[Editor’s Note: The presentations can be accessed via the blue links in this story]
Freedom — June 12, 2011 — A newly released study shows that lakefront towns and associations pick up most of the tab for milfoil control efforts.
The study — “Funding of Milfoil Treatment in New Hampshire’s Waterbodies: A Snapshot of Money Raised and Spent in 2009-2010” — was prepared by Bianco Professional Association for the Ossipee Lake Alliance. The Alliance released the study during its biennial Lakes Representatives meeting held Saturday at the Calumet Conference Center.
About 50 people attended the three-hour forum, including state representatives from area towns, municipal officials and members of lake associations from Wolfeboro, Ossipee, Freedom, Effingham and Silver Lake. Ossipee Lake Alliance Executive Director David Smith led the meeting.
For the study, researchers collected data from April 1 to May 15 and obtained information through phone and e-mail interviews, Internet research, town records, news articles and lake association websites. Of the 63 lakes groups contacted for the survey, 49 responded, or 78 percent.
The results of the survey showed that in 2009, the state provided $59,985; municipalities spent $84,685; and private-sector associations paid $105,022 to fight the milfoil problem. The disparity between public and private funding grew in 2010, according to the survey, which showed that state funding was $89,958, municipal funding grew to $401,740 ($200,000 came from a Moultonborough warrant article), and private funding totaled $253,196.
Despite the increase in the state’s contribution, it amounted to just 12 percent of the total, the study said.
“The state owns the lakes, but the state has not been able to come forward and fully and effectively manage the milfoil infestation problem we have on our lakes and rivers,” said Ossipee Lakes Alliance Director Bob Reynolds.
“There’s some variation in numbers, but 73 lakes and rivers have become infested with milfoil. The New Hampshire DES has a very good program to focus on education and prevention, but the state has only been able to fund 10 to 20 percent of the cost we’re spending to control and eradicate it. Somehow that doesn’t seem quite right,” said Reynolds.
The study revealed that the DES was able to fund 13 projects in 2009 and 16 projects in 2010; nine of the 29 total projects funded by the state were on Lake Winnipesaukee.
Amy Smagula, limnologist and exotic species coordinator with the Department of Environmental Services, was unable to attend the meeting, but submitted a Power Point presentation on the topic. One slide estimated a five-year milfoil control plan at $7.2 million, including $2.6 million for herbicides, nearly $3.4 million for contracted diver assisted suction harvesting; $500,000 for staffing full-time seasonal divers; and $114,000 for equipment, materials and supplies.
Jim McElroy is a member of the Freedom Aquatic Invasive Species Committee and the Freedom Conservation Commission. McElroy said in his portion of the presentation that public awareness should be increased. Thus far, a module has been added to the state’s boating course. He suggested an expansion of boat inspections to include private campgrounds and other high traffic areas.
The Lake Host program, in which volunteers check incoming and outgoing boats for milfoil, is only in place at some public boat ramps — and no private ramps. One resident suggested putting up signs or floats to alert people to milfoil. Marks said the Ossipee Lakes Alliance looked into signage, but that was the state issue.
Wolfeboro Selectman and Milfoil Committee member Linda Murray said she provides information about milfoil control measures on community television. Smith said there should be a sense of urgency to this problem for landowners.
Possible Funding Sources
Donation boxes, voluntary or mandatory surcharges, stickers, and legislation enabling towns to raise money for direct milfoil control were some of the ideas bounced around at the forum.
State Rep. Mark McConkey suggested a fee for non-motorized crafts, such as kayaks and canoes, that use the lakes. State Rep. David Babson Jr. suggested a surcharge on boat trailers. Currently, a portion of the fee for boat registrations does go to milfoil control.
Ann Ward of Ossipee said she thought a lot of boaters would voluntarily contribute to fight milfoil. “A lot of people would jump on it if they knew where the money was going to,” she said.
State Rep. Chris Christensen, R-Merrimack, said the political trend in Concord these days is focused on reducing the size of government and “no new taxes.”
“Adding or expanding programs would be difficult in this atmosphere,” he said.
While donation boxes at boat ramps are one way to raise money, Smith doubted they’d yield enough.
“With the $7 million nut, the problem requires more than donation boxes,” he said.
Not enough money for milfoil control, yet our Marine Patrol spent all day Sunday riding around the lake with no other boats around. He didn’t even stop to make sure moorings were registered from what I could see. Just another waste of money. Hopefully our lake host program will be up and running soon. They do a great job of preventing boats from adding to the problem. Of course we have to rely upon the owners of the private ramps to do their part. I did see a flat bottom boat with 3 guys on it which appeared to be associated with milfoil eratication last week. It looked like they were headed to Levett Bay.
The state owns the lake. It’s a natural resource that generates revenue through tourism, boating, fishing, and fuel fees. But the responsibility for saving the resource is up to individual towns and property owners who already bear the burden of heavy property taxes and fees. That practice still mystifies me.
The town of Moultonboro has it right. Setting aside $200.000.00 the last two years to tackle this problem. They know that if they don’t address the problem, property values will plummet. Infestations can have a detrimental effect causing shore front property values to decrease by as much as 10 to 20 percent according to a UNH study (Gibbs et al., 2002).
The state has to step up and start “putting their money where their lakes are.” The state needs to stop relying so heavily of volunteer help, individual towns and property owners.
Thanks to the forward thinking of lake associations like the New Hampshire Lake Association, and local Milfoil Committees, as will as help from the DES, the spread of exotic aquatic plants will be stopped.
John Jude, Gilford Conservation Committee