Volunteers help control invasive weeds at Baboosic
AMHERST – Last summer people who live near Baboosic Lake got an unpleasant surprise when exotic milfoil was discovered north of the Amherst Town Beach.
The invasive weed is the bane of recreational lakes. Unlike beneficial weeds, it spreads rapidly and displaces native plants. When out of control, it can make swimming difficult and threatens the value of waterfront property.
Luckily, the man who discovered the weed called the Baboosic Lake Homeowners Association. Homeowners called the state Department of Environmental Services, and DES started its rapid response program, sending divers into the 228-acre lake to pull out weeds and search for more.
Homeowners formed a weed-watcher group trained by DES to continue the work, and their efforts seem to have paid off.
Amy Spagula, an exotic plant expert with DES, said the Baboosic problem is under control, and the weeds have not expanded beyond the site where they were found last year.
"There is a very active group of volunteers who are searching and diving when they find something," she said.
Tara Johnson lives near the lake and is one of those DES-trained volunteer "weed-watchers" who helped remove 60 pounds of the weed last summer.
Last week she and two other volunteers were working in Washer Cove, the area of infestation, where a large area is roped off to keep boats, swimmers and anglers away.
Some of the volunteers have come up with inventions that make the work more effective.
Alan Wetmore did 99 percent of the milfoil harvesting last year, Johnson said, and built scopes out of PVC piping for all weed watching teams. He was once a professional diver, "and really kicked our diving effort into high gear last year, harvesting almost weekly. Alan has been diving and scouting for milfoil all season."
Lenny Newell is a certified weed diver and designed and built the Weed Watcher I (WWI), a glass bottom boat. When the sun is at the right angle it allows the person in the boat to see a one-inch (milfoil) plant."
Lynn and Jan Langer are sisters who grew up on the lake and are active weed watchers, educators, sign makers, and Lynn is also a SCUBA diver and has been out scouting this year.
Volunteer Kathy Boyd has been trained through the Lake Host Program, a boat inspection program administered by the NH Lakes Association to prevent the spread of invasive species from waterbody to waterbody.
Boyd trains Amherst Town Beach employees how to inspect boats going in and out of the water, and she applied for and received a grant to hire someone to do that when the employees aren’t there. She also strung the rope barriers around Washer Cover.
Johnson is an environmental scientist who calls herself "just a volunteer on Baboosic Lake."
There are about 30 volunteers in all, and this summer SCUBA divers and snorkelers will go into deeper offshore water, she said, looking for and "harvesting" weeds that will be composted in an upland site near woods and away from water.
Exotic milfoil is a non-native weed (Myriophyllum heterophyllum) that is a problem because it has few, if any, enemies to keep it in check and can grown an inch or more per day and looks like a squirrel’s tail in the water. It can live out of the water for many hours attached to a a trailer.
DES encourages boaters to clean, drain and dry all recreational gear that has come in contact with water when they are moving between waterbodies.
But it also cautions that Baboosic Lake has a harmless milfoil look-alike called bladderwort, a native plant identified by its greenish or blackish "seeds."
Maps of infestations and photos and descriptions of aquatic invasive species can be found on the DES wishbone, www. des.nth.gov.
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or email@example.com