Tamworth — December 16, 2009 — A group of local officials met last week to discuss options for improving the coordination and management of variable milfoil control activities across the Ossipee Lake system and the three towns that surround it.
The meeting was arranged by Ossipee Conservation Commission Chairman Elizabeth Gillette after her organization and members of Ossipee Lake Alliance met last month with Ossipee selectmen and a DES official to discuss treatment options for Pickerel Cove, the latest part of the lake system to be infested with the invasive weed.
Addressing last week’s meeting, Ossipee Lake Alliance board member Bob Reynolds said a group of state lawmakers plans to introduce legislation next year to raise $5 million for milfoil control, mainly through an increase in boat registration fees.
Reynolds was one of a number of lake association representatives who attended the N.H. Legislative Exotic Aquatic Weeds and Species Committee’s Milfoil Summit meetings in Concord, which were chaired by State Representative Dick Drisko. The heads of DES, Marine Patrol and Fish and Game also attended the sessions.
If approved, the proposed bill won’t generate the expected revenue until 2011. But Reynolds said the fact that the bill is going to be filed shows the state understands towns and property owners can’t win the battle against milfoil alone, and the legislature has to take a larger funding role.
Last year, DES spent almost all of its $450,000 milfoil budget on prevention – primarily through education and outreach programs – leaving just $60,000 for milfoil control through chemical and manual treatment options.
Milfoil Committee Proposed
Among the “lessons learned” from the Milfoil Summit, according to Reynolds, is that every infestation needs to be treated individually with a site-specific integrated plan of attack that draws on the state’s “toolbox” of available methods, from hand-pulling by divers to chemical treatments.
Reynolds said the state’s ideal model for lake communities is to establish a milfoil trust fund that receives its money from town budgets, private donations, fund raising efforts and, eventually, state matching funds. The trust fund would be managed by a locally-appointed milfoil committee which would devise management plans for each infested area and oversee implementation.
The specific recommendation for the Ossipee Lake system would be to establish an Ossipee Lake Milfoil Committee that is a subcommittee of the conservation commissions of Ossipee, Freedom and Effingham, Reynolds said. The Milfoil Committee would have a representative from each commission as well as from Ossipee Lake Alliance and other interested local organizations.
The Milfoil Committee’s role would be to work with DES to create a management plan for each infestation, and work with local elected officials on funding issues and on implementing approved milfoil control plans. The creation of a Milfoil Committee would ensure that all three towns are working from the same milfoil control roadmap.
[Editor’s note: The January issue of our newsletter, Ossipee Lake Report, will feature an extensive article on the state’s Milfoil Summit and the proposed legislation to fund milfoil control].
Awareness Remains Important
State Representative Betsey Patten of Moultonborough, who also attended the meeting, said she agrees with the milfoil committee concept, including having the three towns form conservation commission subcommittees to make recommendations to their respective select boards on control plans. She said she believes milfoil control is under the authority and legal jurisdiction of conservation commissions.
Patten stressed that such a committee should also regard education as a key responsibility, to increase awareness of the challenges and the cost of treating invasive species. She said many state residents still don’t fully understand how milfoil infestations can damage a local economy through a decline in tourism and the loss of tax dollars from reduced property values.
Patten echoed the findings of the state’s Milfoil Summit that the state needs to do more in funding milfoil control, adding that she thinks it would be good to have access to L-Chip money for milfoil remediation.
Benefits of a Committee
Ossipee Lake Alliance development director Susan Marks led a discussion on how an Ossipee Lake Milfoil Committee could be created and integrated with the three local conservation commissions, the boards of selectmen, Ossipee Lake Alliance and other organizations, such as the Green Mountain Conservation Group.
Marks said a committee could address the need for better communication and better coordination between the three towns, and cited the benefits of having a long-term method for tracking progress on controlling infestations, information she said should be available to the public as well as to town officials.
Currently there are six milfoil infestations on the lake and only one – Danforth Pond in Freedom – has a management plan. That document is pending DES approval. Marks said a three-town Milfoil Committee would be the best entity to pull together the information required to create the other five plans, with help from members of the individual lake associations that are affiliated with the Alliance.
Green Mountain Conservation Group director Blair Folts expressed concern about the use of chemicals to control milfoil in the lake, a treatment method that has been advocated by DES officials. She suggested the possibility of using more hand-pulling coupled with restrictions on boats in infested areas.
Freedom Selectman Neil Boyle said his town has extensive experience with hand-pulling and suction harvesting, but those methods have been unsuccessful in controlling the spread of variable milfoil in Danforth Pond.
He said the town last year approved a $15,000 expense for an aquatic herbicide treatment in Danforth Pond next May, followed by hand-pulling and vacuum-suctioning and, possibly, a second chemical treatment in late summer. Boyle said the town is committed to the project and is moving forward with the plan, which has been approved by DES.
Les Babb, chairman of the Freedom Select Board, pointed out that Maine will not treat their lakes with chemicals, and Pickerel Lake, where he used to water-ski, now has no boat activity because of variable milfoil has taken over. He said a similar situation would be devastating to the local economies of the communities surrounding Ossipee Lake.
Ossipee Conservation Commission chairman Gillette asked the selectmen at the meeting if they would support having their respective conservation commissions be part of a milfoil subcommittee, and each agreed.
She then recommended that the head of each conservation commission present the concept to their respective Board of Selectmen and seek approval to move forward to establish an Ossipee Lake Milfoil Committee in 2010.