NAPLES — A recent discovery of milfoil in Long Lake, which was previously thought to be free of the invasive aquatic plant, set off a rapid response from the Lakes Environmental Association and has raised alarm bells with other local groups.
“We were really concerned,” said Christian Oren, the LEA’s milfoil control coordinator Christian Oren.
There are numerous species of milfoil, including several that are native to Maine and not considered an issue for local ecosystems, according to the Bridgton-based association. The type discovered at Long Lake, variable leaf milfoil, is invasive, however, and can cause problems for swimmers and fishermen because of its dense growth, the group says.
Oren said “a ton of it” was submerged in about of acre of Naples’ Mast Cove. The discovery came after a boater alerted one of LEA’s courtesy boat inspectors, Oren said.
The inspectors are stationed at three public boat launch sites around the lake to watch for milfoil that could be clinging to boats or trailers and then introduced to the lake.
The milfoil control team used its diver-assisted suction harvester to control the infestation found at Mast Cove.
“We spent about two weeks working the area in Long Lake,” said Oren. The also work cost at least $10,000 and was supported in part by funding from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, LEA and “people that care,” he said.
The infestation in Long Lake is now “nearly gone, if not completely gone” and the LEA will go back in the fall and next year for follow-up work, he said.
“For years, we’ve been keeping it out of Long Lake,” Oren said, noting that invasive milfoil exists in connecting waterways, such as Brandy Pond and the Songo River.
Oren said that the milfoil found in Long Lake looks slightly different than the species in Brandy Pond and the Songo River, where the milfoil has a bright red stem. He explained that because milfoil is spread by fragmentation, part of the same infestation would likely look the same.
It appears that the plant was introduced to the lake accidentally by a boat brought from elsewhere to the Four Seasons Family Camping Area.
Camp co-owner Andrew Van Der Zee said he didn’t know where the invasive milfoil came from. Native milfoil has been noticeable for several years, he said.
“It looked like the same stuff that’s been there for years,” Van Der Zee said. He also said that the LEA staff “were great” in their efforts to control the milfoil and that they “worked pretty stinking hard all day long.”
Oren stressed that the LEA hopes anyone who finds milfoil will report it immediately, and should not fear legal or financial repercussions.
“We want people to report it … it doesn’t matter how it got there,” said Oren, who stressed that the quicker they can find and identify milfoil, the quicker they can address it and move to keep it from spreading.
The LEA also followed up by organizing a volunteer milfoil survey on Aug. 15 of Long Lake’s southern basin to see if milfoil had spread.
“We did not find any rooted plants down there,” he said, calling it a “good sign.”
At least one local lake association has been alarmed by the milfoil discovery at Long Lake, and is trying to raise awareness among members about the threat posed by the plant.
A recent message from the Crescent Lake Watershed Association sent to its members outlined the situation at Long Lake.
“Sound like an emergency? You bet!” read part of the message, which also outlined the assoication’s own efforts to prevent the spread of milfoil.
“The Crescent Lake Watershed Association’s efforts to avoid an infestation includes sponsoring, training and paying Courtesy Boat Inspectors to be stationed at our boat launch,” said the message.
Despite the concerns raised by these various groups, there are some who actually like having the invasive milfoil around.
Bob Chapin, who is President of both the Raymond Waterways Protection Association and Sebago Lake Anglers Association, acknowledged that some bass fisherman like milfoil because the dense plant can provide a protective ecosystem for fish, a position that he does not agree with.
Chapin, speaking primarily in his role with the RWPA, said that any fishermen in favor of keeping milfoil are probably confusing native milfoil and invasive milfoil like what was found in Long Lake.
Chapin says that while he is “sympathetic” to fishermen who want the best fishing conditions possible, he believes that controlling invasive milfoil is important and that “we all have to give a little bit.”
The LEA still has 30 more miles of shoreline at Long Lake that they would like to survey for milfoil, Oren said.
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
Milfoil discovered recently in Mast Cove on Long Lake in Naples.