Prevention Lessons Learned.
Milfoil was first discovered on Annabessacook Lake in 2014. Annabessacook is a lot like Keoka; its bigger but about the same depth. Near Winthrop Maine it is home to a family-owned campground, and a family of loons. It also has a loyal following of boaters, fishermen, kayakers, and people just loving the lake.
In 2014 life on Annabessacook changed when milfoil was discovered by a courtesy boat inspector. She noticed a plant fragment floating in the lake. She bagged it and sent if out for identification. It was quickly identified as milfoil, but the location of the actual plant growth was unknown.
The Annabessacook Lake Improvement Association (ALIA) quickly organized a meeting of key players including the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Voluntary Lake Monitoring Patrol (VLMP), the Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed, and other local teams.
Step 1: Location
Step one was to conduct a plant survey of the entire lake. This was done by a large group of volunteers that found a small area of the lake that was infested.
Step 2: Eradication
Step two was to begin an eradication effort. ALIA organized a privately funded project. Originally, it was believed that the infestation could be handled quickly. Four years later they are still fighting. The boat ramp in Monmouth had to be closed because it was infested. Fortunately, the boat ramp in Winthrop was still usable. After removing thousands of pounds of milfoil, the boar ramp has re-opened, the milfoil problem in Annabessacook continues to this day.
Step 3: Education
Step three was a plan to prevent more infestation. ALIA deployed milfoil warning buoys, conducted outreach programs, developed a detailed survey of the infested area, improved plans for removal and repeat surveys, and expanded the courtesy boat inspections. The programs come at a cost.
Step 4: Prevention
In 2018, the Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed area initiated a 3-year campaign to remove invasive milfoil, survey vulnerable areas, and educate the public. The campaign is expected to cost $250,000 during the 2019-2020 project period.
The Maine Lakes 2018 Power Rankings included Annabessacook Lake as number ten on its list. The called it their “pick for a Cinderella story” for staging a comeback from milfoil. Getting rid of milfoil is tough. It is much better to have a solid prevention program than a fairy godmother.
An active lake association is critical to both prevention and responding to an infestation.
It takes three to four years from milfoil identification to successful eradication.
Courtesy boat inspections work and are the frontline defense for milfoil.