Madison — August 22, 2006 — Madison has scaled back its no-exception wash-before-you-launch anti-milfoil rule to ease the burden on kayakers and canoeists, while officials hope the new distinction will not leave motor boaters all wet.
Kayaks and canoes can now launch legally nearly anywhere around Silver Lake. But for most of the dwindling summer season, a first-year weed prevention ordinance had restricted access for all watercraft to the town boat ramp on the south end of the lake. A protective power wash station there manned by state-paid high school or college kids made multiple saves, nabbing and blasting away invasive plants on dry land, before they could slip off boats and take root in the pristine waters.
Imposing stiff fines on boaters who spurned a free spray-down, officials said it was the first such municipal law in the state. But there were problems. The ordinance forced owners of smooth plastic boats without motors to cart them around town. Some complained the drive around the 1,000-acre lake to the one legal public spot was a bit much.
And officials said there was nothing to be done about folks launching from private land. Now, after the paddle-power exception was put on the town books earlier this month, these man-fueled boaters can go back to dipping in at their old haunts. Still restricted, however, from floating into the lake at will are boats run by motors — perhaps the most notorious way in which the invasive weed milfoil enters water bodies. The creeping invader has clogged parts of nearby Ossipee Lake and vast Winnipesaukee. Officials hope small power boaters aren’t resentful or won’t try to skirt the rules.
“It’s as black and white as we can make it. I’m sure some people will try to launch an aluminum boat and drag a motor out of the back of their truck,” Selectman John Arruda said.
In a groundbreaking pilot program in New Hampshire, divers in recent years have reportedly hauled up by the roots over eight tons of milfoil from Danforth Pond in Freedom, and they are yanking the weed from Leavitt Bay of Ossipee Lake, and a Wolfeboro bay on Winnipesaukee.
As debate unfurls over the emergence of divers as a new alternative to herbicidal chemicals, time will tell which is more effective. The weed has defied both, however, returning year after year. Officials say it can be controlled, but it is nearly impossible to eradicate. Once it takes hold of a lake, they warn, the unwelcome castaway may put down roots and grow there forever.