Lack of State Funds May Doom Danforth Pond Milfoil Plan

Freedom – November 7, 2008 – A DES official says the state agency may not be able to provide matching funds for a plan to rid Danforth Pond of its milfoil infestation with a combination of herbicides and hand-pulling.

In an email message to the local sponsors of the plan, Amy Smagula, who oversees the state’s Exotic Species Program, says the agency has received 36 requests for funds totaling $450,000 but has just $60,000 in its budget.

The $60,000 is a 45% decrease from last year’s budget of $110,000, the result of fewer boat registrations, which is how the state funds milfoil control.

Further dampening the prospect of Freedom receiving state funds is the fact that DES has assigned a middle-range priority to the project, meaning other projects around the state will have the opportunity to be funded first. DES prioritizes applications based on a rating scale that uses criteria such as the degree of impairment to the surface waters and the availability of public access sites.

In September, Freedom’s selectmen applied to have the state cover half of the $14,000 project that proposed to use the powerful herbicide 2,4-D to kill the weeds, after which professional divers would hand-pull the remaining plants.

The plan, recommended by DES and developed by Danforth Pond resident Marcia Murphy and Susan Marks of Ossipee Lake Alliance, was presented at a Freedom public meeting on Labor Day weekend. Smagula answered questions about the project at the meeting and explained that 2,4-D, which she said is safe if used property, is the only approved aquatic chemical that attacks milfoil’s root system, providing a longer-lasting result.

A hand vote at the meeting favored having the town implement the plan, but Smagula cautioned that funding requests were typically three times higher than the state’s budget of $110,000 and that this year’s application process would likely be even more competitive. In fact, requests for state funds this year are around seven times higher than what is available.

Given the shortfall of funds, Smagula said DES reduced its match percentage from 50% to 30% in the hope of being able to fund more projects. On the downside, she conceded, the increased burden to project applicants from 50% of the project cost to 70% could mean some applicants may no longer be able to afford their project.

Smagula said that if a project approved for state funds cannot proceed, DES will move to the next project on the priority list. If enough priority projects fall off the list, there is a possibility that the Danforth Pond project could be funded at the 30% level. The state expects to know in the next two to three weeks if that is a possibility, with all funding issues to be settled by the end of November.

Danforth Pond is one of five known milfoil infestations in the Ossipee Lake system, and it is considered the most difficult to control because the pond’s mucky bottom is the perfect breeding ground for the indestructible weed, which was brought to the lake by boats in the 1980s.

During the past decade, milfoil removal and control efforts on the pond have included chemical treatments, hand-pulling by divers and the use of a suction harvester, a kind of aquatic vacuum cleaner that is relatively new to the state. The cost of the control programs has been covered by a combination of state and local funds, including contributions from Freedom’s milfoil control budget and from Danforth Bays Camping Resort, the pond’s main business.

Two years ago, Ossipee Lake Alliance, which funds milfoil awareness and prevention efforts, helped a group of Danforth Pond residents form the Friends of Danforth Pond to tackle the ongoing challenge of keeping the weeds in check. Friends member Marcia Murphy helped write the project proposal that the town approved in September, and which remains pending at DES.

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