August 7 – 13, 2015 Vol. 17, No. 10


Summertime in the Belgrades

August 7 – 13

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We Can Control Milfoil in Messalonskee

A channel leads from the dock at the Route 27 boat launch out to the south end of Messalonskee Lake.

by Esther J. Perne

As one of the first and the most heavily invaded aquatic plant (variable milfoil) infested lakes in Maine, Lake Messalonkee, also known as Snow Pond, has searched over a decade for a viable solution . . . until now.

With a small budget, a lot of volunteers and a plan, the Friends of Messalonskee Lake are forging ahead with the milfoil management goals to eradicate new colonies, prevent spread, and control and confine.

To achieve this, they have successfully applied for and received grants; they have two DASH (diver-assisted suction harvesting) boats working on the lake every day; they are conducting a composting experiment; they have on staff a milfoil director; they have a slide show presentation for pitching potential grants; and they have received an internship grant for eight people.

Milfoil mapping of the Belgrade Stream from the Wing's Mill Dam on Long Pond to the mouth of the stream where it passes under Route 27, has been completed this summer and mapping of Messalonskee Stream to the Kennebec River is scheduled for this fall. Messalonskee's maps of invasives will be linked to their website soon.

Additionally, there's the current plan of laying benthic barriers, developing Cove Patrols and maintaining CBIs (courtesy boat inspectors) at boat launches; the Outreach Program of holding workshops with area high schools and partnering with the Goodwill-Hinckley Academy of Natural Sciences; and the "clam-shell" benthic barrier program available to landowners.

Aside from a large contingent of volunteers and help and support from the Department of Environmental Protection, the Friends of Messalonskee Lake have benefited from their first year of writing grants. The total budget this year of $85,000 breaks down into roughly $45,000 from DEP grants, $30,000 from a combination of small grants and generous contributions from the Towns of Belgrade, Oakland and Sidney, and $9,000 from memberships that currently number around 500 of a potential 1100.

The Friends' membership also has a roster of 30 Business Friends, including New England Music Camp and the new Snow Pond Center For The Arts, which offers year-round music programs and has in development plans for incorporating lake studies and a lakes resource section in one of the recital halls.

While writing grants, building membership and laying benthic barriers are ongoing projects of the Friends of Messalonskee Lake, removing milfoil is the immediate focus. Following the success this summer of clearing part of the Belgrade Stream in the vicinity of the Route 27 bridge near the former (now closed) boat landing, the organization would like to open channels and inhibit spreading upstream, especially around the Wings Mills Dam which is all that separates the milfoil from Long Pond.

But in addition to progressing upstream through seven miles of heavily infested water, the project faces a safety issue in that two unofficial boat landings on the stream are in use and at this point the Friends are seeking temporarily closure of the landings in order to have a "work window" to more safely send DASH boats, divers, and volunteers to remove milfoil.

With most people who live along the stream supportive — Why not? They remember when it was clear of vegetation — and the Department of Environmental Protection "incredibly helpful," the Friends of Messalonskee Lake report that so far representatives of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife have not been receptive.

Nonetheless, the Friends of Messalonskee ended their recent annual meeting on two very positive notes: Water quality is the best in the Belgrades, and the annual loon count found thirty adults and five chicks.

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