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 kcleveland@cabinet.co