Ossipee – October 7, 2011 – Milfoil prevention was on the mind of local elected officials and some of the approximately 30 people who attended two September 21 public meetings on the state’s proposal to “improve the functionality” of the Pine River boat landing on Route 25. The busy landing, which is the only state-owned public access facility for Ossipee Lake, has been deteriorating for years with safety hazards ranging from rutted roads to rotted docks. NH Fish and Game assumed responsibility for the site several years ago and began cleaning it up this summer.
Now it wants to complete the job by making improvements that include replacing the boat launch with a double ramp and establishing better-defined parking areas. Fish and Game official Jeff King said the project will cost $250,000 to $750,000 and take several years to complete once plans are approved.
Fish and Game set up the meetings, which were held in Ossipee, to allow the public to comment on the plan. While the proposed physical improvements were generally well-received, local officials were surprised that the plan is silent on the issue of milfoil, which is spread by boats and is a significant problem for Ossipee Lake.
In a letter to Fish and Game officials, Ossipee’s Select Board said “Since milfoil is spread primarily by boats, we believe that any plan to improve or expand the Pine River Boat Ramp should include a state-funded boat inspection program to prevent milfoil from entering or leaving the lake.”
Freedom’s Board of Selectmen sent a similar letter, stating “We believe that it should be the responsibility of the agency improving the access to fund this [boat inspection] effort on a continuing basis,” adding that the Town of Freedom has spent more than $130,000 to treat milfoil in the lake and prevent its spread. The Freedom Board additionally asked Fish and Game to provide “extra resources” for boat inspections during the bass fishing tournaments the agency sponsors. The letter said tournament boats often use the lake’s milfoil-infested areas, where their props can dislodge invasive weeds and spread fragments to new areas.
Ossipee Lake Alliance Director Bob Reynolds, who attended one of the meetings, said there is a growing frustration about the continued spread of milfoil and the cost to control it – a cost that has mainly been left to lake communities like Ossipee and Freedom, which together have spent $189,000 of town funds to battle the lake’s milfoil.
This year the Alliance commissioned a research study to determine how much the state is paying as a percentage of all spending on milfoil control. The results of the study, released in June, showed the state paid just 12% of the total cost of controlling milfoil last year and half of the state’s infested lakes have no control program at all.
Milfoil Prevention is Privately Managed
Complicating the issue of funding a milfoil plan at the Pine River ramp is the unusual role the state plays in milfoil prevention. While the state has long had a milfoil awareness initiative using print and online media and community outreach, the physical task of keeping milfoil out of lakes, including at state-owned ramps, is the responsibility of private initiatives like the Lake Host program, which is managed by the non-profit NH Lakes Association (NHLA).
The source of NHLA’s funding for the Lake Host program varies annually and in past years has included money from the Federal government. In 2011 the program was supported by a grant from DES and the Department of Safety and “private donations,” according to the non-profit organization’s website.
There has been a Lake Host program at the Pine River ramp since 2002, according to Ossipee Conservation Commission member Jean Hansen. The Commission currently manages that program and a second one at the Town of Ossipee’s Pequawket Trail boat ramp.
When the Lake Host programs are operating, boaters receive a “courtesy inspection” of their craft when entering or leaving the water. An NHLA “payroll grant” pays for the inspectors as a match against the Conservation Commission’s volunteer time and “in-kind” contributions. Funding for the program must be applied for annually by the Conservation Commission, Hansen said, and is contingent on money being available from NHLA.
In a post-meeting email exchange with Ossipee Lake Alliance, Fish and Game official Jeff King said he felt the meetings were productive in “bringing forth public concerns and allowing the agency to describe the project.” He said the current design is preliminary and is subject to refinement. It must also go through the state’s environmental permitting process.
The Pine River landing, which is located near the junction of Routes 16 and 25 in Center Ossipee, was developed in the 1970s as a commercial business. After it failed, it was taken over by the state as part of its goal of increasing no-cost access to state lakes for boaters. Fish and Game now oversees more than 200 boat ramps around the state.