Milfoil Meets its match

Milfoil meets its match
Persistence of Little Sebago Lake Association nets $500K for milfoil eradication
By John Balentine

After two years petitioning Washington lawmakers for money to fight the spread of milfoil on local lakes, the Little Sebago Lake Association’s tireless efforts have finally borne fruit.

Last week, Senate Appropriations Committee member Sen. Susan Collins announced that a significant amount of federal funding, to the tune of $500,000, is coming to the Maine Milfoil Consortium – a public-private partnership between Saint Joseph’s College in Standish, several area lake associations and volunteer groups such as the Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program – to help combat milfoil. The money is part of the interior appropriations bill, passed last week.

While the bulk of the money will be divided among six southern Maine lake associations dealing with milfoil infestations, about $190,000 of the federal allotment will go to Saint Joseph’s College to create a freshwater marine laboratory and establish a new faculty position. The new project coordinator will oversee and direct the study of milfoil and strategies to defeat the invasive plant statewide.

According to Elizabeth Schrann, director of institutional advancement at the college, “the point of the project is to find out what the best practices are and to disseminate those best practices statewide to all lakes.”

Much of what has been learned in Maine regarding the best methods to halt the spread of milfoil is the result of the Little Sebago Lake Association, which spends upwards of $100,000 a year in fighting its hybrid milfoil infestation.

According to the association’s president, Pam Wilkinson, “it’s been quite an effort, and we’re blessed with (this money) to proceed with mitigation and hopefully eradication of our milfoil.”

Wilkinson said the association has been “pioneers for fighting milfoil” and have employed multiple strategies including laying thick mats on the lake’s bottom to deprive the plant of sunlight, hand pulling, and in the last four years building and employing a suction dredge that vacuums the plant, root and all.

Wilkinson said while her lake has fought milfoil for more than six years, there are many lakes in Maine that are milfoil-free. But if those lakes were to experience an outbreak of milfoil, quick containment could prevent the kind of widespread takeover that has taken place in Massachusetts, as well as in southern Maine lakes such as Lake Arrowhead in Waterboro.

“This money will basically allow a meeting of the minds. It’ll be like an information database for how to effectively fight milfoil,” Wilkinson said.

To that end, the consortium will use some of the federal money to establish a comprehensive Web site, probably overseen by the Saint Joseph’s College coordinator. The Web site would include information that lake associations struggling with milfoil could turn to for advice and information. Extraction methods, types and locations of existing milfoil, and more technical information that lake associations would need to prevent milfoil from entering a lake would be included in the site.

“The Web site will be a way to share all of the information regarding milfoil on our lakes,” said Carol Ann Doucette, former Little Sebago Lake Association president. “It will be a central clearinghouse for information.”

Doucette said the association has spent many thousands of dollars — gleaned from a number of sources including association member dues, town of Windham funding and private fundraisers — fighting a serious infestation of hybrid milfoil which cropped up about six years ago in several coves of the long, thin lake dividing Gray and Windham. Doucette said the federal funding, which will likely total $40,000 specifically for the Little Sebago Lake Association, is welcome, especially when fundraising has slowed due to the economy.

“We’ve never gone after federal funding, so this is a whole new thing,” Doucette said. “But Bob Mills (a resident of the lake who lobbied Sen. Collins in Washington D.C.) deserves all the credit. He lobbied pro bono on our behalf. And Sen. Collins was our champion. She was the only one who had the time to sit down with us.”

In a statement, Sen. Collins stressed the importance of the fight against invasive milfoil.

“The value of Maine’s lakes and ponds to our economy and environment is invaluable. It is critical that we work to stop the spread of invasive species in Maine and throughout the nation. I am proud of the dedicated efforts of the Maine Milfoil Consortium to stopping the spread of milfoil in Maine’s lakes and ponds and I am proud to have successfully secured this important federal funding,” said Sen. Collins.

To show their appreciation, Doucette, Mills and Saint Joseph’s College President Dr. Joe Lee will fly to Washington D.C. on Wednesday, Nov. 18 to “personally thank” Collins for her help in garnering the funds, Doucette said.

Reposted with Permission
From Lakes Region Weekly, November 13, 2009

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