by Charlie Tarbell
At this, the 24th anniversary of the Maine Milfoil Summit, the organizers have changed the name to the Maine Invasives Summit in order to recognize that the threat is larger than simply the milfoil plant.
To start off with some good news, three lakes in Maine have been certified free of milfoil after a milfoil discovery and eradication effort. Pickerel Pond in Limerick was one of those. Thus, the good news is that a lake can be remediated and returned to a pristine condition. The bad news is that at least five new infestations were discovered in 2021, with a preponderance of those new infestations in the Belgrade Lakes area of central Maine. In one of those new infestations (Cobbosecontee, near Augusta), herbicides will be used this summer to address Eurasian Milfoil. Ick!
On the Courtesy Boat Inspection (CBI) front, there were eight saves of invasives going into Maine lakes in 2021, and 67 catches leaving Maine lakes. One of the incoming catches involved the discovery of fanwort on a boat entering Long Lake. This was from one of nearly 90k inspections performed during 2021. The incidence of catches and infestations continues to threaten all around us.
Over the twenty years in which CBI records have been kept, over one million inspections have been performed and over 1,000 catches have occurred. Education is also a critical by-product of these inspections. In 2022, the CBI program is facing cost headwinds due to employment competition from other businesses and a rising minimum wage. Many lakes are cultivating volunteers for inspections as a cost-saving alternative.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) awarded $289k in CBI grants this year. Keoka received $1,600. They also awarded $543k in funds to lakes attempting to control invasives. The source of these grant funds is from the boat registration sticker that is purchased for each boat each year. Most of these registrations come from Maine residents. And interestingly, in 2021 only 3% of boaters launching at an inspected boat launch had their boat in a lake out of state. The vast majority of boaters came from another Maine lake or the same Maine lake where the inspection was conducted. This is not to say that the invasives threat is from mostly Maine residents. Instead, the numbers show that the vast majority of boats are Maine-based boats (both year-round and summer residents) and the threat they pose is in moving from infested lake to non-infested lake within Maine.
Maine is very close to introducing MANDATORY operator certification for boats over 25 horse or PWCs. The bill had been passed by both houses of the Maine legislature and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. This regulation is common in most states and serves to ensure that operators know the “rules of the road”, er, lake.
Finally, an interesting case study was presented of a milfoil discovery on a large lake in northern Maine. Variable leaf milfoil was discovered in Big Lake in 2019 and a significant effort was then mounted to survey the lake (read: plant patrol) and then eradicate the infestation (read: KLA50). The authors of the case study presented the critical success factors that underlay a successful, sustained effort to address the problem. The key takeaway was that a planful, systematic approach yielded excellent results. While KLA has the three-legged-stool of Milfoil already in place (CBI/Plant Patrol/KLA50 war-chest), a preconceived “attack plan” would also help us be prepared to get a jump on a discovered infestation. Such a plan is now in the works.