How to Keep the Milfoil from Returning

The herbicide appears to have worked its magic, and our milfoil is lying on the bottom of the lake in decay.  We know that this situation is only temporary, that the milfoil will return, sooner of later.  There are several things we can do to slow its return.

One of these is to prevent the introduction of new plants and fragments into the lake.  This most commonly occurs when a boat enters Lake Fairlee, having recently visited another lake.  Unless the boater is careful to wash off his boat, his motor, and his gear, fragments of Eurasian milfoil can wash off in our lake and can take root.  That is how a new infestation starts.

Many states have laws requiring that every boat be washed before entering a new lake.  Still more have nearby wash stations for the convenience of boaters.  We support both of these ideas, and will work to bring them to Lake Fairlee.

Greeter Program

Over the past three summers we have introduced and expanded our Greeter Program.  Our goal was to have someone stationed at the boat ramp during prime access hours to inform boaters about the threat of milfoil to our lake and others.  In the first years it was staffed by volunteers, and more recently by part time employees.  This summer Liza McEvoy represented us every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Our "Greeter," Liza, at her station by the lake

Unfortunately our greeter has no real authority, and cannot do more than advise boaters.  She asks each one if she can help them perform a “courtesy inspection,” and she shows them what to look for and where.  She explains about the threat and potential cost of new invasive species to our lake and to others.  She is our ambassador to the outside world, the only thing besides the ubiquitous “Warning” signs that many non-residents know about the Lake Fairlee Association.

The following is a handout that Liza has available for visitors:

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AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES FACT SHEET

MOST COMMON PATHWAYS THAT INTRODUCE NEW SPECIES:

  1. Canals and waterways (shipping) – (e.g. From the Great Lakes on ship hull to Lake Champlain. From Lake Champlain to a boat trailer and then to a new body of water)
  2. Overland transport (trailers)
  3. Fishermen’s felt-soled gaters, boots, gear
  4. Introduced as ornamentals  (ex. Loosestrife)
  5. Aquariums (releasing aquarium fish, plants or water into lake, river, etc.)
  6. Ducks and geese
  7. Illegal stocking (e.g. “alewives”) Need to have a permit to release any fish into water.

THE BIG THREE AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES IN VERMONT:

1. Eurasian Milfoil (looks very similar to many native milfoils)

  • crowds out native spceies
  • can produce dense mats over the surface
  • reproduces rapidly through fragmentation
  • 64 lakes and ponds, and 25 other bodies of water in VT have Eurasian milfoil
  • 2-3 new infestations are reported each year

***NEW invasive milfoil found last year in one location –  Hall’s Pond, in Newbury, VT. “Variable-leaved Milfoil” is more difficult to control than Eurasian Milfoil.

2. Water Chestnut

  • floating clusters create a dense canopy on the surface which allows no light        through. This kills all the native plants beneath.
  • Spreads by seeds. It’s an annual plant, but one seed can live in the sediment for 10 years (!). The plants must be harvested BEFORE they go to seed for management to be effective.

3. Zebra Mussels

  • Native to the Caspian Sea. Came to U.S. via international shipping into through Lake Champlain Canal. Young zebra mussels are microscopic. They can be transported via water so bilges and bait buckets should be cleaned, and water in motor should be drained. They can get entangled in plant material, so remove all plants. If they attach to boat hulls, they may be invisible but can be felt if you run your hand across the surface.

OTHER AQUATIC THREATS:

1. Didymo (common name= “rock snot”)

  • Algae that prefers moving water and rocky bottoms, but could float down to our outlet stream where it could settle and multiply…then move to the Ompompanoosuc and into the CT River. Didymo is already in the White River and CT River – so boats traveling here after being in either river could bring it to the lake. Didymo is microscopic and is most often carried unknowingly on boat hulls and felt-soled fishing boots and waders. Cells will thrive in moist conditions for weeks unless boats and gear are washed thoroughly and dried in the sun for 5 days.

2. Baitfish

  • VHS is a coldwater fish virus that causes bleeding and large scale mortality in fish and 36 other aquatic species. Once it is found in a lake, you cannot get rid of it. The virus can be carried in a live well from one body of water to another. Emptying and cleaning live wells will help keep the virus from spreading.

IF FISH ARE TRANSFERRED FROM ONE BODY OF WATER TO ANOTHER, THEY CAN SPREAD VHS WHILE SHOWING NO EXTERNAL SYMPTOMS. Buy baitfish ONLY at certified dealers:

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife web site lists certified baitfish dealers: http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com/fish_baitdealers.cfm

  • Fisherman are allowed to harvest baitfish ONLY on the lake in which they fish in. Do not transport baitfish to another body of water.
  • Alewives have been responsible for huge fishkills on Lake Champlain and elsewhere.
  • Rusty Crayfish (red spot on side) are harmful. They have been found in Lake Morey. Native crayfish are okay. Buying baitfish at a state-approved distributor will help ensure the right kind of crayfish.

CLEANING INSTRUCTIONS (WHEN MOVING BOAT TO NEW BODY OF WATER):

1. Always remove debris and plants from:

  • propeller
  • trolling motor (check shaft)
  • transom
  • trailer lights and license plates
  • behind wheel wells
  • hitch and auto bumper
  • bunks on trailer
  • axle
  • chains
  • fishing gear
  • anchors

2. Always drain the bilge and live wells.

3. If possible, rinse boat with hose or dry in sun for 5 days.

4. Even better, power wash with soapy water at a car wash or at home.

ABOUT THE LAKE FAIRLEE ASSOCIATION

The LFA has used the traditional 3-weapon offense against Eurasian milfoil in the past: hand-pulling by divers, bottom barriers, and use of a suction harvester. However, these methods could not keep pace with the exponential spread of milfoil. The decision was made this year to treat the lake with an herbicide which targets milfoil specifically. You can learn more about the research that led to this new strategy, and about the permit issued by the state DEC Water Quality Division, by going to our blog via our website (www.lakefairlee.org). Based on the post-treatments assessments on Lake Morey after they used the same herbicide, we are hopeful that Lake Fairlee will experience similar success.

The lake does NOT have zebra mussels or other invasive species yet, but that is why it is so important to wash your boat and trailer before coming on to this lake from another body of water. Lake Champlain has many more invasive species than milfoil and we want to keep Lake Fairlee free of other nuisance plants/animals.

Join The Lake Fairlee Association and become involved in preserving the lake.

If you are interested in joining or learning more about the lake association, write your name and address on the sign up sheet with the Greeter and go to www.lakefairlee.org. There will be a link to our blog that will have updated information about upcoming events, some history, education, and more.        

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