EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 30, 2013

Annual milfoil battle has begun

Annual battle against milfoil begins anew

By Alex Lippa

---- — Milfoil long has been a problem in many local ponds and lakes.

Officials and volunteers are getting ready for yet another year of fighting the aquatic nuisance plants.

“It can overtake the pond,” said Bob Lumnah, president of the Powwow Pond Council in Kingston. “It can choke out the other plants and remove oxygen from the water.”

Much attention is paid to milfoil during the year because of the destruction it can cause. The plant can damage the water quality and also kill wildlife.

Milfoil is thick and can clog the water, causing swimmers and boats to become tangled up in the weeds.

Lumnah said his group will once again be trying to remove the plant from the pond this year.

In Kingston, the process will start this week. Amy Smagula, coordinator for the state Department of Environmental Services exotic species program, will be visiting the pond to begin to map the plant’s growth.

“The spring is a crucial time,” Smagula said. “Since milfoil is an evergreen, it doesn’t have competition from other plants during this growing season. So right now, it starts to get a foothold.”

Smagula said 79 bodies of water in the state are infested with the plant. She hopes to visit as many as possible to figure out the best methods to fight the invasion.

“Early detection is important,” Smagula said. “If you find it early, it can be eradicated. It becomes a lot more difficult if it spreads more.”

At Beaver Lake in Derry, a team of volunteers makes it a point to be on the lookout for any possible signs of milfoil to prevent an outbreak.

“We haven’t had it here,” said Paula Frank, president of the Beaver Lake Improvement Association. “We invest a lot in being proactive and put a lot of membership money in making sure we don’t have any in the lake.”

Frank said the association pays teenagers to inspect boats for weeds before they go into the water. The group also has a group of “weed watchers,” who go around the lake looking for suspicious weeds. All reports are sent to Smagula.

If volunteers aren’t proactive, the milfoil can spread. At Powwow Pond, the milfoil situation was under control after several years of treatment. But after volunteers stopped reporting their findings to Smagula for a couple years, it quickly came back.

“We really need to have a good team of volunteers reporting information to us about once a month,” she said. “I can’t be monitoring every body of water at once.”

As a result, the DES has given grants to help with the cleanup. This year, Powwow Pond will receive up to $6,500 from the state for herbicide treatment and for divers to physically remove the plant. The DES has been assisting the pond for three years.

Not everyone is relying on money from the DES. The Big Island Pond Corporation sets up its own team of volunteers to deal with the milfoil problem.

“We have divers go in there about four times a week from the middle of June through the end of August,” said Rose Colby, a member of Big Island Pond Corporation.

She said the group spends about $14,000 a year on cleaning up the pond. Colby’s hope is that the winter weather this year will play a role in stunting the growth of the milfoil.

“This winter, we had ice cover on lake for long periods of time and that means the sun couldn’t penetrate through it,” Colby said. “We had a lot of work to do last year, so this year we hope things will be a little better.”