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2001 Milfoil Summit
Several Lakes Association of Norway (LAON)  Directors attended the 2nd Annual Milfoil Summit held in Standish at St. Joseph's College on Friday, March 2, 2001.  Milfoil and invasive aquatic plants have become a major issue for a variety of constituencies in the State of Maine.  This event was pulled together by the efforts of Peter Lowell, Executive Director of the Lakes Environmental Association.
 
Here is a quote from the invitation:

"Maine is facing a significant threat. Creative thinking and alliances between state agencies, private conservation and local citizens are the only means we have to be effective. Invasive Aquatic Plants will be a prominent issue before the Maine Legislature this year as there is a sense of concern that Maine needs to react quickly to this threat to the lakes and economy of the state"

The session was attended by close to one hundred attendees representing state and local agencies as well as many lake associations.

There were some familiar faces, Scott Williams, Executive Director of the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program (VLMP),  was a feature speaker.

Scott spoke about the significant impact that Invasive Aquatic Species (IAS) such as Milfoil will have on Maine.  Here is a link to an article wrote on the topic: Protecting Maine Lakes from the Threat of Invasive Aquatic Species A Progress Report.

The message to the members of LAON is clear.  We are in very real danger of being faced with an environmental nightmare.  Two bodies of water in close proximity to Norway's lakes are already infested with Variable Leaf Milfoil.  Thompson Lake in Oxford and Cushman Pond in Lovell.  Sebago Lake as well.

Milfoil is spread through public mobility and the inadvertent attachment of these plants on trailers, motors, fishing gear, nets, bait containers, etc.  All it takes is a single piece of Milfoil introduced into a lake to start the infestation.  Today, there are no known viable remedies once this weed gets established in a body of water.  

Though Variable Leaf Water Milfoil is now confirmed in over 10 of Maine's lakes, there have been no confirmed cases of Eurasian Milfoil which is an even more aggressive plant and has become a huge problem in neighboring states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.  

Scott stressed that the best plan for Maine's lakes is a very strong prevention program followed closely by an aggressive and systematic monitoring and detection program.

VLMP will be running Invasive Plant Patrol Workshops to train lake monitors in the identification of invasive plants.  LAON will be scheduling a workshop so that we can begin proactive monitoring.  

The Maine DEP (http://www.mainedep.com) has developed a Milfoil Public Service Announcement (PSA) which they have distributed to the media in an attempt to increase public awareness.

Gerry Nelson of the Kezar Lake Watershed Association then provided a real-world story of fighting Variable Leaf Milfoil at Cushman Pond in Lovell on which he resides.  Cushman Pond is a small pond which drains into Kezar Lake and does not allow boats with motors.  Variable Leaf Milfoil was first discovered in the pond in 1995 - from 1993-1996 the pond was used extensively by commercial bait dealers.  It is believed that this is how the milfoil was introduced to the pond.  Working with the DEP and local volunteers has allowed the infestation to be managed though not completely removed at a tremendous expense of time and effort.  After an initial application of an aquatic herbicide, the milfoil has been managed by using commercial divers who dive 4-5 time a summer to remove plants by hand.  He said that even with the extensive concern from the local community, it has been hard to keep up enthusiasm from volunteers for the ongoing milfoil control efforts. His message was to do everything you can to keep milfoil out of your lake!

Peter Lowell of LEA and Roy Bouchard of the DEP then provided an update on the Legislative initiatives which were ongoing.  There are several major bills which are up for review by the Maine Legislature this session. They are listed on the DEP Website (http://janus.state.me.us/dep/blwq/topic/invlegis.htm) and include LD589 and LD1155 which are of particular importance.  Hearings for these two bills are scheduled for March 21st in Room 427 of the State House. Anyone who could was encouraged to attend the hearings as the Legislature needs to be sent a message that these bills need to be made a priority.

We took a break in the lobby where there was a nice spread of refreshments and plenty of discussion about the topics presented in the morning session.

After the break was a presentation by Roberta Hill of the Portland Water District which draws its water from Sebago Lake and from the Mary Jane Dillingham of the Auburn Water District presented work that they had done regarding milfoil infestation in these two bodies of water which are used as municipal drinking supplies. They were very concerned about the effects of Invasive Aquatic Species on the water supplies as well as the implications of various methods of controlling IAS such as the use of aquatic herbicides.  

Ship Bright, the Executive Director of the Maine Lakes Conservancy finished up the Summit with his keynote speech. Prior to founding the Institute, Ship was Deputy Commissioner for the Maine Department of Conservation from 1994 to 1998.

Ship was an entertaining speaker (reminded me of John Laroquette) but he delivered a very strong message.  Over 9% of Maine's GDP is directly related to its lakes and Maine has not been doing a very good job of stewarding its lake resources.  Only $270,000 is allocated in the budget specifically for lakes issues.

He said the number one motivator for Maine's State government leadership as well as local town government will be the economic impact which Invasive Aquatic Species can have.  Water quality directly effects waterfront property values - if the water quality goes down or a lake becomes infested with Milfoil, the tax burden for running local towns and municipalities will shift to inland property owners.  

He said there are many issues yet to be resolved such as boat access - should access to infested lakes be limited?  What type of rules can be applied by local towns to try to control IAS?  His message to the attendees was to get educated about this issues and to get involved!