here,” he said.

According to town hall staff, Madison’s boat wash station, passed at town meeting this year and installed in May, is the first municipal power boat wash of its kind in New Hampshire.

Gaspary said lake protection next year will continue to move forward in Madison. “We learned some things this year, and we’ve taken a couple of steps in the right direction,” Gaspary said.

U.S. Senator Judd Gregg, R-New Hampshire, in June announced $250,000 for the New Hampshire Lake Host program in a 2006 federal funding bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, according to a press release from Gregg’s office. The New Hampshire Lake Host program is run by the New Hampshire Lakes Association, which hires and trains lake hosts to work with boaters at public boat launches and raise public awareness about milfoil and other invasive species.

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