As many of our Lake Rescue Association members know, Eurasian milfoil is an aquatic invasive species that can grow into thick surface mats that interfere with swimming and boating activities and crowd out native fish and plant species. Milfoil was first found in Lake Rescue in 1998. The LRA Board at that time acted quickly to employ divers to hand pull the discovered plants and each following year divers have been employed by the association to survey the lake. From 1999 to 2003 our paid divers searched and removed about 100 milfoil plants. Lake Rescue was free of milfoil from 2004 until the last several years. Tropical Storm Irene hit our region in 2011 and the massive inflow of sediment from that storm into our lake made it difficult to search for milfoil in 2012 and 2013 but the first, new milfoil plant was found in 2013. The LRA Board increased the number of days in 2014 and 2015 that divers were employed to survey and hand pull milfoil plants. Despite the efforts of the divers, a significant increase in milfoil plants was found in Lake Rescue in 2015; divers found no Eurasian Milfoil in Lake Pauline.
On Thursday, November 12th, several LRA Board members met with Ann Bove, aquatic invasive species specialist with the VT Agency of Natural Resources, to discuss formulating a 5-year strategic plan for combating milfoil in Lake Rescue. We discussed each of the known methods that have been used (carp, weevils, ground barriers, harvesting, suction pulling, hand pulling and herbicides). Links to more information about each of these methods are included at the bottom of this letter. Carp are illegal in VT; weevils are expensive and have had marginal success; ground barriers are also expensive and would not appear to be suitable for our hot spots, according to Ann, because of the soft sediment floor; harvesting is expensive, spreads the growth of new milfoil plants and is usually reserved as a last ditch effort to open up clogged lake areas. Ann applauded LRA's milfoil management efforts of using divers to hand pull plants and she recommended that we continue doing so. She also suggested that in the Spring 2016 if early diver surveys discover concentrated milfoil growth then we should consider suction-pulling milfoil plants in the two hot spots in Round Pond; LRA will be investigating the possibility of renting suction apparatus from nearby lake associations that currently own them. We will also be checking with Chris Sheldon, who has used his suction apparatus on Lake Rescue, to see if he would be available in the event that we could not find a less expensive alternative. (Suctioning requires a state permit which we obtained this past summer.) The use of herbicides to kill milfoil plants has been used on VT lakes, though it has been somewhat controversial. Herbicides are not a cure-all but have had reasonable success in specific, circumscribed locations on a lake. The use of herbicides requires a state permit. Herbicides are also expensive, require a licensed applicator, and prior to their use the state requires a plant survey, which Ann said is expensive ($3,000 to $5,000) and the state requires follow-up plant surveys as well as water testing.
Since milfoil can regenerate from any parts of the plant that break off, boats passing through milfoil can easily contribute to the spread of this scourge. We discussed with Ann Bove the possibility of declaring the two known hot spots on Round Pond as “No Boating” zones. She agreed that such action would be helpful and appropriate but that it would require a state permit. She noted that the state has been reluctant to grant such permits but she implied that given the multiple strategies that we are pursuing, and given our long history of taking proactive measures, that our request for such a permit might be approved. The LRA Board will be pursuing such a permit.
The LRA Board specifically asked Ann Bove about milfoil upstream from Lake Rescue. To her recollection, the last surveys of Echo Lake and Amherst Lake did not detect any Eurasian milfoil. Because these surveys were several years old, we asked Ann if it were possible for her department to re-survey those lakes. She said that a survey of each entire lake would not be possible but she would survey the outlets of both Amherst and Echo Lakes which she claimed would be likely locations to find milfoil plants if they were coming downstream.
At the present time the LRA Board has arranged for the coming summer to have the Yoders (divers) come twice per week throughout the summer to survey and hand pull milfoil. As suggested by Ann Bove, the LRA Board will consider suction-pulling in the "hot spots" in Round Pond after surveying how large the milfoil patch is in the spring of 2016. Board members are currently investigating the most cost effective way to do the suctioning, in the event that suctioning is required. The full LRA board was not present at the meeting with Ann Bove so no official LRA position was taken regarding the use of herbicides. As a preliminary step, we are suggesting that we ask one of the herbicide application companies to come to Lake Rescue this coming July to give us their opinion and estimate as to strategy and cost. If it appeared at that time that our suction and hand pulling efforts were not successful and that the milfoil was aggressively advancing, then we could, with LRA membership approval, schedule a plant survey for August (which is when Ann said the survey should be done). The earliest that herbicides could be used would be Spring 2017. Suctioning and hand pulling would still, very likely, need to be done even if we use herbicides. It is the fervent hope of the LRA Board that herbicides will not be used but at the same time it is felt prudent to gather the necessary information so that timely action could be taken if necessary.
Beyond the decision as to what approach we should take there is the underlying issue of how to fund our efforts. As we do every year we will be applying for a state grant for milfoil control. We will also be speaking to the Ludlow town manager to see what amount, if any, the town would contribute. We do have a fund, which many of you contribute to each year, for such contingencies but depending on what we find this coming summer it could be quickly depleted. For example, the Lake Dunmore lake association spent $160,000 in 2014 in their attempts to control their milfoil problem. We are still hoping for the best but feel we must prepare our membership for a less optimistic outcome.
We will continue to keep you apprised of the situation and we welcome your input.
President, Lake Rescue Association
For additional information: