Hand Harvesting Weeds: A Community Effort to Save our Lake

On a breezy and hot day in mid-July, 2014, on a Sunday afternoon when most people who live on a lake would usually be boating, swimming, or barbecuing, a dozen Chepachet homeowners and their friends took turns diving into a murky lake bottom to remove invasive plants that crowd out native species.

“It was more fun than I expected,” Sam Hawkes, who pulled weeds for several hours, acknowledged.

This group of concerned citizens on Sand Dam Reservoir in northwest Rhode Island removed variable-leaf water milfoil plants by hand, including roots, from targeted sites by diving to the lake bottom, with or without masks and fins. James, a SCUBA diver, later took over from the initial group of swimmers and divers. Neighbors and friends who lent a hand included year-round and summer residents, retired and middle-aged people and youth. No matter their age or background, everyone pitched in by diving for weeds, collecting the harvest in rowboats, or supervising swimmers from motorboats.

Ray Theriault, president of Sand Dam Reservoir Association (SDRA), led the project, which included organizing pontoon and other boats, getting volunteers, scheduling, and coordinating via emails. Hand harvesting, Ray said, “is a great community effort to help the Association save money and eradicate invasive weeds.”

What is variable milfoil?

Variable-leaf watermilfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum) is a nuisance aquatic plant in the northeastern United States. It grows in thick mats, often out-competing native vegetation, clogging boat motors, and deterring people from swimming and other water-related activities. Milfoil spreads rapidly. In Rhode Island, milfoil has no natural predators to keep its population in check. Under optimum temperature, light and nutrient conditions, milfoil may grow up to an inch per day.

How did variable milfoil spread to RI lakes?

According to RI DEM, variable milfoil was most likely introduced to RI lakes from aquarium releases or from “stowaway” fragments attached to a boat or trailer. When milfoil is wound around a wet carpeted bunk on a boat trailer, it can live out of water for many hours if it remains moist. Milfoil is usually first found near boat launch sites. Once introduced, milfoil can spread through fragmentation, whereby plant fragments break off from the parent plant through wind or boat action, grow roots, and settle in a new location.

Why hand harvesting?

In July, variable milfoil plants may exhibit a three- to six-inch emergent spike above the waterline, so July makes an optimal time for hand harvesting to slow its spread. Although eradication is seldom achieved, various studies indicate that variable-leaf milfoil infestations can be managed effectively by incorporating the use of hand removal and mats in lake management plans.

Removal by hand is an effective management technique for waterbodies with small, high density stands of variable-leaf milfoil or when milfoil plants are interspersed among the natives. Removal by hand is a fairly inexpensive technique to implement, but it is also time and labor intensive. “The winds created a problem for us harvesting,” Ernie Heon, who ran a pontoon boat during the hand harvesting, admitted. “We detached an aluminum boat and brought it into shallow water. My original intent was to bring the pontoon boat into the site, but it didn’t work like that.”

The hand harvesting method is also useful during follow up surveys of management areas when individual or small clusters of variable-leaf milfoil are detected, as was the case on Sand Dam Reservoir. Immediate removal decreases the opportunities for further spread of the plant.

Other methods to slow the spread of variable milfoil

 Sand Dam Reservoir Association has a volunteer regular boat greeter program to educate people about invasive species. When bass tournaments are scheduled, a small group of SDRA members greets the fishermen and women as they ready their boats for launch. Mary O’Keeffe, the project director, describes the importance of educating boaters about cleaning their boats to limit the spread of invasive species. “Rhode Island is the only New England state that doesn’t hire people to work at boat launches to educate boaters,” she stated. “That really makes it important for community members to come together to promote proper boater hygiene.”

RI DEM also encourages the use of clean boat hygiene practices. They concur that boats, trailers, and motors should be inspected for plant fragments before launching in the water and after boats have been hauled out of the water.

Community building while hand-harvesting

During the SDRA weed pulling, lake property owner, Sharon Heon maneuvered a rowboat and collected weeds as swimmers transferred them to her. “It was an enjoyable experience,” she offered, “being with Association members on a worthwhile effort.”

Community members who participated in the effort included Tommy Hopkins, Sharon and Ernie Heon, Sam Hawkes, Bob Bedard and his granddaughter Sammy, John Guertin, Cleo Monti, Eric and Carol and Austin Lariviere, Art and George and Bob Searles, Carolyn Fortuna, Mary O’Keefe, Aaron and Judy and Rico Colaluca, and Elaine and Ray Theriault, and James, the diver.

Annual Meeting Agenda 2014

AGENDA

SDRA ANNUAL MEETING

JUNE 27, 2014

GLOCESTER SENIOR CENTER

 OPENING REMARKS – Ray Theriault

SECRETARY’S REPORT – Mary O’Keeffe

TREASURER’S REPORT – Toni Hayes

OLD BUSINESS

Lake Management Plan – Ray Theriault

o   Drawdown – Judy Colaluca

o   Chemicals – Ray Theriault

o   Dam Spillway – Dave Morin

o   Boat Ramp Inspections – Mary O’Keeffe

o   Education – Carolyn Fortuna

o   DEM Dam Violation – Ray Theriault

o   Monti Milfoil Mat Project – Ray Theriault

O’Donnell Property – Judy Colaluca

Keech Pond – Sharon and Ernie Heon

Hydroelectric – Rico Colaluca

Fund Raising – Ray Theriault

Water Testing – Deb Silv

Website – Carolyn Fortuna

Sunshine – Carolyn Fortuna

Save the lakes – Judy Colaluca

Sand Dam Day – Ray Theriault

NEW BUSINESS

Nominations and Elections – Rico Colaluca

CLOSING

Please check with our Treasurer to insure you are paid up for dues.

Milfoil Mat Project, June 2014

As a management technique, milfoil mats offer a quick solution for small, dense beds of milfoil that are feeding fragments into a water body. When a mat is placed, it creates a dead zone in terms of plant life, eradicating the milfoil and other plants as the sun is blocked out.  The successful implementation of a matting effort supplemented by a hand-pulling program can enable an organization to remove milfoil in any eradication phase.

An attempt to install a pilot milfoil mat occurred on Monday, June 23rd, 2014 with the help of half a dozen volunteers, their powered and non-motorized boats, and the gift of calm weather.  Follow-up reports will describe the installation and degrees of success

Meeting Minutes 25 September 2013

 

Sand Dam Reservoir Association

September 25, 2013

Glocester Senior Center, 7:00

Planning meeting (board, committee heads, and SDRA members invited to attend)

 SDRA members present: Ron Baker, Janice Baker, Bert Bedard, Bob Bedard, Judy Colaluca, Rico Colaluca, Carolyn Fortuna, Ernie Heon, Ernie LaFazia, David Morin, Mary O’Keeffe, Art Searle, Elaine Theriault, and Ray Theriault

President Ray Theriault began with comments relative to the purpose of tonight’s meeting.

  • Promotion of different ideas
  • Concerns of SDRA members

Ray suggested that we follow the agenda from the 6/26/13 meeting

I. Lake management plan

  • Ray identified key elements of  lake management plan
    • Have lake analyzed every year by professionals
      • Analysis of weeds, analysis of funds

Mary O’Keeffe mentioned potential conflict of interest in having Aquatic Control Technologies (ACT) perform the analysis since ACT performs the chemical treatments

      • Ray mentioned that decision about analysis needs to take limited SDRA budget into account.
      • Ray asked: We know our lake – do we need to pay someone to perform the analysis?
      • Ernie LaFazia mentioned ESS for analysis.  Ray responded that ESS is a very expensive option.
      • Art Searle asked what the $400 SDRA paid to ACT got us – Ray replied the weed analysis.  Art said that DEM requires an annual report to support our lake management plan. Ray asked if we are the only lake that DEM requires to do analysis for the drawdown. Art confirmed that DEM requires analysis for drawdown, and Ray argued that this is not fair if other lakes don’t need the analysis.  Art said that DEM permitting requires a report – it was due last June.
      • Judy Colaluca noted that DEM doesn’t currently have person doing permitting.
      • Discussion of whether or not ACT provided written or verbal report of analysis that our lake didn’t need treatment this year
      • Ernie LaFazia and Ray noted that we are having problems with ACT. They did not provide reports as promised. They didn’t return phone calls. Extreme measures had to be taken to get report and to get refund of $ given at beginning of summer.
      • Question was raised about whether or not other lakes are having problems with ACT.  Can we identify other options for analysis. Judy said she could get this information.
      • Ray said that he would provide a letter to Art documenting the ACT analysis for 2013 so that we’d have what we need for DEM to perform our drawdown.
      • Ernie LaFazia was told by ACT that analysis would be provided within a week. He emailed ACT 11-12 times, called multiple times, and ACT never provided the analysis.
      • Janice Baker asked about option for assessments less than annually.
      • Ernie LaFazia noted that our drawdown is to 54 inches now, which is why we need the analysis for DEM
      • Art Searle noted that we are in the 1st year of a 5 year requirement for analysis.  Ray noted that some lakes (e.g., Keech) don’t need/get DEM permitting for drawdown.
      • Judy noted that depth is compromised given that weeds are serving as compost and people are bringing in sand – this has implications for lake quality.
      • Ernie LaFazia said that based on his secchi disk water quality monitoring, lake clarity has never been better – others present noted that the lake seems to be less pristine that previous years.
      • Elaine Theriault suggested appealing the DEM requirement for annual testing.
      • Art Searle noted that lake clarity is affected by inflow from Keech, and that the south end is cloudier as a result from the inflow.
      • Janice Baker asked the Lake Management Plan committee to come together to do groundwork so that we are prepared to have a meaningful discussion come spring.
    • Drawdown/Dam/Spillway report:

Dave Morin said that drawdown will begin on Saturday, Oct 12th

      • Mary will send an email around to inform residents that drawdown will begin on Oct 12th . Residents will be asked to make sure that boats are out in advance and inform neighbors of the drawdown.
      • Two inches per day is the recommendation.  Thus it will be about 27 days for 54 inch drawdown.
    • Chemical/Water Testing report:

 Ernie LaFazia noted that no chemical treatments were performed this year.

      • ACT was supposed to do a second analysis this year, but this has not yet been completed
      • Ernie says lake is cleanest he’s seen it since 1993.
      • Ray asked if we could save money if we took samples to a testing laboratory directly rather than going through the URI Watershed Watch.  The general consensus was that it would be more costly for SDRA to do the testing.
      • We are billed $400 per year for water testing by URI watershed watch. An anonymous resident paid the $400 bill last year.
      • Elaine recommends that this $400 gift be noted in the treasurer’s report so that if the URI watershed Watch bill is not paid anonymously in future years SDRA is aware and responsible. Ernie LaFazia will follow-up to make sure that the bill is sent to SDRA.
      • Thanks to Ernie LaFazia we have received a grant from the state to help defer costs of water testing.
      • Ernie is looking for a volunteer so that he can step down as the primary SDRA water monitor.  He’d like to retire from this duty. Deb and Miles Silva help, but he could use more support.
    • Boat ramp inspections:
      • The boat greeter program has gone well this year. Mary estimated that we were able to perform inspections for more than half of all fishing tournaments during the summer 2013 season.
      • At last tournament on 9/19/13 representatives from Governor Chafee, Senator Whitehouse, and Representative Langevin’s office visited to observe the program “in action” – at the invitation of Judy Colaluca in her role as STL president.
      • Mary has spoken with Mr. Moscarelli, science teacher at Ponaganset, and will work to coordinate a school visit to encourage high-school students to volunteer at the boat ramp.
      • Dave Morin mentioned the boyscouts, and Judy confirmed that she had contacted local boyscout leaders to encourage participation in the voluntary boat launch inspection program.
      • Carolyn Fortuna mentioned that, while visiting friends in Maine, she learned about a lake that got a small grant to pay high-school  students to work the boat launch.  She suggested we pursue that for our lake.
      • Bob Bedard suggested that RI fisherman might be willing to help with this. Judy confirmed that STL can coordinate with local fishing organizations.
      • Carolyn mentioned that funding may be available through environmental education and sustainability sources. We may be able to can dovetail this with AP Environmental Science instructor (Moscarelli) at Ponaganset High School.
    • Education/Website
      • Carolyn Fortuna reported that the last few years have been devoted to establishing our web presence.
      • 2012 focus was on documenting the wildlife on the lake. Carolyn mentioned website documentation of the return of wildlife coinciding with the water level increasing in the spring.
      • Carolyn noted that many people view the SDRA education website, not just local residents.
      • Ray asked about ease of access. SDRA members would like to be able to Google ‘Sand Dam Reservoir Association’ in order to get to the website. Establishing a user-friendly domain name is a desirable next step.
      • Carolyn mentioned the wordpress mechanism.  Ray said that an easy access site is a priority. There was discussion of what the domain name should be, and consensus was that it should include Sand Dam Reservoir Association. Rico said that a domain name shouldn’t cost more than $10-20 per year. Carolyn agreed to investigate the cost of getting a domain name.
      • Carolyn distributed an overview of items represented on a website and asked members to consider what pages we should have to get started.
      • Art said that Carolyn can apply a domain name for a Google site – he said that he would show Carolyn how to apply for a domain name off an existing Google site –    Carolyn was under the impression that couldn’t be done.  Art said that he had done it and would show her how.
      • Carolyn emphasized that the executive board would need to provide content for the website so that her voice is not the only presence on the website.
    • Keech Pond report
      • Ernie Heon reported that Keech Pond plans to dump water on October 14th.
      • Dave Morin provided Keech opening and closing dates from last year and discussed the impact on water levels of our lake. He noted that Keech Association President John Holmes is a model of effective communication.
    • Hydroelectric report
      • Rico and Judy Colaluca have been attending all hydroelectric planning meetings. SDRA has not committed to anything.  Ray confirmed that SDRA needs to approve any hydroelectric plan for Smith and Sayles. A number of sites are being evaluated for the hydroelectric station.
    • Fundraising:
      • Ray reported that we’ve got about $16,000 in budget.  Last year we made $2,500 from Don White fundraiser.  Assembly theater is good venue (343 seating capacity). Ray would like to bring in Erika Van Pelt ( local singer who was on American Idol). Bert Bedard has a family/friend  who has a relationship with Van Pelt and said she’d give Ray contact info.
      • Ray wants to raise the bar and bring in a more high profile performer to potentially raise more money.
    • Sunshine:
      • Ernie LaFazia invited those present to inform him of members of the SDRA community who would benefit from a sunshine intervention.
    • Save the Lakes:
      • Judy Colaluca continues her important efforts on behalf of freshwater resources in the state. As mentioned earlier, she invited VIPs from the Governor, Senator Whitehouse, and Representative Langevin’s office to observe the boat launch inspection program.  She continues to pursue various avenues to increase awareness and support for the protection of freshwater resources.

 

    • Sand Dam Day:
      • Ray noted that the request for volunteers to host Sand Dam Day should go out prior to the annual meeting.
      • Mary agreed to send out a request for volunteers, as well as a request for nominees for board positions, well in advance of the annual meeting.
    • New Business:
      • Ray noted that there are many rumors circulating about the fate of the O’Donnell property. These include a 50+ unit, over 55y/o condo community, or alternatively a plan for 3 residences. Ernie LaFazia said that he had contacts at Lusi construction and would try to get reliable information regarding plans for the property.  Ray said that we should be concerned that nobody is looking into protecting the interests of the SDRA when planning to develop the property.

Meeting was adjourned at 9:00 p.m.

2013 Lake Drawdown Information

The annual drawdown of the lake will begin October 12, 2013. The water level of the lake will be reduced to 54 inches, in accordance with DEM guidelines. You may view ongoing statistical updates about the drawdown as compiled by Art Searle at this link.

The drawdown is designed to assist in the control of invasive weed species by exposing portions of the lake bottom to freezing temperatures during the winter. It also affords property owners abutting the lake to repair docks and seawalls.

For more information, contact any SDRA officer.