Kennebec County Lakes Associations Seek Funding for More Boat Inspections to Combat Invasive Plants

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LITCHFIELD – Three lake associations are banding together with increased funding demands to support more boat inspections as part of the fight against the spread of invasive plants in local waters.

Requests came from Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed, the Cobbosseecontee Lake Association (formerly known as CYC Lake Association) and the Tacoma Lakes Association.

Association officials met with members of the Litchfield Select Board last Monday to submit a request for $10,600, up $2,600 from last year’s $8,000 appeal.

Litchfield’s board did not act on the request as the issue was raised during a presentation.

Association officials said they need more help dealing with invasive plants, especially Eurasian watermilfoil, which can spread quickly and devastate a lake.

Toni Pied, director of conservation at Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed, an organization dedicated to protecting the 217 square mile watershedsaid the application would support courtesy boat inspections at the Woodbury Pond boat launch at Tacoma Lake and Cobbossee Lake.

Pied informed state officials of the invasive plant infestation, saying there was a concentration of Eurasian watermilfoil primarily in the northern part of Cobbossee Lake, with one plant also found last year near Farr’s. Cover.

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“My feeling is if it’s there, chances are we’ll find it in other places,” she said.

Pied added that frogbit, a free-floating aquatic plant with heart-shaped leathery leaves and small, white, three-petalled flowers, is also prevalent in the lake. She said it can spread, creating a large carpet on the surface of the water, which blocks light from entering the water and can crowd out native species.

“Waterfowl can’t get through,” she said, “and other native plants can’t grow there.”

Along with increasing boat inspections at Monmouth and Winthrop boat launches to every weekday in the summer, Pied said the lake associations are hiring a courtesy boat inspector.

A fisherman prepares to launch his boat April 15 at Lake Cobbossee in Monmouth. File Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The associations are also working with the US Youth Conservation Corps, a national teen employment program that will work with shoreline property owners to show them best management practices to prevent erosion and runoff from entering the lakes. Pied said they also have a large plant survey team.

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“We have several positions open,” she said. “We’ll probably be hiring about 50 people this summer, which is the most we’ve ever hired. I hope we can recruit all these people, which as you know is a bit difficult at the moment.

This summer, the associations also expect to contact shoreline property owners to educate them on how to properly uproot and dispose of invasive aquatic plants. Doing it incorrectly can cause them to spread, according to Pied.

Jim Adams, president of the Tacoma Lakes Association, said the associations are also adding another day to their boat inspections this year — a six-hour Thursday shift, in addition to Friday-Sunday coverage.

Bill Kieltyka, president of the Cobbosseecontee Lake Association, said a fundraiser has been launched, aiming to raise more than $1 million over three years.

“We’re actually making really good progress on that,” he said. “We have six-figure donors who have already come forward, so we are not waiting for what donations we can get, but we need support from cities to accomplish what we need. We also approach lake businesses and encourage them to help us. »

Kieltyka said the associations have invested nearly $30,000 in a new boat that Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed can use for surveys, so they can travel from the south end to the north end of the lake. within a reasonable time. He said the previous boat had a 20 horsepower engine, while the new 17ft boat is powered by a 75 horsepower outboard.

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“It’s going to be good for the divers,” he said. “We’re expecting a pretty active summer there.”

Pied said Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed typically performs about 10% of the state’s boat inspections each year. Last year, the group carried out around 11,000 inspections.

At last week’s Litchfield meeting, selectors Rick Gowell asked if there had been an increase in boat registrations since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I just think of their claim, that ATV sales and recreational sports where people can social distance were very high, and that could be an indicator,” he said, “or justification for having this extra person at the boat launch, because we’re going to see more use of that.

Adams said there have been more boats on the lake in recent years, with inspections increasing significantly two summers ago at the Woodbury Pond boat launch. He said the number remained high last summer.

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