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Friday, October 28, 2016

Jordan River milfoil problem brought to bay - By Walter Lunt

Grants, dues, donations and determination transform a green bottom to an almost clear channel

A busy stretch of Raymond’s Jordan River, once choked with invasive milfoil, is now virtually weed free.

“Back in 2006 (the milfoil) was so thick it was flowering on top of the water,” said Gale Pillsbury of the Jordan River Marina Condominium Association, a loose consortium of stakeholders along the waterway. Known as Panther Run, the section of river from the bridge near the intersection of Routes 302 and 85 is lined with boat slips and drains into Sebago Lake.

Pillsbury described the channel as a collection point for the spreading plant, which can be brought in on boats from the lake, as well as deposited from the downstream flow of the river.

“We attacked the problem in several different ways for a few years,” she explained. Crews of divers plucked the weed, a variety known as variable milfoil, while residents hauled the tangled chunks of green by wheel barrow to load onto trucks. Now, she said, a firm out of Brownfield, Maine, has transformed an ongoing crisis into a much simpler maintenance task.

On a recent October morning, divers from New England Milfoil, Allan Arnold and Sam Dyer removed the last 170 gallons of milfoil from the waterway, utilizing Diver Assisted Suction Harvesting (DASH). Dyer said that amount compares with about 1,300 gallons during the same period last year.

“We’re getting it close to a managerial situation,” he added. Both divers agree this stretch of river is in a no-win zone because the milfoil comes in from both directions. Dyer fingered a tiny milfoil fragment and said, “This can go to seed, re-root and create hundreds of new plants.”

The two divers worked in close coordination from their DASH boat, clearing an area around empty boat slips at Indian Point near the mouth of the river. Arnold, a tender, operated a noisy suction machine aboard the boat, while Dyer, underwater along the shallow shore, pulled the weeds and fed them into the suction dredge. The plants end up in 10 gallon containers and were then taken to a composting facility. Arnold observed that despite the ugly problem created by the thick, wriggly plant, “This stuff can grow up to seven feet tall, and when you’re diving in 10 feet of water in a heavy infestation where it grows like a forest, it can be a pretty impressive sight.”

“These last two years have been great. They stay on top of the problem. It makes it easier for us,” said Jonathon Korda of the Indian Point Owners Association.

Pillsbury said the milfoil eradication effort is funded with money from grants, dues from the two condominium associations, and donations from the boat sales marina on Panther Run. Grants are available from Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection which utilizes funds from the state’s milfoil sticker program.

She summed up the association’s progress over the past two years. With an average of 15 dives per year, N.E.M. removed 11,100 gallons of milfoil in 2015, and only 6,960 gallons this 2016 season. The progress is clear.

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