Courtesy The Goffstown News
Goffstown—August 11, 2014—Michael Allard wants you to know that milfoil infestation is a big deal in New Hampshire, and that if you enjoy the state’s many lakes — 79 of which are currently documented as having milfoil — controlling milfoil is a top priority.
“Once people are aware of (the problem), they support it,”Allard said.
Milfoil is a species of aquatic weed that is invasive in North America. If left untreated, it can choke out native plants and wildlife, and make swimming and boating in infested waters impossible.
Allard, a 47-year resident of Goffstown who has lived on Riverview Park Road for 24 years, owns a home on Namaske Lake. The lake was initially infested with milfoil in 2006 during the Mother’s Day flood. Allard immediately contacted the state Department of Environmental Services, which had him send in a sample and confirmed it was milfoil – four months after he submitted the sample.
“By the time they got back to me, it was unbelievable how much it had already spread,” he said.
Allard wanted to know what he could do to help. He was informed that DES would match funds raised to remove the milfoil, but in order to raise money, there had to be a formal group to receive the funds. Thus, the Namaske Lake Association was born. Allard has been association president since it was founded in 2008. Most members — about 90 — are abutters to the lake, living on either the Goffstown or Manchester sides of Namaske.
One of the biggest issues with controlling milfoil is the speed in which it grows. The strain found in New Hampshire can grow up to seven inches in a day, Allard said.
“It really can invade an entire water body,” he said. “When we had our first treatment done (in 2009) … by that point in time, this lake was 80 percent infested … (and now) is the second worst it’s been.”
Furthermore, Allard said it is an “almost impossible process” to raise the money needed to treat the lake. Namaske was just treated with the pesticide Navigate by Sutton, Mass.-based Aquatic Control Technology. But, according to Allard, this is neither an easy or permanent fix.
“Up until this year, DES … owns all of the bodies of water in the state,” Allard said. “Every single thing we do (in the lake) is exactly what DES says you have to do.”
Allard said the state performs a survey to determine the level of infestation and turns their findings over to lake associations, who then must contract a freshwater management firm to give a quote for what treating the lake will cost. The figure is then submitted to DES to match the funds the association has raised.
“That usually doesn’t happen until sometime in the October to December timeframe,” Allard said. “By then, we’ve missed the cycle to get into Manchester or Goffstown to request funds from the current budget process.”
The treatment firm must also apply for permits to treat the lake from the state Department of Agriculture. By the time the state issues its license, Allard said it’s usually June, by which time the milfoil has typically spread.
“They can’t treat areas other than what was on the survey in August,” Allard said. “They … drive over milfoil they see, and can’t treat it.”
“The bureaucracy is insane,” he said. “Everybody knows what has to be done, we know how to do it – we just can’t seem to get it done … on schedule.”
Fortunately, Allard said, residents who use and enjoy the lake do seem to recognize the importance of keeping milfoil at bay. The association is usually able to raise between $4,000 and $6,000 annually from membership fees and additional donations from members, and Goffstown and Manchester contribute as well, with Manchester contributing $5,000 this year. Enel Green Power, based out of Andover, Mass., which operates an energy-generating dam on Namaske, has also contributed.
But maintaining the lake isn’t cheap. Allard said the average annual cost of controlling milfoil in Namaske is $10,000, with this year costing closer to $20,000. The initial treatment cost $40,000, and DES thought at the time it might eradicate the milfoil in Namaske.
“It did a good job, but the milfoil gets reintroduced,” Allard said. “It took about two years for it to start showing up again.”
Ideally, Allard said, the state, Goffstown and Manchester would pick up the tab for the treatments, as Namaske is publicly owned. He said it hasn’t been a hard sell to convince voters – in Goffstown, at least – to support funding to treat the lake.
But the Namaske Lake Association is dedicated to keeping the lake healthy and usable. Allard said the group has eight directors, who are active in working with Goffstown and Manchester to obtain funding.
He also said there’s an effort underway to raise more money for milfoil treatment statewide – although it has met some resistance. An additional $10 was proposed to be added to boat registration fees to pay for milfoil treatment, but due to concerns the money would be spent elsewhere, the fee was eventually dropped to $2.