July 15, 2011Vol. 13, No. 6

More Aliens and UFO's (Unidentified Floating Objects)

by Peter Kallin

A few weeks ago we talked a bit about "alien invaders" from foreign (to our watershed) ecosystems. Since that article appeared, Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance's Courtesy Boat Inspectors have inspected nearly 4000 boats at our seven public ramps and removed plants from about ten of them, including invasive milfoil coming out of Messalonskee Lake. The BRCA and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have also each done surveys of the infested cove at Salmon Lake in the last month and so far have found no sign of new growth of the Eurasian water milfoil there. This is a good thing and we are continuing to keep our fingers crossed. We devote a lot of effort to combating invasive plants and with good reason. A study done a few years ago by Eiswerth et al. estimated the economic impact of a Eurasian water milfoil infestation on recreation at $30 to $45 million annually per watershed.

Of Maine's 6000+ lakes and ponds, 33 are known to be infested with invasive plants, including Eurasian and variable leaf milfoil, curly-leaved pondweed, European naiad, and hydrilla. That this is a relatively small number is a tribute to Maine's strong "Milfoil Law" and the small army of paid and volunteer courtesy boat inspectors that man public boat launches in order to help boaters learn about the dangers of invasive plants and how to inspect their boat before launch and after recovery. Unfortunately the one that was added to the list last year was our own Great Meadow Stream running between North Pond and Great Pond.

Enacted in 2001, Maine's "Milfoil Law" (LD 1812) makes it illegal to transport any aquatic plant or plant fragment, invasive or not, on the outside of a vehicle, boat, trailer, or other equipment. It requires all motorized boats used in freshwater to display a lake and river protection sticker that costs $10 for residents and $20 for nonresidents. This sticker is now part of the regular registration for Maine residents and no longer a separate sticker. There are substantial fines for noncompliance with this law, up to $250 for failure to display the sticker, $500 for transporting any plant fragment ($2500 for repeat offenders), and up to $5000 for transporting an invasive plant. Funds raised from sticker sales are used for outreach and education programs and to help pay for courtesy boat inspection (CBI) programs.

The Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance administers one of the largest CBI programs in the state on behalf of our local lake associations. Every summer, we work with the Lakes Environmental Association, the Maine Congress of Lake Associations, and DEP to train our team of paid and volunteer CBI's that man (and woman) up all seven of the public boat launches in the Belgrade Lakes and at most of the sporting camps with private ramps.

In the past two years these trained inspectors inspected over 10,000 boats annually between Memorial Day and Labor Day and prevented invasive plants from entering the Belgrades six times (and leaving Messalonskee at least 20 times). More importantly, they helped to educate over 10,000 boaters about the importance of inspecting their own boat whether there is an inspector there or not.

We are also actively fighting the variable milfoil infestation in the Great Meadow Stream, organizing hand pulling by volunteers and staff as well as placing benthic barriers on clumps of plants. If you would like to help with these efforts, please call 495-6039 to volunteer. It's messy but rewarding work but I guarantee you will make some new friends who care about the lakes. As part of that effort, the State has issued a Surface Use Restriction prohibiting motorized boats from the Great Meadow Stream and the area of North Bay in Great Pond marked by the yellow buoys. Please stay out of that area to prevent inadvertent spreading of the invasive plant through fragmentation.

Read an extended and earlier version of this article.

Peter Kallin, Executive Director of the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance (BRCA), can be contacted at 495-6039 or brca@gwi.net or visited at the BRCA Office in The Boathouse in Belgrade Lakes Village.