Ongoing Milfoil Containment Project Buzz Roberts & Fran Rotunno Fish
Many in our Skaneateles Lake community probably think that our Milfoil Containment Program begins in the late spring or early summer. But actually, each year, the SLA program to contain the invasive weed, Eurasian Milfoil, begins in the fall.
During late August and early September, when weed growth is the highest, a pontoon boat specially equipped is utilized to survey the lake for large patches of milfoil in order to identify potential areas to be matted the following year. A side scan sonar is employed to identify the patches. Confirmation that these are truly milfoil is done with visual assessment and recorded by site location. The sonar data and sit location data is then downloaded and sent to a company that analyses the information and a map of the areas identified is created.
The map of Skaneateles Lake with identified milfoil patches is then reviewed to determine the largest patches and also to determine which of those large patch areas can be matted. While we always want to mat the largest patches as they are the largest source for further milfoil growth there are two other factors that weigh into the decision about what areas to mat. The condition of the lake bottom has to be considered in determining if a potential area can be matted. If the lake bottom has a deep layer of silt, we cannot mat the area. It is not possible because our divers cannot work safely if they cannot see. In areas where the lake bottom has deep silt, a dive’s foot placed on the bottom of the lake raises the silt with every step taken and they cannot see to safely do the work required to roll out the mats. The process is not like the one you see on TV for new Empire carpeting where the cartoon character just flips the new carpet over the floor! The second consideration that is part of the “where to place the matting” decision has to do with the slope of the lake bottom. If the milfoil patch is located in an area of the lake where there is a significant slope to the bottom of the lake, the matting cannot be placed. Even with rebar sewn into the mats every 6 feet, on a slope the mats can slip and move. Not only will they not stay where placed, but they can also move enough to end up covering residents’ water intake pipes causing a problem with their water source and potentially damage to their water pumps.
After the areas to be matted are identified, the Milfoil Control effort moves into action in the spring of the following year. Scuba divers are recruited and the 2 pontoon boats used and their motors are prepped for the season. By June the benthic (lake bottom) matting begins. With over 225 separate sections of matting making up the total 6 acres of matting, the Milfoil team selects the number and size of mats they need for each area to be matted and moves them by pontoon boat to each area to be matted. The scuba divers roll out sections of the matts over designated Milfoil sites. These heavy matts have rebar metal rods sawn across them in sleeves placed at 6-foot intervals. The divers work in teams of four with 2 divers at a time in the lake, one pilot on the boat, and another one on the boat directing the operation, and in constant communication through headsets with the divers under the water.
Starting in August, the matts are rolled up with first down being rolled up first. The team moves from site to site until all the mats are rolled up. Then the work of picking up the rolled-up mats begins using a pontoon boat specially outfitted with a crane to lift the heavy mats onto the deck of the pontoon boat. The mats are heavy when dry and, of course, heavier when wet. Depending on the size of the mats they pick up mats until the pontoon boat is loaded and then the boat returns to the marina where the matts are lifted by crane to a truck and transported for winter storage.
Although complete eradication of Milfoil is not possible, this program prevents the takeover of Skaneateles Lake by this invasive macrophyte, which, left unchecked, would eventually cover a large surface area of the lake.:
We repeat the process every year and can expect to have to continue to do so to continue to contain expansion of the milfoil. If you are out on the lake and see the milfoil team at work, give them a wave. If you see the “diver down” marker, give them space. The work the team does means they are cold even in their wet suits in the spring and hot in their wet suits as the summer progresses.
We thank the following for sponsoring the Milfoil Boat for a day or multiple days: Sarah & Kevin Goode, Margaret O’Connell & Eric Allyn, Patience Brewster & Holly Gregg, John Osborne, Jessica & Patrick Daniel, Johanna & Gianfranco Frittelli, Lakeview Auto and Marine (Bob, Terry and Rachael DeWitt), Laurel Moranz & John Macallister, Victoria & Richard Meyer and an Anonymous Donor.
We thank the following for co-sponsoring the Milfoil Boar for a day or multiple days: Patricia & William McAvoy, Deborah & Joseph Augustine, Eleanor & Ben Ware, Wendy Blewett, Robert, Congel, Joan & Michael Niswender, The Coppo Family, Nancy & Guy Easter, Julie & Joe Scuderi, Beth & Bob Filiczkowski, Elizabeth Downes & Patrick Doyle, Patience Brewster & Holly Gregg, Linda & Bruce Kenan, Mary Knepper & Susan Mark, Ann & William Lynn, Steve Mott, Lauren Moranz & John Macallister, Mary Pat & Dan Suits, Joseph McCaffrey, Kelly & Gregory Weaver, Barbara Kay & George Bristol, Lakeview Auto and Marine (Bob, Terry and Rachael DeWitt), Peg Kelly, Mary Jane & Gary Lowery, Nicole Way Allyn, Donna & Raymond Kurlak,
Source: Skaneateles Press Observer 10/8/2020