Specialized boat on the horizon in Lakes Association milfoil battle
A $36,000 grant from the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service will help this season's fight against an invasive plant, formerly popular in home aquariums, and now growing in Lake Christopher and Shagg Pond.
The grant will make it possible for the local Community Lakes Association to purchase a boat designed to suction the invasive variable leaf milfoil plant off lake bottoms, as well as hire divers to do the work, fund volunteer training and provide supplies.
The CLA will also continue its ongoing monitoring of other area lakes for milfoil outbreaks.
Jim Chandler of Woodstock has been spearheading the effort to contain milfoil to a cove in Lake Christopher and, more recently, to try to get control of a more advanced milfoil infestation in Shagg Pond.
The plant, which was sold in past decades for home aquariums, can choke out native species and interfere with water recreation. It can be carried from lake to lake on the bottom of boats.
Chandler said that in recent years the fight to control milfoil locally has received strong financial and volunteer support from property owners on area lakes. And, he said, a growing partnership between the CLA and the Bryant Pond 4-H Camp is now at the core of the effort.
The 4H Camp is providing volunteers, training and educational initiatives, and campers will be involved in a "Youth Plant Patrol."
"Milfoil is a formidable organism. But it's not out of the realm of possiblility to get it under control," Chandler said Monday. "We have the techniques. The grant will allow us to apply the effort to make control possible."
The grant, obtained through the Maine Milfoil Initiative, requires both a cash and an in-kind match. The 4-H Camp is providing a cash match largely through grants of its own, said Chandler. Contributions from Woodstock and Greenwood, as well as the CLA, also go toward the match.
In-kind services will include volunteer labor, training, insurance, equipment provided by CLA and air for divers' tanks provided by the Greenwood Fire Department.
GFD firefighters use self-contained breathing apparatus similar to divers' tanks when they enter burning buildings.
"It will be a great help," said Chandler.
The CLA also has benthic mats to use in the effort. The mats are placed on the bottom of a lake to block sunlight from reaching the plants, killing them.
Total funding from the various sources now totals $123,685, with in-kind providing $51,730.
While the grant is for one year, Chandler said the CLA is hopeful it may extend to three.
"We're looking forward to making a concerted effort that will do the trick for these two lakes," he said.
Divers interested in working on the project may contact Chandler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 357-3523.
More volunteers are also needed. A training day will take place at the 4-H Camp June 26. To volunteer, go to the CLA webpage at www.communtylakesassociation.com or contact Betsey Foster at 875-2426. (The webpage will be launched shortly.) Information is also available on the CLA Facebook page, which can be found by searching for "Western Maine Community Lakes Association."