To The Daily Sun,
In the middle of a cold February, with our lakes and ponds covered with a thick layer of snow and ice, it is difficult to remember the vibrant ecosystems below. However, come spring, the ice will melt, plant life will explode, and fish will spawn.
The plant life is essential to the health of our lakes, providing food and habitat for a wide range of organisms, oxygenating the water, and removing carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, in years past, a major part of the spring explosion of plant life has been contributed by exotic species, notably milfoil.
Four years ago, paddling in the neighborhood of Lees Mill public launch area on Lake Winnipesaukee brought to mind what one imagines the Sargasso Sea to be like: weed so thick that it was a drag on the canoe and interfered with pulling a paddle out of the water. What was inconvenient for the paddler was worse for the water lilies and native water plants, which were being choked out of existence.
Starting in 2010, an intensive milfoil abatement program was initiated, combining treatment with herbicides and hand-pulling by divers. The effect was immediately noticeable. Even in 2011, the amount of milfoil in the area of Lees Mill was sharply reduced. What had been large areas clogged with weed became open water with native plants visible in the depths. In 2013, with continued treatment, the situation improved further, and it was rare to find any milfoil in the vicinity. The result has been to return the waters to the recreational value they provided before the milfoil invasion.
The success of the milfoil abatement program has been dramatic, and its benefits large. However, once milfoil has established itself, it is almost impossible to eradicate, especially in a body of water the size of Lake Winnipesaukee. To maintain the amenity value of our ponds and lakes, we have to continue to invest in management programs to keep milfoil under control. Although the problem is not visible at this time of year, and the success of the abatement programs has made it much less visible even in summer, continued expenditure on control and continued vigilance to identify regrowth is essential to keep the weed under control.