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Lake associations seeking to help prevent the spread of invasive species in Maine waters

By on May 29, 2021 0

Lake Nickerson, located 10 minutes outside of Houlton in Aroostook County, is known for its narrow crescent shape and pristine water clarity.

HOULTON, Maine – Lake Nickerson, located 10 minutes outside of Houlton in Aroostook County, is known for its narrow crescent shape and pristine water clarity.

Nancy Putnam, president of Nickerson Lake Wilderness Prevention Inc., wants this to continue – protecting it from any invasive species that can be spread by boat owners traveling from lake to lake during the summer months.

Of particular concern is the spread of water milfoil, an aquatic plant that spreads rapidly along the shores of lakes, interfering with recreational activities such as fishing and swimming. It also absorbs most of the lake’s oxygen, threatening fish populations. Such infestations can also lower property values ​​in homes near the lake.

Although only a small percentage of Maine’s lakes contain milfoil, Putnam said Lake Nickerson is at risk of being colonized by it. The milfoil has been identified at Big Lake in Washington County, about 80 miles from Nickerson. A boat owner might spend a summer trip to Big Lake, then move on to East Grand Lake in Danforth, before heading to Nickerson Lake in Houlton.

Watermilfoil grows underwater in a pond in Monmouth. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Burton)

“Once a lake is colonized, you can’t get rid of it,” Putnam said. “It’s easy to bring a boat here and unload it, go somewhere else the next day to enjoy the beautiful waters of Maine, and transport the milfoil from one lake to another.

The best way to prevent such infection is to conduct courtesy boat inspections upon arrival of boats so that they are free of any invasive species. While these inspections are voluntary, they can help boat owners avoid any potential fines, as transporting any species of plant on a boat, invasive or otherwise, is illegal under Maine law.

To assist with inspections this summer, James Dobbs, a natural resources specialist at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, was recruited as an intern to help inspect boats arriving at the Nickerson public launch site. Lake.

“We have a routine that we go through, starting with the front of the trailer and going back, checking the trailer itself and the side of the boat,” Dobbs said. “We also check the propeller and motor as well as the fishing and other anchors on the boat.”

Funding for the boat inspection comes from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, which provides approximately $ 700,000 per year to lake associations, with half going to lakes with invasive species to help reduce their spread, and the other half going to clean lakes to help prevent infection. . The money comes from the boat registration fees in Maine.

“We got a modest grant of $ 1,000 [last year]. Next year we’re going to ask for more than that, ”Putnam said. “The goal is to keep this lake as clean and wild as it was designed.”

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