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Milfoil Progress Report

The 2021 field season for LEA’s milfoil program was incredible. Thanks to a huge funding boost in 2020 and 2021 we expanded our crew to 20 divers and 4 boats! We continue to focus our work in Long Lake, the Songo River, and Northern Sebago Lake including Frye Island, Sebago Cove and the Northwest River. We were fortunate to have some amazing senior crew members and invested new divers join the team.

Long Lake: Thanks to the rapid response in 2019, finding milfoil patches in Long Lake is challenging. Crew members focusing in this area spent days sea-sledding (check out our youtube page for some footage), and might never see a plant. Nonetheless, we did locate singular milfoil plants in the Bridgton Academy beach cove, and near the Harrison boat launch. Nearing the end of the season we found large milfoil patches in Cape Monday Cove and we laid barriers . This will be a focus space next year as much of the cove is in the littoral zone (sunlight can reach the bottom, allowing plants to grow). While a majority of the milfoil at Salmon Point and Four Seasons Campground has been removed, we continue to find individual plants and small patches in these areas.

Diving with the suction harvester in the Songo River (note the water color!)

The Songo River is a place we will forever be monitoring, tarping and harvesting. This highly traveled waterway is challenging to work in, and while it looks nothing like it did when we began there years ago, plants always seem to be lurking! The number of shallow coves present a particular problem as they are ripe for milfoil growth, and people exploring the coves in motor boats can catch plants and bring them back into the main channel. We worked hard this season to tarp and harvest any plants and patches that we saw, and did an extensive amount of surveying and re-visiting areas. Boaters can help us a great deal by not driving into coves, and giving divers in the water a wide berth! We are extremely fortunate to work with a generous land owner near Sebago State Park and are able to base operations out of “the Point”. A huge thank you to Dottie and Drew Betz. Another huge asset for the milfoil removal program is the Courtesy Boat Inspector Program that works to keep invasive aquatic plants out of the water before they take hold. They are also excellent at notifying the crew if milfoil is coming out on boats, as it was at the Sebago State Park Boat Launch this summer. Multiple surveys finally revealed the culprit- a large patch directly under where boats would launch, back around, and take off! Through the eyes of many we finally got that patch under a benthic barrier!

Spencer with an armload of milfoil pulled from the Songo River

Sebago Cove may truly be our greatest challenge yet. Where Muddy River meets Sebago Lake was once clearly a stream and wetland (the stream channel is highlighted when water is low), this area became flooded with the installation of dams along the Presumpscot River but remains extremely shallow throughout. It is protected from high winds and waves that can ravage Sebago Lake, and unfortunately sees many visitors looking for a protected spot to waterski and boat. This is troublesome because the cove is highly infested with milfoil, which boating can chop up and spread, and visiting boaters are sometimes not aware of. Landowners along Sebago Cove are frustrated and looking for some solidarity and some success!

Morgan on Mt. Milfoil, all removed this summer from Sebago Cove

This season we launched the Sebago Cove Land owner initiative, where we focused on working with specific shore land owners to clear their dock and swimming areas, and make sure they have clear access to the main channel. We met with many landowners and are working on developing a renters guide and a way to reach out to more individuals, groups and associations along the shoreline. While we feel like this season was a success in its own right, we have a long way to go and need more land owners to invest (mentally and financially) in the fight against milfoil. A huge thank you to the landowners who believed in the cause and supported part of our work this summer, and especially to Joann Brown, Charlie McIntyre, and the Sebago Cove Association for extra help and dock space.

Benthic Barriers in Sebago Cove

Northwest River: There has been milfoil in the Northwest River for years, and many land owners don’t see a problem with it. However, this is a public boat launch for Sebago Lake, a protected area for a marina, and many private landowners call this place their special spot! We have been working for several years to get huge monocultures of milfoil under some semblance of control here, and after laying almost 200 benthic barriers this year, we are feeling pretty confident things are starting to lean towards being more manageable. A huge thank you to Lynn and Joe Borst for docking space, parking, and a general cheer squad welcome. 2022 we will pull all those tarps and peek at what is underneath, determining our next stage of action!

Flowering variable leaf milfoil in the Northwest River

Frye Island: We’ve been visiting Frye Island for some time and have had such a positive experience with landowners there. Plus who doesn’t want to ride a ferry to work…? The infestation at Frye is looking really good compared to years past. Paul Walker who has been there every year said it just keeps getting better and better at the Marina and Quail Circle. Individuals are excited about us being there, engaged in milfoil removal and spreading the word- not the plant. Keep up the good work Frye Island residents and thank you Roxy!

This work requires long term thinking, making tough choices, and prioritization of goals. The past two years have been a great starting point with an infusion of funding into the milfoil program, but this funding is not indefinite. The 2022 season may look quite different with again fewer boats and crews. We will do our best to prioritize high needs areas like Sebago Cove and the Northwest River, and continue to survey Long Lake and monitor the Songo River. If you think you see milfoil in your area please send a photo and location to alanna@mainelakes.org. We cant do this without financial support from landowners, members, the Department of Environmental Protection, and funders- thank you for all your help!

Red stemmed variable leaf milfoil in the Northwest River

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