Divers toil to rid Connecticut’s Lake Quassapaug of milfoil

Eurasian milfoil

MIDDLEBURY, Conn. — With a specially outfitted pontoon boat, the Lake Quassapaug association made strides in 2016 in combating an aggressively invasive weed, which left unchecked could take over the pristine recreational area.

Divers from AE Commercial Diving Services in Vermont manually pulled out seven acres of the aquatic milfoil plant from the 300-acre lake over three weeks, clearing the channels in Dam Cove and Tylers Cove as well as along West Shore and a large bed of milfoil just south of Big Cove. When the association started removing the variable milfoil in 2014, the plant covered about 50 acres of lake.

Originally, the association planned to spend six weeks clearing the plant, but ran out of time as the boat was still being built, according to Ingrid Manning, vice president of the association.

The new rig works like a vacuum cleaner, with a diver pulling out the weeds and feeding it up to the boat for disposal.

Next year, the association hopes to erect a 250-foot long containment boom across the entrance of Long Cove to prevent fragments of weed from getting out into the main body of water and taking over. The Middlebury Conservation Commission approved the boom last month.

It will have space for boats and swimmers to pass through.

The association opted for the manually intensive method of pulling out the weeds, rather than using herbicides, because people were concerned about the effect of chemicals on the recreational value of the lake, which is heavily used for swimming and boating.

“They were able to make great headway,” she said. “It’s like the dandelions in your yard. There will always be some re-growth.”

Most of the invasive plants are in the four coves around the edge of the lake.

In September, lake consultant George Knoecklein found three small Eurasian milfoil plants in Tyler’s Cove near Highfield beach, said Jack Starr, treasurer of the association.

The water tested with visibility down to 24.5 feet, making it one of the clearest lakes in the state, Starr said.

Next summer, the divers will spend about 30 days going back over the same areas and begin harvesting the section of Long Cove, as well as an additional acre in Tylers Cove between Highfield Beach and east shore.

Jack Starr, treasurer of the association, said the group is finalizing its contract with AE Diving today. The 2017 budget for the contractor is $45,000, he said.

Milfoil crowds out the native plants and is bad for the health of the lake and its fish, Manning said.

“It’s important to get it under control,” Manning said. “It’s an expensive proposition, but we’ve been very fortunate that the residents and organizations around the lake have been very supportive and have provided funding for us to do this.”


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