According to state officials, invasive variable water milfoil has been found in Annabessacook Lake in Winthrop. The discovery was made after eight samples were sent for analysis in late July. Of the eight, two were positively identified as invasive milfoil, the others were found to be native to the waters.
Wednesday, biologists from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection spent the day combing over the lake where the invasive milfoil was found.
“We think it is contained to a small part of the lake. That doesn’t mean that it’s gonna be one and done we’re out of here. Because it’s likely to be a long haul of monitoring and searching for the invasive species and removing what we find,” John McPhedran, Biologist for the Maine DEP’s.
Experts say invasive milfoil infestations typically originate form boats, trailers and fishing gear. The credit for the early discovery of the milfoil found in Annabessacook Lake goes to several groups, including
Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program, Annabessacook Lake Improvement Association, Cobbossee Watershed District and Friends of Cobbossee Watershed on Annabessacook Lake who began an exhaustive nine month surveying effort that included volunteers from other communities who came in to help.
“We were very relieved that we at least knew where it was,” said Sue Neal, President of the Annabascook Lake Improvement Association. “We had GPS readings. We knew where it was and DEP was ready to come out today and get going and either pull it or put a benthic barrier over it.”
One silver lining that’s come from this discovery is the heightened awareness of the impact milfoil can have on a community and Maine as a whole if it spreads.
“One study of Maine lakes showed that they were valued at $3.5 billion to the state economy,” McPhedran said. “And we have seen studies where the infestation of an invasive aquatic plant can cause a drop in property values so that has been documented in other states as well as in Maine.”
State officials are urging boaters to check their boats and trailers regularly for anything that looks like milfoil and report it. McPhedran says the DEP is encouraging lakes associations in Maine to get inspection programs that include inspectors at boat launches to examine boats coming in and out of the water. McPhedran says there is grant money available from the DEP for that purpose. But even with those programs in place inspecting every boat that comes in or out of a particular body of water is simply unrealistic.
“You can’t inspect 24/7. You have to think about what are the high use times. When is it most likely that boats will be coming in,” McPhedran said. Leaving the responsibility on the individual boat owners.