copyright the Chronicle September 3, 2014
by Tena Starr
GLOVER — Members of the Shadow Lake Association have petitioned the state, asking that a roughly one-acre section of the lake be closed to human use in order to control milfoil. It would be only the second time in Vermont that part of a lake has been closed to public use because of milfoil.
The last time the rule was exercised was in 1998 when part of Lake Morey was closed due to a milfoil infestation, said Matthew Probasco, aquatic nuisance control and pesticide general permit coordinator at the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
The move has upset some neighbors, as well as the owner of a former bed and breakfast there, who is worried that her livelihood will be affected, among other things.
Gwen Maynard says she no longer runs a bed and breakfast at her home on the north end of Shadow Lake, but she does sometimes rent her house out by the week to vacationers. When she has renters, she lives in a camper just behind the house.
If the section of lake in front of her house is closed, she said, she fears it will hurt her ability to rent her lakefront property.
Also, she said she wishes that communication had been better and she’d been informed earlier about the lake association’s plans. The petition to the state was filed in April.
“I’m very upset,” Ms. Maynard said. She said that since the area to be closed is right in front of her house she feels like she’s being blamed for the milfoil outbreak.
She said she has told guests to stay out of the buoyed area, and she tells kayakers and other boaters they must wash their boats.
“I’ve been here all these years. It’s my livelihood, it’s my life.”
Those who favor closing that area of the lake say, however, that no one will have a lake to use at all if a full-blown milfoil infestation occurs there.
“If we don’t stay vigilant, she’d lose her business because who’s going to want to rent a place infested with milfoil?” said state Senator John Rodgers of Glover. “In some lakes, they’re mowing their lakes. We’ve made great strides, we can’t afford to go backwards.”
“It’s not the whole area that will be closed,” Mr. Rodgers said. “It starts about five feet deep in the water. There’s room for little kids to swim and for boats to go around. It’s going to be inconvenient, but it will be lot more inconvenient if it grows 20 to 25 feet deep.”
That area is already marked by buoys and boating, swimming, and fishing is not supposed to happen within the marked off area.
Eurasian water milfoil (EWM) was first detected at the north end of Shadow Lake, called Danforth’s Cove, in September of 2011. It’s since spread to several other areas.
The Shadow Lake Association employs divers — one paid and several volunteers — to pull up the plants. And it’s covered an area of Danforth Cove with barrier mats — which keep out light and eventually kill the milfoil plants growing underneath them — marked by orange buoys.
People are not supposed to swim, boat, or fish in any area enclosed by the buoys.
But they do, said Christine Cano, who is on the Shadow Lake Association board of directors, is a Vermont Invasive Patroller, and regularly dives herself to survey the lake and pull plants.
“We have achieved success controlling smaller sites around the lake where one or several milfoil plants have popped up but our repeated efforts to control the spread in this cove area are currently hampered by several factors,” says the petition submitted to the state.
It says the plan is to temporarily close about an acre of the lake at Danforth Cove, specifically the middle section where most of the plants are growing.
“The closing is necessary due to the high recreation in the control area that is disturbing the submersed mats covering the EWM,” the petition says. “The milfoil can escape and spread when the mats are out of position.”
There are nine camps in the cove area and two year-round homes, including Ms. Maynard’s. All the residences would still be able to access their shorelines through two designated boat channels. And a section of shoreline in front of Ms. Maynard’s house, until the water gets about five feet deep, would remain open to swimming.
If the state does decide to close the lake at Danforth Cove, the basic difference would simply be that signs could be posted warning people to stay away from the buoyed area, and human activity inside that area would be illegal, Ms. Cano said.
“We’re not going to hand out tickets to little kids,” she said. “We’re not going to have a policeman in a boat down there.”
Mr. Rodgers said he believes that section of the lake should be closed.
“If it had been up to me, two days after the infestation was found it would have been matted and closed,” he said.
“There are several problems in that cove,” Mr. Rodgers said, and one of them is misinformation. For instance, one man has suggested that a little milfoil is good for the lake, he said.
“There are a lot of people over there who haven’t taken the time to get educated on Eurasian milfoil,” Mr. Rodgers said. “And they don’t understand it.”
Milfoil is like underwater witch grass, he said. It’s invasive, chokes out native plants, spreads rapidly, and can so entirely take over a body of water that it becomes impassable. It can grow in up to 20 feet of water and in nearly all conditions — sandy, silty, or rocky.
Ms. Cano has personally done about 90 percent of the diving to pull up milfoil plants, Mr. Rodgers said.
“If she hadn’t done what she’s done, that lake would be on its way to ruin,” he said.
As it is, he said, “We are on the path to being the third lake in Vermont to eradicate milfoil. The big patch is matted, it’s buoyed off, and people should be staying out of it, but they’re not.”
One guest at Ms. Maynard’s dropped an anchor in the buoyed off area, Mr. Rodgers said. An anchor could have easily punctured the barrier mat, allowing milfoil to grow up through it, he said.
The petition says that visitors to the lake may not fully appreciate the severity of a milfoil infestation and may not be diligent about making sure the barrier mats are undisturbed.
“The mats are rumpled and the overlap seams are pulled apart to open an escape for the EWM,” the petition says. “Once the large, heavy mats are out of position it is very difficult to try and pull them back into place underwater.”
Ms. Maynard is also concerned about the length of the closure, if it happens.
Linda Gilman, president of the Shadow Lake Association, and Ms. Cano stress that it would be temporary, and that the size of the area to be closed would likely shrink as the milfoil dies.
Ms. Gilman said the mats have been down for about 28 months. Eventually, with diligence, they should kill the milfoil.
At the moment, they don’t know what’s under the mats, Ms. Gilman said.
The time period after the mats come up is particularly important, Mr. Rodgers said. The area will have to be kept meticulously clean until native plants can re-establish themselves, he said.
Mr. Probasco, at the state, said that, yes, many lakes in Vermont are infested with milfoil and there’s nothing to preclude any lake association from petitioning to close an area of a lake.
The main reason that the state is looking at a petition to close part of Shadow Lake is that it has a “well organized” lake association, he said.
“The Shadow Lake Association has unequivocally got a control program,” Mr. Probasco said.
The comment period on the association’s proposal has been extended to Friday, September 5.
Mr. Probasco said his bet is that a decision will not be made this year.
contact Tena Starr at [email protected]