Madison On Front Lines In Milfoil Fight

Madison — January 14, 2006 — A cutting-edge milfoil ordinance could hit the books Tuesday, when selectmen sign a reportedly first-in-the-state order levying stiff fines to boaters who skip out on a free boat wash.

The tool to battle the invasive weed could come into full effect as soon as the next regular board meeting; afterward, noncompliant boaters on Silver Lake will be slapped with fines from at least $200 to $1,000.

Towns across the region are rallying to defend their bodies of water against the creeping attacks of several varieties of choking non-native plants. The long, stringy milfoil, known for sprouting vast colonies from a single fragment, moves among lakes and streams, often stowed in boat holds and propellers.

In Madison, a state-sponsored program, staffed by local volunteers, helped to build one of the state’s first municipal boat washes at the town ramp on Silver Lake.

For several years, lake hosts have stopped boaters, explained the dangers to the town’s still untouched largest lake, and recently have provided free spray-downs.

The success rate has been fantastic, local lake association member and lake host leader, Ted Kramer, said. But a handful of close calls, and a scant few belligerent boaters, makes enforcement the crucial next step.

Kramer, who works to protect New Hampshire’s lakes both locally and with a statewide program, said Madison appears poised to pass the first milfoil prevention enforcement ordinance in the state.

Selectmen were cautious to word the new rule to head off a local fight.

“I don’t have a problem telling the police chief to do this,” Selectmen John Arruda said. “I don’t want to start a civil war, either.”

Kramer, who helped draft the ordnance, said it aims to funnel all launch traffic, public and private, through the wash station, and ideally down the only approved public launching point into Silver Lake.

Launching from private property will remain permitted, but boats need first to hit the hoses at the town station, which is open and manned from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Kramer further suggested the ordinance might be tightened to stop even kayakers from toting their small crafts across Route 41 traffic and sliding into the lake at roadside Nichols Beach.

“It is dangerous,” Kramer said. “That kayak could have been up in Danforth Bay,” one of several spots where milfoil has taken root in southerly Ossipee Lake.

Selectmen made no final decisions on kayaks Tuesday, and were still mulling the idea Friday, town hall staff said.

“I think for the town’s benefit, with the investment that we have in the south beach boat wash, that should be the only place,” Kramer urged.

One tricky provision left in the rule, however, may be unenforceable, officials said. After minor alterations were made to a draft of the ordinance Tuesday, a clause remained, assessing civil liability to any boater who skips the wash and drops off milfoil into the lake, resulting in a costly infestation.

“It’s probably not enforceable,” Arruda said, adding that it was approved by the town attorney and might as well be left in.

“The proof of it is pretty tough,” he said.

The ordinance does not need final approval by voters, selectmen said. Kramer said its very existence and posting will raise awareness of the dangers and prompt locals to get involved.

“I think there will be a lot of citizen involvement and awareness, it will just reinforce it,” he said.

Kramer and the Silver Lake Association of Madison have been instrumental in protecting Silver Lake from environmental threats, officials said. Kramer said milfoil infestations in other lakes have sent waterfront property values crashing downward; and clean-up costs can range in the tens of thousands. Silver Lake homes in Madison make up a significant portion of the town’s tax base, officials said.

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