October 26, 2015

Raymond Waterways Protective Association beats milfoil

Raymond Waterways Protective Association (RWPA) has had dramatic success recently in its effort to remove variable milfoil from areas on Raymond shores of Sebago Lake. Like many lake organizations across Maine, RWPA has been working to prevent new infestations of invasive aquatic plants and to remove the invasive variable milfoil that has filled some coves and other areas along Raymond’s shores in Sebago. 
Until recently, Raymond has been the only town bordering Sebago Lake that has supported milfoil removal. Over the last 11 years, while tweaking and refining techniques and equipment, Raymond Waterways has used benthic barrier tarps and diver assisted suction harvesting (DASH) boats and crews to kill off and to remove milfoil plants. 

The end of this, the 2015, summer season, has finally given cause to rejoice! 

RWPA crews found no variable milfoil in Mason Cove during their last check in September! Only a few, scattered variable milfoil plants were found at that time in Turtle Cove and in Port Harbor Marina. Jeff Stern, summer program manager for RWPA reports that as recently as four years ago, milfoil was so thick at Port Harbor that marina staff “had no choice but to put in boats directly on top of the plants,” according to Alex Gaskell, captain of the DASH boats for Raymond Waterways . Boat propellers in the marina chopped milfoil into fragments which took root to create new infestations and infested other areas of the lake.

Fast forward to 2015. This summer, the DASH crew, which consisted of Gaskell, divers Joe Marshall and Jeremy Skilling, and deckhand Dakota Dahms, could scarcely find more plants than a person can count on one hand in the entire run of Port Harbor, Gaskell said.

“There was a lot of trial and error,” recalled Dave Martens, owner of Port Harbor Marina. “At first we tried laying down mats to smother the plants but they were problematic because they rose to the surface and got caught in boat propellers. Harvesting is what allowed us to get hold of it.” 

Port Harbor donates a slip each year to Raymond Waterways for docking a DASH boat in return for milfoil removal. Marina technicians also service DASH motors. RWPA is grateful for the stalwart support from Port Harbor Marina and looks forward to continued collaborative work on the milfoil problem.

Raymond Waterways also extends hearty thanks to all the property owners in the Turtle Cove and Mason Cove areas who provided volunteer help in retrofitting a boat, extra funding support, and logistical help with mooring the boats, off loading the harvested milfoil, and safe disposal of that harvest. This vast network of volunteers, supportive members and property owners, and Raymond Waterways’ diligent and experienced crew is what it took to make this success happen. Favorable weather conditions for the last two winters may also have helped curtail the infestations.

RWPA will have to continue to be persistent and vigilant to keep the cleared areas clear. In the lake setting, there is no downstream current to discourage migration of fragments from the milfoil plants, fragments that can take root and start the whole discouraging mess all over again! Next season, and for many years to come, RWPAs’ DASH crews will be returning several times each summer to Turtle Cove, Mason Cove, and Port Harbor Marina to spot and remove any milfoil plants that appear. 

In addition, Raymond Waterways’ DASH crews will resume work in the Bayview Canals to continue the effort there. By the end of this 2015 summer season, the DASH crews had cleared almost half of one canal and had increased tarped areas at the mouth of the other canal. With funding support from the Bayview property owners, RWPA hopes to make a big push toward improved results there.

And RWPA will continue to work on clearing the Jordan River above Route 302 of variable milfoil. This project has been moved along mostly by volunteers with some help from the DASH crews—but without the DASH boat! The river is too shallow and the 302 bridge is too low to allow the DASH boat to work there. So it’s been a long job of laying tarps and careful hand pulling, repeating the process a bit downriver each summer. Representatives from Maine Department of Environmental Protection volunteered one workday this season. RWPA hopes that in two or three more seasons they can declare the Jordan River clean of milfoil above the Route 302 bridge!

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