Lake & Ponds

Here is an article that I (AKW) wrote for the Kezar Lake Watershed Association’s Fall 2013 Newsletter, but it was W-A-A-Y to long, so the editor (Sara Cope) and I came up with the idea of publishing it in entirety here on the website. It it important for all of us, so I do hope you will read it and take it to heart!


Lake Arrowhead: Paddling Amidst Milfoil!

Ann K. Williams


            Lake Arrowhead, in York County, has achieved dubious distinction as the lake in Maine most heavily-infested with Variable Milfoil. Why, then, would anyone want to organize a Plant Paddle there? For some of us who are fortunate enough never to have seen a thick carpet of milfoil, that carpet was the impetus. We needed to know what a milfoil infestation looked like, to see what we are up against. The Lovell Invasive Plant Prevention Committee (LIPPC) had been discussing the possibility of a field trip, so when the invitation came from Laurie Callahan, coordinator of the York County Invasive Aquatic Species Project (YCIASP), a number of us felt that it was an opportunity not to be missed! Seven KLWA members and several more from LIPPC signed up, but the inevitable conflicts of busy summer plans prevented all but Jim Stone, Bruce Zabinsky and me from making the trip.

A bit of background: Lake Arrowhead is an artificial lake created by the impoundment of the Little Ossipee River in the towns of Limerick and Waterboro, in York County. The developers created the lake, with a surface area of 1,100 acres, in the 1960’s as the focal point of the Lake Arrowhead Community, southern Maine’s largest planned community. The reaction by the State Legislature to the enormity of this development was the requirement that Maine towns have Planning Boards and subdivision regulations. Many of our current environmental laws are in place as the result of the impact of this development.

Lake Arrowhead 2

One of Two DASH Units on Lake Arrowhead

The Lake Arrowhead Conservation Council (LACC), a group similar to the KLWA, began as a homeowners group in 2007, to confront the persistent nuisance and growing threat (quite literally, in this case) of invasive aquatic plants. They developed a DASH boat (Diver Assisted Suction Harvester, pictured) and protocol, with input from other groups “battling” variable milfoil in Maine, the Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program and Maine DEP. The DASH unit is a modified pontoon boat, with a vacuum motor and a large flexible tube, into which a certified scuba diver feeds the freshly-extracted milfoil for delivery into baskets on board the boat. In 2010, they launched a second DASH unit, and in 2011, there were two DASH units operating five days a week, for eight hours a day, from June 20 – September 2. These employed four scuba divers and four captains, at a cost of about $40,000 a season. Approximately $6,000 of this comes from grant funding through Maine DEP (the result of the boat sticker program); the rest of the money comes from LACC’s ongoing fundraising efforts – yard sales, fishing tournaments, golf tournaments, 50/50 cash raffles and other activities. In 2013, the two DASH units harvested 78 baskets (4,368 cu. ft.) of milfoil from Lake Arrowhead. Milfoil in Lake Arrowhead will never be fully eradicated, as fragments of the plant can develop into full-blown colonies in just a short time, threatening recreational use of the lake. The challenge is to stay in the fight against its spread! And that means preventing its spread in Lake Arrowhead and to other bodies of water.

Several additional weapons in the LACC’s arsenal to combat the milfoil include

  • Construction of 250 triangular, relatively easy-to-handle, benthic barriers, which can be placed on thick growths of milfoil to prevent sun from reaching it and thus preventing photosynthesis, effectively killing the plants—for awhile! There have been reports that this technique can effectively kill the plants in 8-10 weeks, but perhaps it can depend on things such as how impenetrable the barrier material is to light, how deep and “intermeshed” the root system is, etc., etc.
  • Raking of beaches to remove the debris, including milfoil that washes up onto them, and putting that debris into appropriate containers to be hauled away.
  • Placement of large boulders at access points to public beaches effectively disabling them for use as launch sites by cars and trucks with trailers.
  • Closing of public launch sites except one.
  • Pro-active Courtesy Boat Inspection (CBI) program, which runs from Father’s Day to Labor Day, inspecting boats seven days a week (eight hours on weekdays and ten hours on the weekends). As Dave Sanfrason, vice president of LACC, says, “Our inspectors have more documented “catches” (as DEP calls finding and removing invasive species from boats) from boats leaving the lake than all other CBI programs in the state of Maine, combined.”

And now for our trip! August 5 was a beautiful day. We left Lovell about 8:15 am, and drove the 45 miles down to Lake Arrowhead, where we joined Laurie Callahan (YCIASP Coordinator), others from the Lake Arrowhead Conservation Council, Wilson Lake Association, Rock Haven Lake Association, Little Ossipee Lake Association and Tom Gordon, Executive Director of Maine Association of Conservation Districts (who took most of the photos accompanying this article, as my camera wasn’t functioning–thank you, Tom!).

Lake Arrowhead 4

DASH Captain Shows a Handful of Milfoil

Out on the lake, one of two DASH (Diver Assisted Suction Harvester) units was seen and heard. After hearing an overview of the work being done given by LACC vice president Dave Sanfrason  and Mark Harris, one of the DASH boat captains, we headed out. Mark also creates and updates all of the maps to document the variable milfoil harvesting activities, and he accompanied us out to view the DASH boats. The lake is deceptively beautiful on the surface, with miles of irregular shoreline; however, looking down into the water is another story, as thick green coils, undulating in the currents, seem to reach up like dreadlocks threatening to envelop both kayak and paddler. Our group paddled out to the first DASH unit, where we had an opportunity to speak with the captain and the diver, and witness the sloshing of the milfoil as it emerged from the tube into the basket on the deck of the boat for draining. The suction hose was strung with a series of colorful foam floats to keep a portion of it at the water surface – this also doubles as a visible marker to protect the submerged scuba diver from encroaching boat traffic. Paddling on to the second DASH unit, we had ample opportunity to see what a carpet of milfoil looks like, as it was everywhere we looked (see photo).

Variable Milfoil in Lake Arrowhead

Variable Milfoil in Lake Arrowhead
(Photo Courtesy of Laurie Callahan)

At the second DASH unit, we again had the opportunity to speak with the captain, while the diver, below, fed the harvested milfoil into the vacuum tube and up into the boat’s basket. They explained that the harvested milfoil is carted away to high ground, well away from the lake, dumped to dry, and composted.

After our visits to the DASH units, Laurie suggested that we visit a quiet cove to see what native plants we could discover. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover that there were far fewer native plants than I’d expected. The milfoil is out-competing them! There were several varieties of bladderwort, some bur-reed, some fragrant water lily, some spike rush, and a few others, but nothing like the numbers and variety of native plants we found this summer on our Plant Paddles on Kezar Lake and Heald Pond. There are some areas on Lake Arrowhead, where the variable milfoil is not so heavily dominant, where the native plant species present are quite abundant and diverse, but nothing like on Kezar or any of the ponds in our watershed.

As Mike Fitzpatrick, president of the Lake Arrowhead community said in one of his newsletters, “I can’t say it any clearer when I address this to the lake front owners on Lake Arrowhead. If you don’t belong, you should. Don’t stand on the sideline and let your neighbors be the ones fighting for you by supporting the harvesting efforts on our lake. The value of your home is at stake. When you read this, try substituting “residents throughout the Kezar Lake watershed” for “lake front owners on Lake Arrowhead.”

A wrap-up from Laurie Callahan came by email the next day: “As individuals that enjoy paddling and recreating on lakes and rivers, we need to be even more diligent about inspecting and cleaning our boats, gear and any other items that we use on or in these waters. Invasive aquatic plant fragments are typically visible with our eyes, but there are other species at Maine’s doorstep that have life stages that are microscopic – such as the invasive alga known as didymo (aka “rock snot”), immature stages of Asian clam and zebra mussel and spiny water flea. Didymo and Asian clam occur as close as NH, zebra mussel as close as VT and MA and spiny water flea is in the Lake Champlain basin in NY, just over the border from VT. So, a new “mantra” becoming common is “Clean, Drain, Dry”. Personally I like “Check, Clean, Drain, Dry. We all have a responsibility to protect our waters and to help communities avoid a situation like the Lake Arrowhead Community finds itself in. (Another way to help is to participate as Courtesy Boat Inspector or an Invasive Plant Patroller!)

“Before I (Laurie) use my boats/gear on another water body I check things over and remove any debris or plant fragments. Then I wash with hot water and soap, or spray with 2 % bleach, rinse and air or wipe dry. If it is not possible to wash the boat and gear, I will let things dry for 4-5 days – in the sun if possible – so things are completely dry.

“So, my recommendation after (yesterday’s) paddle on Lake Arrowhead is to “Clean, Drain, Dry”. That really should become a habit for us all – even if we think the water body we have been on is pristine and “invasives-free”.” 

Thanks, Laurie, for the most instructive day, and for your words of wisdom. We must all remember the new mantra: “Check, Clean, Drain, Dry. And yes, I cleaned my kayak to within an inch of its life!



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