March 26, 2012

Milfoil threat will close part of Great Pond

BELGRADE -- The northwest corner on North Bay in Great Pond will be closed off to boaters this summer to prevent an invasive plant from spreading.

Motorboats also will be barred from the stretch of Great Meadow Stream between the Route 225 bridge and the mouth of the stream in the North Bay of Great Pond, where the milfoil infestation has occurred, according to officials.

The area will reopen in the fall for duck hunters.

Maine State Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Chandler Woodcock met with the Belgrade Lakes Association's Milfoil Task Committee last month to discuss the possibility of restricting the use of those areas.

Rep. Dennis Keschl, R-Belgrade, sponsored an emergency bill to force establishing surface-use restrictions on those bodies of water in case the committee couldn't negotiate a plan with Woodcock to eradicate milfoil from Great Pond.

"I felt, and other members of community felt, it was sufficient to at least insure that we could have a chance at irradiating milfoil in the North Bay, so I put the bill in while negotiations continued," Keschl said.

He said Woodcock told him last week that they were able to negotiate a solution, so he postponed the bill.

"There is no need for it now," he said. "It was a backdrop bill essentially to secure what we wanted to protect Great Pond. That's an economic engine for the region. The northern part of the lake is shallow and its difficult to control milfoil."

Mark Latti, spokesman for the wildlife department, said Woodcock and the Belgrade Lakes Association's Milfoil Task Committee were able to come up with some ideas on how to eradicate the plants.

They include closing the boat ramp on Route 225 by the stream and marking off that section of the North Bay with buoys, closing it off to boating traffic.

"The lake association and the warden service will enforce that," Latti said. "It's a multi-agency effort. We'll be working with the (Maine Department of Transportation) on closing the boat ramp."

Latti said the area will reopen mid- to late September.

"We'll keep it close during the busy season and keep the traffic out of there," he said. "And then in the fall we'll reopen it when the weeds die off. It's a popular hunting area, so this is a compromise."

The Belgrade Lakes Association kicked off a $500,000 Stop Milfoil Campaign in February. The campaign will fund a three-year effort to control the milfoil infestation in the stream and Great Pond. A nine-week hand-pulling effort is scheduled this summer.

In addition to volunteers, the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance will hire summer staff to do the pulling and put down barriers, while surveying both Great Pond and Long Pond for other milfoil outbreaks, he said.

Mechele Cooper -- 621-5663

mcooper@centralmaine.com

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