Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Milfoil in our waters - a presence that can't be ignored - By Michelle Libby

Milfoil is an invasive species of weed that grows in the water and if left untreated chokes and kills the lake it inhabits. 
Raymond Waterways Protective Association (RWPA), a volunteer, non-profit group, is doing its best to stem the spread of milfoil in Raymond. 

In 2000, Maine began to see the spread of milfoil in its lakes and waterways. RWPA, which was once only concerned with the water quality in the region, changed its focus to eradicating the weed. In 2002, the State of Maine began requiring the milfoil sticker to raise money to help with the control of the weed. Approximately $1 million goes into the fund, but according to Ben Severn, vice president of RWPA, RWPA is one of the 26 associations who receive money from this fun, but what they did see was around $6,000, which isn’t enough to do a complete job. Lack of money is hurting the efforts to pull milfoil from lakes like Sebago. RWPA relies heavily on donations from owners of waterfront properties, but still needs more to continue pulling and checking for regrowth. 
In 2009, the Maine Milfoil Initiative gave RWPA $13,000 and said they would give them an additional $10,000 in the next three to four years. 

The first allotment of money went to purchasing the supplies needed to get started with a diver assisted suction harvesting (DASH) boat. Port Harbor Marine donated the boat and the motor and work began clearing milfoil in the Jordan River. 

“We were a bit naive about how much effort and amount of funds you need,” said Severn. “Everybody owns it and nobody owns it.”

Diane and Gary Potvin of Turtle Cove have donated money for RWPA to remove the milfoil in front of their property as well as the rest of the cove. 

“It’s never how much milfoil you pull. What’s important is for the individual land owners, that they can see there’s less milfoil. 

To run a DASH boat, RWPA has to hire at least one diver, but two would be better, a captain, someone on the boat to manage the way the weed comes up and then someone in the water looking for fragments, usually in another smaller boat. It costs between $600 to $1,200 a day to run a DASH boat including MEMIC costs and insurance, said Severn.  

“We now have been struggling,” said Severn. “Jordan River is like a road we have. Instead of potholes and ruts, we have milfoil.” 

RWPA knows that they have made some mistakes in their milfoil collection, but Severn said they have learned from their mistakes and “we are prepared to employ what the Lake Environmental Association (LEA) is very successful at. We’re ready to go.” They are going to use the LEA approach for the whole season this summer, which involves the sucking up of plants, then going back a few weeks later and collecting what was missed. It is recommended that the work is checked three times through the summer.
Milfoil is a business. From Citizen Boat Inspectors (CBI) to DASH boats and someone to organize the work, Severn said that RWPA has hired Jeff Stern to be the program manager for those two aspects of RWPAs mission. 

RWPA would like lake associations to take greater ownership of the lake and put money into the efforts to tame milfoil. RWPA also would like to see an increase of $5 on each milfoil sticker with the money going directly to control the milfoil. 

“It’s a political game, a bit,” said Severn. “We did have an amazing quasi victory this legislative session thanks to Diane Potvin and Mike McClellan spear heading the push to get the State to provide more funding. But, even if we get a significant increase in State via DEP funding for each of the lake associations battling milfoil, there still will be the need to get the private and municipal public sectors stepping up their contributions if we are to be successful in our fight to control milfoil and protect the quality of our recreational and economic environment along what I call the North Windham-Raymond-Casco Sebago Lake 302 corridor.”

Severn estimates that it will take five years to say they have milfoil under control. “We can’t say we have eliminated it. We’re going to have milfoil always,” he said. 

So far Panther Pond, Crescent Lake, Raymond Pond and Thomas Pond do not have milfoil and with proper inspections and maintenance, they will remain free from invasive species. 

For more information on RWPA, visit www.raymondwaterways.org or to donate, use Paypal or send checks made out to RWPA to PO Box 1243, Raymond, Maine 04071.

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