State Milfoil Spending Is Up, But Towns Still Pay the Most

Freedom—February 26, 2018—A new report shows spending to control invasive milfoil in New Hampshire’s lakes has increased dramatically, but lake communities, associations, and individual donors are still paying far more than Concord to address the chronic environmental issue.

In the aggregate, more than $1.35 million was spent to remove or otherwise control variable milfoil in state lakes in 2016. That’s a 57% increase over the $860,000 that was spent statewide in 2012, according to data compiled for Ossipee Lake Alliance by consulting firm Bianco Professional Association.

While DES spent far more money in 2016 than it did in 2012—$432,159 compared to $243,737—the hefty increase barely moved the needle as a percentage of total funding. The state’s share of total spending in 2016 was 32%, just two percentage points higher than in 2012, when the Alliance published its previous report. As in the past, lake associations and taxpayers in affected communities closed the 68% funding gap. Total non-state spending rose to $922,260 in 2016 from $617,129 in 2012.

State funding has been aided, and made more predictable, because of state law HB 292, which requires a portion of boat registration fees be earmarked for the milfoil kitty. At the community level, however, control funding remains an ad hoc process, handled differently from lake to lake, and cobbled together annually from whatever funds are available.

About half of the 98 control projects documented in 2016 relied on a combination of state and local funds, while just 10% of projects were paid for solely by the state. Town funds and lake associations covered the balance. This patchwork of funding is further complicated when multiple towns border an infested body of water, as is the case with Ossipee Lake.

Controlling the milfoil in Ossipee Lake cost $59,599 in 2016, according to the Alliance study. About half of that amount was allocated to waters bordered by Freedom, 7% to Effingham, and the remainder to Ossipee.

Each town used a different formula to execute its control project. In Freedom, the cost of control was split about evenly between state funds and locally-derived money, with 38% of the local money coming from the Town of Freedom and 62% from private donations. Control projects in Ossipee were also split about evenly between state and local money, but the Town of Ossipee fronted 100% of the local share. In Effingham, officials decided not to seek any state funding and paid for its $4,000 project with town funds.

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