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Joyce Endee

Milfoil regrowth is a major problem for Wolfeboro

MILFOIL TOUR. On Tuesday, Aug. 14, Sen. Jeb Bradley (left) and members of the state’s Exotic Aquatic Weeds and Species Committee, including citizen representative and Director of the Ossipee Lake Alliance Bob Reynolds (second from left) and Committee Chairman Rep. Chris Christensen (third from left) took a tour of Wolfeboro’s Back Bay to examine the milfoil infestation regrowth. Cliff Cabral, Wolfeboro’s dive contractor (standing) offers points as he pilots the pontoon boat. (Courtesy photo) (click for larger version)
August 23, 2012
WOLFEBORO — Unfortunately for New Hampshire's waterways, it was a very good year for milfoil across the state. A mild winter, early ice out and a warm spring have set back the extensive efforts made over the last few years to control the invasive plant.

Amazed at the regrowth in Back Bay this season, Ken Marschner, head of Wolfeboro's Milfoil Committee, says the town may have to resort to more chemical treatments in addition to the diving and hand pulling program that was making substantial progress until this year.

Marschner hosted a tour of Back Bay for members of the state's Exotic Aquatic Weeds and Species Committee, including citizen representative and Director of the Ossipee Lake Alliance Bob Reynolds, Committee Chair Rep. Chris Christensen, and Sen. Jeb Bradley, on Aug. 14 while the Diver Assisted Suction Harvester operation was in full operation.

Reynolds says the early start of this year's growth surprised everyone. Three new infestations appeared this August within the Ossipee Lake system. One was the first ever found on the main lake. "Ten or 11 rivers are affected now, too," he added.

Statewide surveys completed by the Ossipee Lake Alliance (OLA) tracking the amount of money spent around the state to control the invasive weed established that about $1 million were raised in the effort. The group was able to get information on about two-thirds of the state's water bodies, says Reynolds. Others are not receiving the benefit of any organized citizen attention.

According to the OLA findings, about 10 percent of the total dollars devoted to the cause came from the state, about 45 percent from the towns and 45 percent from individuals.

While Reynolds estimates the total amount needs to double to around $2 million this year to address the infestation. Milfoil crowds out native species and its rapid growth reduces water clarity, which affects the fish population. It can also have a deleterious affect on property values and on tourism in a state that relies heavily on property taxes and outdoor recreation revenues. Christensen says that some say maybe $7 million over a five-year period would be sufficient.

Whatever the figure, one sure thing is that it's time to invest more in control efforts.

Bradley says he's always been supportive of protecting water quality and says, "Now that I've seen it first hand, I think it's clear we're going to have to bite the bullet and invest more money." Exactly how to best raise the money is not yet clear, but he's offered to cosponsor legislation to address the issue.

Presently, there is a $7.50 surcharge on boat registration fees. Raising that amount is one possibility, but Christensen says, "We need a broader base of support." He's thinking that an access fee, similar to the one in Maine, would include more users.

"Over the years we've tried various mechanisms," says Christensen. "Property taxes are a sore subject." An access fee would require boaters, canoeists and kayakers to purchase stickers for their boats and would include out of staters.

Another idea the committee has talked about is streamlining the permitting process for chemical treatment and hand pulling activity. According to Christensen, right now it takes 90 to 100 days to get permit. Looking at how fast the milfoil has spread under this season's conditions, perhaps a reduction in that time period could help lake associations and towns get ahead of the problem.

"New Hampshire is proud of its water quality," says Christensen, and milfoil poses an environmental threat.

Linda Murray, Chairman of the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen and a member of the town's milfoil committee, was out in a kayak on the day of the tour, cruising along the shoreline to rake in the long strands of bright green milfoil as she's done many times in the past few seasons.

The next day she announced at the selectmen's meeting that it appears that more chemical treatment is in store for Back Bay.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
Varney Smith
Garnett HIll
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