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Milfoil control funding requests way up in Wakefield

by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News
June 19, 2014
WAKEFIELD — Lake association members attending the June 11 Wakefield selectmen's meeting were in for a surprise when it turned out that the total of requests for milfoil control exceeded the funds available in the town's Invasive Species Capital Reserve.

With seven lakes within its borders, Wakefield has not only been conscious of the threat of invasive species like variable milfoil, it has helped fund efforts to prevent and control the milfoil threat since 2003, when the capital reserve was first set up.

Five of the lakes currently do not have milfoil and the main effort to prevent infestation is through the Lake Host program, which is managed by the Acton Wakefield Watershed Alliance (AWWA). Lake host inspectors examine boats at boat launches for traces of milfoil and remove them when found.

Two of the lakes, Belleau and Balch, do have milfoil.

Lake associations raise money to fight or prevent milfoil through dues and fundraisers and also apply for grants from the two states involved (New Hampshire for all seven lakes and Maine for Balch and Great East lakes). However, it is the towns that border the lakes that make the critical difference by providing funds of their own and the Wakefield Invasive Species Capital Reserve is a major source.

At the June 11 meeting, $13,500 was requested for the Lake Host program, $5,000 was requested by the Balch Lake Improvement Committee, and $22,500 was requested by the Belleau Lake Property Owners Association. The total amount requested was $41,000. Unfortunately there is only $31,000 available in the capital reserve.

The $31,000 balance has been maintained for a few years now, Town Administrator Teresa Williams explained. The difference this year is that the Belleau Lake request is higher than normal.

Lorraine Rosenthal, head of the milfoil committee for the Belleau Lake association, said that almost three tons of milfoil was harvested in 2013, but it all came back. The state Department of Environmental Services, when it surveyed the lake this spring, cited more light during the winter of 2012-13 and a hot summer last year as the main reasons why the milfoil is coming back so strongly this year.

This year the state recommended treating 50.4 acres now and 50.4 acres in the fall – a total of 100.8 acres vs. the 26 acres treated in 2013. The cost of the proposed treatments is $56,000.

Rosenthal said the basic problem is that the lake is shallow, particularly in the top and bottom parts where the milfoil is worst. The association does not have the $56,000 and it does not qualify for state funding because it is a man-made basin without public access.

Last year selectmen approved $28,300 in requests for funds, and that included $11,300 for Belleau Lake, $5,000 for Balch Lake and $12,000 for the Lake Host Program. While the Balch request was the same, the Belleau and Lake Host requests for 2014 were higher.

Selectmen Charlie Edwards pointed out the $10,000 shortfall between the requests and available funds and asked audience members for suggestions on how to allocate the $31,000 available.

After some discussion, Linda Schier, director of AWWA, reduced the Lake Host request to last year's $12,000, freeing up $1,500 for Belleau Lake, and Selectman Connie Twombley proposed to reduce the Balch portion to $2,500. There was no one left in the room to speak to that adjustment since Don Pierce, who had submitted the Balch request, had left the meeting. The adjustments raised the amount for Belleau Lake treatment to $16,500 – short of the $22,500 requested, but hopefully enough to get both treatments done with supplemental fundraising.

Williams pointed out that the budget process begins in the fall, so if additional monies will be needed, that is the time to make the board aware. Schier volunteered to come to selectmen in October with a report on the outlook for 2015 funding needs.

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