Chronological Summary of SLA Milfoil Control 2011-2014

Eurasian watermilfoil is a perennial aquatic invasive species that spreads aggressively and expands to greater and greater amounts to take over a lake in a few years time if not controlled, therefore it is extremely difficult and complex to manage. Aquatic Invasive species have devastating environmental and economic impacts on the lake itself, surrounding communities, and native species populations. The State of Vermont has only approved a certain number of methods to eliminate Milfoil. To help communicate our control strategies, we offer this historic summary of our management ups and downs in hopes it benefits other lake communities also struggling to manage Milfoil.

The following is a chronological summary of the Shadow Lake Associations Milfoil control program from 2011 through 2014

2011 – Milfoil Found, Rapid Response

Current science indicates the primary vector of aquatic invasive species is through trailered watercraft moving between waterbodies. During the summer of 2011, Shadow Lake had three separate issues with Milfoil discovered by our boat wash greeter staff; two fragments were found on boats; and one was found on fishing line that was left on the ground at the State Fishing Access. These occurrences were very disturbing after all these years of trying to prevent the spread of Milfoil and other aquatic invasive species. Our boat wash station has had an active greeter program and been equipped with a hot water pressure wash since establishment in 2003. There are periods of time when many boats enter the lake when the boat wash is not open.

August 28th, Eurasian watermilfoil was confirmed growing in the Northeast end of the lake known as Danforth Cove by The Vermont Department Environmental Conservation (VTDEC) Lakes and Ponds staff.  On September 7th, a State survey determined the infestation was about 10,000 square feet (equivalent to 0.2 acre) of dense Milfoil growth. The density in the area varied from abundant (75% coverage) with patches (25% coverage) to a multitude of individual scattered plants throughout the cove area. The Milfoil population was estimated to be about 2-3 years in development from the size of the spread and vigor of the plants. SLA Directors thoughtfully planned how to protect the lake and proceeded with education outreach. The SLA President immediately notified the lake community and spoke with people to avoid boat traffic and recreation in that cove section of lake. The State advised SLA to file for benthic barrier (underwater matting) permit which was completed and marked received by the State on September 28th. Later, the State returned and found 3 other small Milfoil sites with sporadic growth and removed the plants from the lake. Large fragments of Milfoil stem pieces were regularly washing up on the cove shoreline and removed by volunteers into October.

In October, SLA with support from the Town of Glover acquired the benthic barrier mat permit. Unfortunately, the State could only supply a small section of matting so the SLA took on the expense of purchasing the mat product recommended by the professional dive service who would do the installation.  To expedite the operation, a SLA member purchased and donated 10 rolls of ‘Aquascreen’, a matting material made of needle punched poly mesh fabric and the necessary poly coated re-bar rods used to anchor the mats in place. A volunteer made several round trips to NH to pick up all the equipment.

November 2nd, 7000 square feet of the first installment of benthic barrier matting was weighted down with re-bar to contain the largest colony of Milfoil in Danforth Cove. Because the installation process disturbs the Milfoil causing stem fragments to break off and release into the lake, several volunteers in kayaks stayed on site as the matting was installed to watch for and remove any floating fragments. According to the dive service who had used the Aquascreen product in many other VT waterbodies; the mats would contain, compress, and kill the Milfoil plants underneath within 8 -12 weeks. Total of 4 known Milfoil sites found around the lake.

2012 – Hand Pulling Work Begins, Milfoil Under The Mats Keeps Growing 

Spring, following advise from the State, we placed buoys around the Milfoil matting perimeter to help people recognize the area and to avoid any recreation or disturbance. We first used what equipment we could gather together; a collection of bumper style buoys we spray painted orange for visibility, rope and cement blocks for anchors. As more Milfoil sites were discovered, we needed more supplies and buoys. We switched to a more aesthetic style of a round orange buoy purchased and donated by our membership. This helped people quickly recognize and associate all round orange buoys as Milfoil sites.

The Milfoil contained under the barriers was still alive and by summer the growth was so vigorous the plants were pushing up the mats in the shallow areas. We were seeing Milfoil stem tips growing up through the holes in the needle punched matting. The installer was contacted and emailed; “I have never seen Milfoil grow under aqua screen” and “We usually don’t see any live plants after 60 days.” We all concluded, Shadow Lake’s high water clarity allowed the sunlight to penetrate the mats to sustain the Milfoil.

Though SLA had established, since 2003, a strong aquatic invasive species decontamination boat wash station outfitted with the only hot water pressure wash in the State and education program, SLA Directors began intensifying their Milfoil education outreach through multiple forums, including our website, to build community awareness and support to help us battle the infestation. SLA sent out a flyer to our lake community requesting support from everyone to seriously avoid any recreation within the area of the buoys.

A volunteer snorkeler began the job of hand pulling the Milfoil not covered by mats. The plants were well developed and in thick stands, like an underwater jungle as well as a profusion of individual plants scattered about the cove. There was too much Milfoil to hand pull. More matting was needed.

In early July, SLA President amended our mat permit in order to allow for covering more areas of Milfoil. SLA purchased 7 rolls of matting and the dive service returned to install that matting for two new areas in the cove. Volunteers in kayaks were on scene again to remove any Milfoil fragments. We discussed suction harvesting for the cove as a possible alternative way in the future to manage the Milfoil.

The lake community was advised of the VT law regarding a displayed diver-down flag. Our snorkeler was working several times a week in the cove to pull plants, keeping track of the number of mesh catch bags of Milfoil removed. She also began to snorkel the lake’s entire shoreline searching for Milfoil. The State returned and found 2 new sites and our snorkeler found 3 new sites of Milfoil. Our snorkeler recorded the amount of Milfoil removed and began mapping all the sites.

In mid-July, a local professional SCUBA diver, with extensive Milfoil hand pulling experience, was hired to pull plants in the lake’s deeper sections. In early August, our snorkeler was joined by another SLA member to assist with hand pulling and searching the lake. Together our two snorkelers worked in close communication to plan the canvassing of the lake to search for Milfoil. Thankfully, our second snorkeler located a new site of Milfoil at the lake’s inlet, VTDEC was immediately notified.

The inlet site had numerous Milfoil plants scattered around in an area requiring about 8 buoys to mark and isolate the main area. The inlet took 2 years of constant searching because of the widespread native plant growth of large-leafed pondweed that was obscuring the Milfoil plants. SLA volunteers and our diver returned twice a week to the inlet site and together with a few visits from VTDEC divers removed over 116 well-developed Milfoil plants, while also continuing to work the cove site. Considering how well camouflaged that Milfoil was at the inlet and the ongoing attention it took for us to manage that site, we were amazed to have successfully controlled the spread to find no Milfoil at the entire inlet in 2013 and 2014.

State divers returned to assess the cove area and were impressed by the amount of Milfoil plant material removed over the summer by the snorkelers and the Scuba diver.  Boats were passing through the buoys and people were recreating inside the buoy zone. Directors began to remind our neighbors to please use the boat channels and keep recreation away from the buoys.  SLA President began the permit application process for suction harvesting.  Total of 9 Milfoil sites around the lake.

The pleasantry of swimming through Milfoil in a lake in Wisconsin
The pleasantry of swimming through a Milfoil infestation in a lake in Wisconsin.

2013 – Ongoing Control Efforts

Spring, SLA acquired the State permit for suction harvesting. Our diver placed buoys along the edges of the mats to again establish a no recreation zone.  A week later, a Director adjusted several of the buoys in the shallower section to accommodate for more recreation room.

The Milfoil was still growing under the matting in the cove. The State advised the management process may take some time. We were counting on the natural deposit of silt building up to blanket the surface of the mats. If not disturbed or dispersed, the accumulating silt could affectively block out the sunlight and hasten the smothering of the Milfoil.

Our two snorkelers made a strong team by working in tandem at the cove and to canvass other sections of the lake to more quickly and thoroughly search for Milfoil. They found a new Milfoil site threatening to colonize the Glover town public beach. A few plants were clustered together and pulled; the site buoyed; monitored for regrowth, the Milfoil regrew within a week; regrowth was pulled; and the site was very carefully monitored. We marked the buoy, ‘Milfoil Do Not Remove’ to help inform the general public. The beach site was especially tricky to control because of the influx of people accessing the lake and the shallow location. If not for our snorkelers steady monitoring, the towns public beach area would have quickly become severely infested with Milfoil.

Complaints were brought to our attention from lake neighbors, including some cove residents, who were concerned that boating and other recreation taking place inside the buoyed zone was disrupting the Milfoil abatement process. As benthic barrier mat permittees, SLA was required to record regular inspections of the mats and submit a maintenance report to the State. The mat placement in the shallows which was crucial to our control, was often disrupted by the summer recreational activity; several mat overlapping edges working as seams were open in gaps allowing the Milfoil to escape and had to be straightened; rebar rods placed as matting anchors were askew creating a safety hazard and needed repositioning; which were issues that distracted our snorkelers from concentrating on pulling plants.

The cove was requiring the most on-going control effort. Our management team was  strained to keep up with necessary matting maintenance; the labor intensive hand pulling of plants around the cove; all the time needed to do the diver assisted lake-wide surveying necessary to search for new emerging Milfoil; and coping with the challenge of monitoring and controlling all the different Milfoil sites around the lake.  Our hand pullers were working hard and had removed over 100 cubic feet of packed Milfoil from the lake, that volume mostly harvested from the cove.

In August, human safety was disregarded during an incident when a large boat ignored a displayed diver down flag, motored through the cove buoys within 10 feet from our snorkeler working to pull Milfoil. The SLA notified the boat motorist he was in violation of VT law.

By the end of the season, our first full lake-wide survey was completed. Our Milfoil Committee team had sadly, discovered 6 new sites of Milfoil.  All sites were buoyed and we began marking sites underwater with a wire stake tied with survey tape to more precisely pinpoint locations where Milfoil plants were removed to better monitor for any regrowth. We also tied survey tape around a masonry brick to mark locations.

By fall of 2013, after 2 years, the Milfoil was still growing under the mats. Our diver and snorkelers noticed the uncovered Milfoil was in a pattern of spreading inward toward shore and moving eastward to in front of the next cove neighbor, creating a new site to deal with. We were concerned the Milfoil would continue to spread further down the lakeshore.

Stopping the Cove infestation was paramount to saving all of Shadow Lake

The SLA Directors were entrusted to oversee the Milfoil operations funded by our lake community.  At that time, our Association had funded from our own reserve of paid  membership and generous donations over $10,000.00 to go directly toward our management program. We clearly had the steadfast support from the vast majority of our lake community but we needed more cooperation from the visitors and renters using the lake at the cove.

Concerned the Milfoil was not dying as planned and frustrated with the ongoing recreation issues we sought advise from the State hoping to move ahead with suction harvesting. The State again recommended we postpone suction harvesting and give the matting one more winter to work. Our lake community was notified of the update. In the meantime, the State advised us to be prepared for the potential of another year of the Milfoil alive under the mats and if the Milfoil was not dead schedule suction harvesting as soon as possible in the spring 2014. We were also advised to consider filing for a petition of temporary closure to restrict recreation interference in the zone.  Because all the matting must be removed to do the suction harvesting, which is not 100% effective, (the process breaks off fragments to create new plants) a temporary closure for the summer would further protect the site.  We understood that after any suction harvesting, the area would require further cleaning by hand and we would need to closely monitor for regrowth through the end of that next season. Total of 15 Milfoil sites around the lake.

Volunteers working together to manage Milfoil in a lake in Wisconsin. -photo credit Michael Sears 2013
Volunteers working together to manage Milfoil in a lake in Wisconsin.
– photo credit Michael Sears, 2013

2014 – A Challenging Season

The Eurasian watermilfoil was spreading to new sites around the lake every year. Over the winter we conferred with State officials about how to best proceed with Milfoil control. The ANR allows for the temporary closure of a designated area of a lake to prevent, control, or contain the spread of an aquatic invasive species. In April, the State advised our Association to seek a petition of temporary closure to strengthen our control efforts and quickly file the necessary application to expect a decision for June in order for the closure to be in place to effect the Milfoil growing season. The SLA President notified all the Directors for their approval to proceed;

SLA President [retired 2015] Communication to 2014 Board of Directors:

‘Re: Important Message attached that needs immediate attention. Apr 19, 2014, 

Happy Easter to all;

The attached document needs your immediate review and comments, please let me know if you have any questions. I would like a response from each of you if possible to know that I have board approval. Thanks

<Board of Directors cove closing.docx>

To the Board of Directors

Hi, everyone I hope all of you had a good winter and are ready for the challenges a new season might have for us. As everyone knows we are fighting hard to eradicate Eurasian Water Milfoil in Shadow Lake but more specifically in Danforth Cove. This area needs the most control and maintenance work. 2014 brings us to looking at a more assertive approach to try to control this area of EWM. As most of you know we have tried many approaches to protect this critical area but have had issues trying to enforce them when it comes to fisherman, boaters and guests disturbing the matting that we have installed in the Cove.

Since April, Chrissie and I have met with Ann Bove and other members of the State of VT to try and come up with a new plan to better protect this area and keep the EWM from spreading to other parts of the lake.

Ann Bove plans to conduct a study this season in the cove and will be working closely with us to determine if the EWM is still actively growing under the matting or if the mats have helped to to kill the EWM. She plans to remove a small section of the mat and frequently monitor that spot. This substrate exposure requires us to make sure this area is more secure from any human disruption especially if the EWM grows as it did in 2012 when we first started our work in Danforth Cove. Hopefully, Ann will determine wether we should proceed with Suction Harvesting.

Upon recommendation from Ann, we are submitting a formal petition to ANR for review to possibly become approved for a temporary closure of the cove EWM area for a period of at least 90 days. Be advised, The Temporary Closing would only apply to the designated area of EWM and not the whole Cove. This closure will take place in the middle area of Danforth Cove where we have placed the buoys each summer and not extend inward to the shore line. The petition goes to the State and after the 15 day legal review the State then provides notification to the camp owners in the Cove and to the residents of Glover, Vt. Anyone has the right to contest this petition if they feel it is not in the best interest of the lake. The plan is to continue what we have done in the past, to again place buoys along the perimeter of EWM growth and establish vessel channels for ingress and egress from the shore to the lake interior. We have requested the opportunity to run swim float ropes between the buoys to discourage anyone to pass through or this area as folks have in the past.

If this petition is approved the State ANR will close this buoyed area to any boats or humans except for specified individuals for the purpose of maintaing the site and harvesting milfoil. No recreation will be allowed inside the buoyed area. A few years ago, Lake Morey received a temporary closure to protect an area of EWM with good results. From our experience with the high recreation in the cove site we feel moving forward with stricter enforcement is our best strategy at present.

We will continue to search the lake for any new sites and hand harvest as necessary. If our petition is approved and we are given the go ahead from the State it means if anyone violates this closure we could contact the State Police and there would be a fine associated with this up to $500.00 per violation. Also as part of the closure we will need to purchase State approved signs for several spots in the closure area that explains what this closing means. We would use the specific verbiage recommended by the State for the signs. Chrissie and I would also meet with the Select Board of Glover in the near future to review the closure specifics and answer any questions they may have. We want to make sure we build a community of support and the town understands the need for this action. I am asking all of you as SLA Board Directors to support this endeavor so we can move forward in this area. I would need responses by all before Monday morning.

If you would like to discuss any of this with me, please give me a call. We have worked long hours to ready this petition to file with the State this Tuesday to quickly begin the approval time process and start the necessary preparations for the site by June 1 to get this closure all in motion. Next year the closure will be reviewed by the State.’ [End]

Temporary Closure Overview Brief

The 2014 petition for temporary closure addressed several cumulative watershed erosion problems impacting the cove that were contributing to creating a nutrient rich environment for the Milfoil to flourish and the ongoing recreation issues hampering our control efforts. The State had very limited Milfoil control methods approved and available for us to use for our developing population of Milfoil.

Directors agreed we would be remiss in our mission duties to protect this lake if we did not take action to try and strengthen our Milfoil control program to save this lake from a full blown Milfoil infestation that would ruin the lake’s water quality, ecosystems, natural environment, recreational enjoyment, beauty and land values of this entire community.

Shadow Lake has 109 properties shown on our lake map. The cove consists of 9 properties with lakefront but only 5 of those properties were considered by the State to be effected by the buoyed area of water where the Milfoil mats were located. We specified the cove shoreline would stay completely open and accessible to all.

The temporary closure was written to be in effect for 90 days up to 1 year, which was the State regulatory time period necessary to correspond with the Milfoil growing season we were addressing; June through October 2014. The buoy configuration and installation over the less than half-acre of matted Milfoil would stay the same as in past summers, again providing for two 20 ft wide boat channels to enter and exit the shoreline. Upon petition approval, the State would review the temporary closure periodically and as we achieved areas of Milfoil control, the size of the closed area could then reduce accordingly. The ANR rules and regulations provided for ‘a timely decision’ to the petition, instead State bureaucratic delays began.

Eastern designated boat channel, 20 foot wide, for ingress and egress to cove
Eastern designated ‘boat channel’, over 20 foot wide, for ingress and egress to the cove. Orange buoy on the right is anchored in 10 foot depth.

April 22, SLA Directors filed for temporary closure for a less than a half-acre site within the approximate 210 acres of Shadow Lake. The proposed closure would be another control method employed to work in conjunction with suction harvesting.

May 5th, we received an email update from the ANR Permit Coordinator regarding the petition; “The dateline for internal Agency comment is this Friday, May 9th. My objective is to get an order on the requisite 15-day public notice late next week.” SLA believed we were on schedule as was planned, the ANR would make the petition public by early June and follow up with the corresponding State public informational meeting to properly address the closure criteria.

After Memorial day weekend, as Directors began to return to the lake, SLA scheduled an early June meeting with the Glover select board to inform the town about the proposed closure. Four days later, The SLA President, Vice President and a Director first visited with a cove neighbor to personally inform her about the petition of temporary closure and discuss the need for tighter Milfoil controls. Another cove neighbor suggested we execute a lake draw down which is not allowed in VT for Milfoil control. At that time in early June, many cove neighbors had not yet returned to the lake.  Later on, a Director walked around the cove on several occasions and eventually managed to personally speak with 8 of the total 9 cove shorefront property owners about the Milfoil infestation and need for strong control.

In June, we stepped up our lake survey program to now perform 2 back to back diver assisted lake wide surveys to search and destroy any emerging Milfoil.

In mid-June the State official returned to survey the cove and peeled back 3 sections of matting to create exposed ‘test patches’ to check for any Milfoil growth.  All 3 test patches showed all aquatic plants, including the Milfoil, appeared to be dead.  We were elated to begin to believe our control methods may have finally worked!  The State advised us to continue with the buoyed zone, and closely monitor the exposed test patches for emerging Milfoil regrowth. We were instructed to “heavily buoy” the test areas to discourage any site disturbance because Milfoil fragments floating around could easily settle back in and quickly repopulate that newly barren substrate. We added 6 more buoys to protect the shallow test sites in line with previous buoys installed. A final total of 20 orange buoys were installed at the cove to loosely define the perimeter of the matted area located in front of 5 lakeside properties.

We contacted the State several times about the delayed petition decision. In response to one email, the State Permit Coordinator telephoned a Director on July 15 to inform us “the petition was firmly stuck in internal review”.  He kindly expressed his frustration with the problematic delays. Because the petition process now seemed likely to not even make it out of the Agency office, Directors became confused as to how to proceed but tried to move forward with scheduling suction harvesting. The dive service contractor was very busy helping other lakes with Milfoil control procedures.

At the time of our July annual Association meeting the petition was still under Agency internal review and not released to the public by the ANR. Ann Bove, an aquatic invasive species specialist from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, who we felt could best explain the temporary closure had been invited to speak at our meeting but was unable to attend. Our snorkeler team could see no regrowth where the State peeled back the matting at their test sites. We were encouraged and informed attendees the Milfoil was dead at those test sites and spoke of being “cautiously optimistic” the Milfoil might also be dead in the deeper areas. If that was the case, we could forgo the expense and mess of suction harvesting and stated any such determinations would be up to the State. We stressed the need to continue monitoring the cove matting zone throughout the summer and asked for folks to please bear with us. Everyone was reminded again to strictly stay out of the buoys and keep a wide distance from any single buoys at other Milfoil sites around the lake.  A week or so later, to our dismay, a cove property who had attended our meeting, gave permission for their renters to anchor a large swim raft out into the middle of the buoy zone! 

Though this photo is not of Shadow, it shows what a Milfoil infestation clogging a cove looks like.
Though this photo is not of Shadow, it shows how a Milfoil infestation takes over a cove.

On July 21, Ann Bove from the VTDEC came to survey the cove. Ann has been a steady presence assisting our mission to get control over the Milfoil from the onset. We are very thankful for her many hours spent educating us and lending her technical expertise to advise us on how to best manage the Milfoil.

As Ann arrived on the 21st with her assistant at the State Fishing access, two cove waterfront property neighbors began questioning her as to “Who was in charge?” and the amount of buoys on site. One neighbor repeatedly complained of the 3 long years of buoy inconvenience threatening their rental business.  Ann, kindly empathized with the inconvenience of buoys and again offered her reasoning, that without the SLA’s management, by now the cove would be clogged full of Milfoil and that disastrous outcome would certainly be a bigger detriment to threaten business income than the inconvenience of buoys for a few summers. The neighbor then expressed they felt their rental business was being “targeted” and the positioning of buoys was focused more in front of their property. This was news to the SLA President and Director also present. They requested the State specifically survey their frontage and check the buoy positions.

Ann promptly surveyed the area and on the next day she emailed Directors; she had checked the buoy placement, locations and distances; “Overall, they were marking the edge of the mats which as you know are placed in a number of directions so they do not make a perfect rectangle configuration. We adjusted a few but overall they looked good. There are more buoys near the mat we pulled back in shallow water; we checked these to make sure they were a width a part that a boat could get through if needed. From a distance the buoys look close together but when one gets in the vicinity of them they are spaced adequately.”

IMG_0950The SLA works under the technical advice from the State to incorporate the best management practices available. We were trying hard to control the spread as swiftly as possible, but control methods take time to work. We sincerely recognize the inconvenience of buoys and when possible have made adjustments to their positions. Smaller Milfoil sites require less buoys or just one or two buoys are enough to help our crew keep track of the site locations. Buoys are necessary during the summer months as we battle this insidious invasion that threatens to ruin this lake for the entire community. Many waterbodies and the people struggling to control Milfoil infestations also use such buoys and have tried and failed with an array of control methods for decades and at a far greater expense and inconvenience then we have experienced. The big picture is, if Milfoil ruins this lake’s water quality and natural environment, the lake community’s property values will soon decline and many local businesses will be negatively impacted.

 Milfoil control takes time, a united force and dedicated diligence.

On July 23, after several contacts to try and schedule suction harvesting the owner of AE diving service emailed he was still not sure of a date he could come to the lake to do the work.

In late July, the State permit coordinator finally sent out the long overdue official public notice of the petition for temporary closure and corresponding local State run ‘public informational and comment meeting’ but the State neglected to notify our 5 cove neighbors who were understandably displeased, having had to learn of the meeting by word of mouth. We assumed everyone had been properly notified as we had carefully supplied the State with everyones correct address for the very purpose of this important State notification. We had depended on the State to do their job and were disappointed about such a slip up.

SLA had been waiting in limbo for when this important meeting would happen and we could properly discuss the petition with the back up of State supervision. We had been counting on the State to make public notice of the petition; correctly explain the petition; address the many closure specifics; and answer technical questions that we as laypeople did not feel qualified to do without the State oversight function. Unfortunately for the lake, that State meeting was disappointing as the State official running the meeting seemed vague about the closure timeframe and did not know many detail specifics which added much confusion to those in attendance.  Because of this snafu their were many frustrations on both the SLA and general public.  At the end of the meeting, a Director stood up to publicly thank the State for the meeting opportunity. Another Director thanked Ann Bove (who was not able to attend) for her aquatic invasive species expertise and constant support of our Association.

A large turnout of lake community attended that meeting to listen to the State official provide and clarify information and answer questions about the closure. The majority of people in attendance, including some cove neighbors and our wider lake community were in favor of the closure and doing everything possible to stop the Milfoil and a few cove neighbors opposed.

Unfortunately, after that meeting a cove property owner began an unfounded campaign to discredit the SLA Directors motives and tarnish the good reputation of the Association by promoting we were purposefully trying to harass them and we were in a conspiracy to ruin their business to deprive them of their livelihood. The aspersions cast were absolutely baseless, and hurtful to those earnest, hard working people who have always only wanted to stop the spread of Milfoil in the lake. We have shown friendly compassion for our neighbors and patience during this trying time of dealing with this Milfoil. The Shadow Lake Association is forgiving and remains future directed.

We volunteer from the goodness of our hearts, typically accumulating over 300 hours of volunteer time each season and work altruistically to prevent the degradation of Shadow Lake water quality for the benefit of everyone. What is crucial to understand is we must take invasive species control efforts seriously. This means that time is of the essence; we truly have a narrow window of opportunity of typically just a few seasons after initial discovery of an incipient population, to race against the spread and gain control over Milfoil before the rapid and relentless spread of plants takes over large sections of the lake. It is imperative we collaborate and work together to hit the Milfoil hard and fast if we are to realistically succeed in control.

Our Milfoil mission statement and how we operate

On August 15 the contractor to do the suction harvesting at the cove emailed he was free to come to the lake and start the next day, Our President decided with only one days notice we had no way to assemble the necessary team in time and since the protective temporary closure was still pending it would be too risky to proceed. On her last visit to the lake, Ann Bove had not seen any Milfoil regrowth in the test patches and was pleased to see the good native plants were moving back in to repopulate the bottom. Suction harvesting would probably not be necessary.

On August 17, our diver found a new site of Milfoil a few feet from the shoreline with 17 small plants, only a few inches tall and clustered together in a small area with no recreation disturbance so only 1 buoy was needed.

By the end of August the petition decision was long overdue from bureaucratic delays and we were now past the time period of peak growth for aquatic plants and it was far too late for a closure to make any effective difference. The State had not returned to check for Milfoil growth under the mats.  We were discouraged to find 5 more new sites of Milfoil around the lake.  Our battle of spread prevention was still waging.  Shadow Lake now had a total of 20 Milfoil sites. 

EWM locations 2011-2015_2September 2, 2014 press article published in the Barton Chronicle Newspaper regarding the proposed temporary closure of part of Shadow Lake.

In September, our mat permit had expired. SLA hired divers and a big team of volunteers showed up from around the lake working together on a cold day to pull out the over 8000 square feet of mats. We inspected their condition, cut away the damaged sections with torn areas, cleaned the mats, rolled them up, loaded approximately 90 re-bar and trucked the equipment away for storage. Thankfully, a supportive cove neighbor allowed us to use their lawn for our big removal operation.


With the removal of the matting, we would now have to leave the area completely unprotected.  We presumed the densest population of Milfoil was killed off but any determination of our success rate would have to wait for the State to assess the area in the spring of 2015.  Hopefully, any remaining Milfoil plants could be managed by our teams close monitoring and vigilant hand pulling. We resolve to press on to continue to care for the cove and rest of the lake to the best of our ability.

December, finally after 8 months of waiting for the State to provide us with a so-called ‘timely decision’ on the petition, the SLA received notice the proposed closure was denied.

The State’s decision response in part was; ‘Owing to the notable success of the SLA’s vigilant work throughout Shadow Lake to control Eurasian watermilfoil; the presence & future proliferation of this aquatic nuisance plant has been considerably reduced & appears to be under substantial control.’ and concluded by further supporting our management program; ‘the Department has prepared to more rapidly consider a new petition, if the SLA believes it would advance its Eurasian watermilfoil control efforts in the future.’ 

The petition for temporary closure brought forward the Shadow Lake Association’s serious determination to stop this Milfoil spread. Though a few had misunderstood the thrust of the petition, our goals sole purpose was for lake restoration and the long-term environmental health of Shadow Lake for the mutual benefit of everyone.  A temporary closure may seem a drastic solution to some but anyone only needs to look at Lake Bomoseen’s struggle with the spread of Milfoil to understand how drastic the control of Milfoil becomes.

We are thankful the State has recognized the SLA’s control program. Unfortunately, the States inefficient decision making regarding this closure has disheartened all of us working so hard to protect Shadow Lake. This temporary closure control method has been part of Section 4 of the Vermont Use of Public Waters Rules since it was established in 1998 and the decision process should be more streamlined. We had hoped our efforts to get more help from the State through a temporary closure would not only benefit Shadow Lake but also other waterbodies by opening the doors to this underused control method.  Many believe the State should be more readily expediting small temporary closures for waterbodies to protect Milfoil sites and help the people desperately struggling to control its destructive spread.

The water quality of all lakes needs to be protected, there is just not much time to get control before a waterbody is ruined. As a side note of interest; In 2015, The Lake Dunmore and Fern Lake Association (LDFLA) received a temporary closure for a designated area of deepest concern of Milfoil density. Their Association had 4 suction harvesters working the closure buoyed areas throughout the season, all their efforts barely kept up with the explosive new growth, and in the end, by September, they had more Milfoil than the year before!

photo courtesy of LDFLA
Suction harvesting boats at Lake Dunmore -photo courtesy of LDFLA

The State owns the water; the land underneath it; and is responsible for the quality of our lakes but it is the lake groups statewide who are engaged in the battle to control Milfoil infestations and the burden is falling upon them to cover the high expense and do the majority of the work.  Vermont definitely needs to accelerate its work to help save our waters and should be more fairly footing the bill. Under the present administration, VTANR is underfunded, understaffed and under pressure from all the other lakes and ponds overwhelmed with similar infestations.

Two examples of possible ways the State could help to relieve the pressure on towns and their lake communities to prevent and control AIS contamination beyond the Grant-in-aid program are:

  • VTDEC promotes the primary vector of aquatic invasive species is through trailered watercraft moving between waterbodies.  Accordingly, creating mandatory boat inspection/washing prior to entering a waterbody or at least mandatory inspection/washing prior to entering a waterbody with a boat wash station in operation would be a logical future step to better protect our lakes and ponds. In the State of New York, Lake George has such a mandatory law in effect since May 2014.
  • Another way to raise funds to help the control of aquatic invasive species that is already working for other states, including nearby Maine, is to add a nominal fee increase to motorized boat registration fees for a mandatory boat sticker. That change in increased revenue could be distributed to towns for grant opportunities to help increase funding for aquatic invasive species control. 

Towns without boat wash stations could apply for a grant to help fund the purchase of a mobile hot water pressure washer to start up a watercraft decontamination program to prevent introductions of AIS.

In April 2016 the SLA hosted a boat wash greeter training workshop where VTDEC demonstrated this mobile hot water pressure washer purchased for about $3,500.
In April 2016, the SLA hosted another boat wash greeter training workshop. Staff from the VTDEC demonstrated this mobile hot water power washer purchased for about $3,500.

 Shadow Lake is fortunate to have a wonderful community of many dedicated people who deeply care about this lake’s future and are willing to sacrifice and work together to preserve the water quality, habitat and natural environment of this resplendent lake.