Leverett sends invasive aquatic plants in town pond packing

Last modified: Monday, July 15, 2013

LEVERETT — In an effort to combat a growing infestation of invasive aquatic plants, the Friends of Leverett Pond — a local lake preservation organization — applied an herbicidal treatment to Leverett Pond last week aiming to control the spread of milfoil and curly-leaf pondweed.

The herbicide — Renovate-Max G — was applied by Aquatic Control Technology, Inc., a lake management company from Southbridge, Mass., and was mostly concentrated near the shore, where the weeds are most prevalent. Eight of the pond’s 100 acres were treated with the chemical, which has been approved for use by the state and requires licensing and permitting under the Wetlands Protection Act to be used.

According to Friends of Leverett Pond member Mitch Mulholland, who is in charge of writing proposals for the permits required to execute the plan, the treatment cost around $5,000, most of which was raised through donations and contributions to the organization.

Mulholland said the organization plans to combine both herbicidal and non-herbicidal techniques to battle the weeds, an approach known as Integrated Pest Management.

After the milfoil has died, a hydro-rake will be made available to landowners to clean up waterfront areas, with the goal of removing the plant’s root systems. Landowners will then be responsible for removing any material collected by the rake. Friends of Leverett Pond has also secured a permit for the use of cloth mats, known as benthic barriers, to prevent the weeds from returning.

Mulholland said the pond has always had problems with milfoil and curly-leaf pondweed, but that it experienced an explosion of growth in 2007, which he attributed to migrating geese that overstayed their welcome that year.

“That year we had several hundred geese on the pond, and right after that we had this big infestation. That’s just a possibility, it’s hard to say,” he said.

He said that boat motors and paddles often disperse the plants by chopping them up and moving them to new parts of the pond and that birds and waterfowl, which collect plant matter on their feet and in their stomachs as they feed, also contribute to the spread.

“If you take a canoe out there near the shore, it’s everywhere,” he said. “Milfoil is your worst enemy if you live on a pond. It propagates by cloning, so you could pick off a tiny leaf and drop it in the pond and a new plant will grow.”

According to Mulholland, the weeds grow so densely that fish have difficulty navigating through them. He also said they have the potential to threaten aquatic life in the pond by reducing the level of oxygen in the water, and the plants also pose a threat to swimmers. “Pondweeds are beneficial to most lakes, but the curly-leaf variety grows in thick clumps, so it can be dangerous to swimmers because it can trap them. Both of the plants also heat the water up by not allowing it move as much,” said Mulholland.

“A lake is a spectacular resource, for humans and for wildlife, and it just ruins it,” he said. “It’s an exotic species that doesn’t belong here and it’s moving it’s way into habitats and outcompeting the native species. ”


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