Addie Casali saves the day.
Long Lake: History of an Invasion
NAPLES (WGME) -- Environmentalists are working to remove and stop the spreading of an estimated half an acre of milfoil, an invasive aquatic plant, found in Long Lake earlier this month.
Milfoil has reportedly infested the neighboring Brandy Pond and the Songo River for years but was found growing in Long Lake, which had been thought to be safe from the plant.
Aquatic Invasive Plants to be Hand Harvested from Long Lake throughout the Summer of 2017:
Variable-leaf milfoil will be removed from Long Lake by the Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute (PSCAWI) with funds awarded to PSCAWI by the Environmental Protection Agency through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
PSCAWI will utilize a five-person control team consisting of four divers and one top-water support person. The divers will remove the milfoil by hand using proven techniques developed by PSCAWI over the last 15 years. The Long Lake Association (LLA), in collaboration with the Town of Long Lake staff, will bring the harvested milfoil to the Long Lake Transfer Station for composting. Pending approval of a permit by the APA, removal will begin on July 10th and will continue for about ten weeks. The control team will return again for ten more weeks in 2018 to complete removal.
Our goal is to eradicate this species from Long Lake and to have the lake declared free of aquatic invasive species. By definition, a species is considered eradicated if it is not observed for three years after control ends. Since it is unlikely that we will eradicate variable-leaf milfoil from Long Lake in two years, the LLA has committed to seek funds through grants, fund-raising, and support from the Town of Long Lake to continue the control program in later years.
Variable-leaf milfoil was first reported in Long Lake in 2006. This aquatic plant is usually very invasive and as such is ranked very high by New York State as a threat to waterbodies. Variable-leaf milfoil typically forms dense beds that broach the surface, preventing use and enjoyment of large areas of lakes invaded by this species (as is the case in the Fulton Chain and Raquette Lake). Fortunately, though variable-leaf milfoil has been present in Long Lake for at least 11 years, it is not a dominant species nor has it established any beds. We believe this lack of invasive behavior is partly explained by the large fluctuations in water level in Long Lake that provides a natural means to control this species.
Addie Casali followed her instincts and likely saved Long Lake from an invasive plant attack.
An inspector with Lakes Environmental Association for the past two summers, Addie encountered a boat from Lake Champlain on the last Saturday in July launching into Long Lake in Harrison. She knew Lake Champlain is a hot spot for invasive aquatic species
During her inspection, Addie found plants wrapped around the propeller of the boat. The long plant fragments were dried out and hard to identify but, because of the likely origin of the plant, Addie determined that she should treat it as “suspicious” and bring it to the LEA office.
“When we first received the plant at LEA, we immediately established that it was a species of milfoil. Even dried out, we could see that the plant had feathery leaves, a clear indication that it was suspicious. Upon rehydrating, we could tell that Addie had removed Eurasian milfoil from the boat,” said Mary Jewett, teacher/naturalist with LEA. “This is a highly-invasive species and we are lucky that Addie found it. Eurasian milfoil has been confirmed in only two waterbodies in Maine, and is much more aggressive than the invasive variable leaf milfoil already present in over thirty lakes and ponds.”
This summer, LEA has seen a rash of invasive plant activity in the state. Pennesseewassee Lake had a Eurasian milfoil “save” at the beginning of the boating season, where plants were intercepted coming from a lake in New York State. A new infestation of Eurasian milfoil was discovered in July in Cobbossee Lake. On the heels of that cleanup came the discovery of European Frog Bit, an invasive lily pad never found in Maine before.
Locally, LEA has recorded seven “saves” this year. Jewett said all but the Eurasian catch were coming out of the State Park (two) or moving through the Songo River (four).
“We had only one save last year on the Songo River,” she said. “The increase of plants found at our infested sites is likely due to the time we have spent getting the Long Lake infestation in Mast Cove under control. These infestations must be monitored each year for new plant growth. If you don’t get it early, the patches will get big again. Across the state, there have been many more. I don’t have the exact number right now. I do know that Lake Arrowhead in Waterboro has already had 48 ‘saves’ this summer. I believe all of those are from boats leaving the water or boats that only boat on that lake. That public launch has the most catches by far.”
The discovery of new infestations always brings questions about the efficacy of the program, but lake data shows that the Courtesy Boat Inspection program is working. Maine continues to have many fewer invasive aquatic species compared to other New England states. Less than 10% of Maine waterways contain invasive species compared to 84 bodies of water in neighboring New Hampshire that have invasive aquatic plants. Maine has about 40 total infested waterbodies with different plants, mostly variable milfoil, Jewett said.
LEA partners with smaller lake associations — such as Keoka Lake Association, Trickey Pond Environmental Protection Association, Peabody Pond Association, Hancock Sand Pond Association, Moose Pond Association and Woods Pond Water Quality Association — to cover more area.
“They help by paying for the hours that inspectors are there,” Jewett noted. “LEA provides training and payroll services.”
Most locations are staffed with boat inspectors by the start of Memorial Day weekend and end after Labor Day. There are 28 inspectors, covering 14 launches on 12 lakes — Long, Highland, Sebago (state park), Crystal, Keoka, along with Sebago Cove, Trickey Pond, Moose Pond, Woods Pond, Songo River and Hancock Pond.
In LEA’s service area, boat inspectors cover five infested waterbodies. There are no public launches on Brandy Pond, so LEA doesn’t have inspectors there.
What if there is a milfoil outbreak? Cleanup can prove costly. Over the past two years, LEA has spent about $40,000 on the new Long Lake infestation.
“We get some grants from the DEP and make up the rest with donations from the community,” Jewett pointed out.
Despite the successes, the milfoil programs need help. Funding for both the inspection program and plant control is stagnating, while the required work is increasing with more boat traffic and new infestations.
“We need more launches to be covered by inspectors for longer hours. We need an increase in support as new, and old, infestations are tackled,” Jewett said.
Presently, towns contribute the following:
$10,000 from Naples for plant control
$1,500 from Bridgton for plant control and $2,900 for boat inspections
$4,000 from Harrison for milfoil (LEA uses the funds for inspections since the town did not specify how the money was to be spent)
$5,000 from Casco for plant control.
Another key to preventing new milfoil infestations is having boaters inspect their own watercraft. Maine state law already prohibits the transportation of aquatic plants on boats and trailers (MRSA Title 12, Sections 13056 and 13058), but inspectors routinely find plant fragments on boats. Inspectors are posted at boat launches as a courtesy to prevent the errant plant from entering Maine’s water, not to enforce this law.
“The new infestations show that our inspectors aren’t enough to fully protect our waters. The boater coming from Lake Champlain left Vermont and crossed two state lines before pulling up to the launch in Harrison. That single fragment of Eurasian milfoil could have caused a new infestation,” Jewett noted. “If they had decided to launch the next morning when the boat launch is not staffed, there wouldn’t have been someone there to catch it.”