Keoka Lake:  Tale of Two Futures

It was a sunny morning on what was expected to be a beautiful, warm June day when Cathy got to the Keoka boat launch at 7:00 am.  She put up her umbrella and settled into her chair.  Cathy was happy that school was over and excited about getting a job as a Courtesy Boat Inspector (CBI).  After all, being paid to sit on the beach was a pretty great job.

Cathy was just settling in when she saw a boat heading into the ramp from the lake.  Man, she thought,  these bass fisherman like to go out early.  They pulled up to the ramp as one of the fishermen hopped out to back the trailer down the ramp.  They got the boat onto the trailer and pulled up to secure it.  It was time for Cathy go into action.

Using her CBI training, Cathy put on her best smile and asked the men if they were okay with her conducting a boat inspection.  They told her to go ahead so she began her inspection of the boat according to her training.  She was surprised to find a piece of a plant wrapped around the propeller.  She pulled it off and noted it on her inspection form.  She asked the men where they had last had the boat in the water and they told her that they had been fishing in Arrowhead Lake yesterday.  She completed her form and thanked them for their participation.

Possible Future

At the end of her shift, Cathy followed the procedure in the CBI handbook.  She labeled the plant fragment and mailed it and the inspection form to the Lake Environmental Association.  She also called them to tell them that a sample was coming.

Three days later the calls started.  The fragment that Cathy had found was milfoil.  The leadership of the Keoka Lake Association (KLA) was notified of the find.  LEA used the boat registration number that Cathy had recorded to track done the owner of the bass boat.  It took them two days to reach the owner and ask where they had been on Keoka.  The answer was not good.  They had gone around the entire shoreline fishing that morning.

While LEA was tracking down the boat owner.  The KLA began organizing a plant survey of the lake.  The challenge was that it was still early in the year and many of the camp owners were not in residence yet. The two, local certified Invasive Plant Patrol (IPP) monitors began organizing volunteers to conduct a Baseline Infestation Survey to determine the extent of the infestation.  With a Baseline Infestation Survey the emphasis is on thoroughness. The best way to achieve this is to conduct a comprehensive Level-3 survey and to clearly record and map all survey findings. Since Keoka did not yet have an existing volunteer-based survey team the KLA leadership looked to hire professionals to help conduct the initial baseline survey.

A week after finding the piece of milfoil, and three days after its identification, 50% of the lake had been surveyed.  It took two more days to find the infestation site in a shallow cove.  With the peak flowering season of milfoil quickly approaching, KLA need to find resources to deal with the infestation. 

LEA had put Keoka on a list for consideration of eradication grant funding next spring by the DEP.  The milfoil growing season was about to go into full force.  The roots develop at nodes and the break off.  These fragments set root and grow into a new plant.  Waiting for funds until spring would result in a infestation that could take years to control.

The KLA team began the process of raising funds for divers and benthic barriers...

A Brighter Future

Cathy was new to boat inspection but she knew that the plant fragment looked like the milfoil she had been shown in her training class.  She pulled the file of invasive plant photos up on her phone and was sure that this finding was not good.  She asked the two fishermen if they would wait a few minutes as she called Bob,her KLA contact, one of the dozen certified IPP monitors on the lake.  Fortunately, he was at the nearby library and hurried over to help Cathy.  He identified the fragment as milfoil.  He worked closely with the fishermen to map their route that morning.

Bob began executing the Invasive Plant Action Plan that KLA had developed over the last year.  He started the callout to all IPPs and the KLA leadership.  The pre-written infestation notification and request for volunteers was quickly posted on KLA’s website and Facebook page.  Calls were made to LEA and the Lake Stewards of Maine (formerly the Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program).  By the afternoon a full, level 3 Baseline Infestation Survey was in progress.  By that evening, less than 12 hours from the finding of the plant fragment, a small infestation site had been identified.

LEA put Keoka on the list for DEP eradication funding but, the KLA team continued to press forward with their action plan.  The Keoka Lake Anniversary Fund was leveraged to hire milfoil eradication experts.  They brought in benthic barriers, sheets of  plastic material, that were put on top of the infested area to block sunlight and prevent growth.  Commercial divers, supervised by LEA, were engaged to scan the bottom of the lake for other problem areas.