Archive for the ‘Alternatives’ Category

Greeter Program Catches New Invasive

Monday, October 8th, 2018

Cabomba Carolininia (Fanwort) was found on boat from out of state, and kept out of our lake — at least for now.  This wonderful story is best told in a series of emails.

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From: Wanda Vaughn, Lake Fairlee Greeter
Sent: Sunday, August 12, 2018 8:30 PM
To: [Joe Taft and Josh Mulhollen, State of VT]
Subject: Different Invasive?

Dear Josh and Joe,
I found this weed on a trailer entering Lake Fairlee this afternoon. It seems like a slightly different plant than our Eurasian Watermilfoil. The owner was last in Baddacook Pond in Groton, Massachusetts one week ago.
Although the boat was otherwise very clean, and I removed all the visible weed from his trailer, I still told the owner that I found a suspicious weed and needed him to go somewhere to wash his boat and trailer in hot water if he insisted on entering the lake. He did leave and was gone over an hour to a car wash. His boat and trailer had been washed well on his return.

When I got home tonight and back to cell and internet service I looked up Baddacook Pond (LINK) and did discover they are working on invasives Fanwort and Variable-leaf Watermilfoil.

What are your thoughts? I have the specimen at home if you decide you would like it mailed. I am hoping I just over-reacted to Eurasian Watermilfoil or a non-invasive plant I’m just not familiar with yet. I look forward to your reply.

Wanda Vaughan
Lake Fairlee Greeter



[click on images for larger view]

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From: Mulhollem, Josh
Sent: Tuesday, August 14, 2018 12:56 PM
To: Wanda Vaughan [and others]
Subject: RE: Different Invasive?


I am hesitant to say for sure based on the photos, but I suspect that you indeed found fanwort, Cabomba carolininia. You are correct that Baddacook Pond is dealing with a sizable population of this species, so it’s certainly possible. And it doesn’t look like dried up Eurasian watermilfoil, or anything else that we typically see coming off boats.

First of all, this is an outstanding catch by you, as Vermont is one of three states east of the Mississippi that has yet to have a confirmed fanwort population. Kudos on a job well done. Secondly, would you or someone from the Association be able to mail me the specimen? I’d like to dry to rehydrate it and take a closer look.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

[The sample was bagged and mailed, and a week later this arrived from an environmental scientist who specializes in Aquatic Invasive Species Management]

From: Kimberly Jensen
Sent: Sunday, August 12, 2018 8:30 PM
To: Wanda Vaughn
Subject: Different Invasive?

Hi Wanda,

Excellent Catch! Josh asked me to identify the sample that you provided, thanks for sending it along. I added some water to the specimen to get a better look and it is indeed Fanwort, Cabomba carolininia. The opposite branching pattern is hard to miss. It’s amazing that adding water livened the specimen, demonstrating how viable these plants may stay after a length of time. We truly appreciate your outstanding efforts to search, find, question, and then prevent the potential introduction of an aquatic invasive species into Lake Fairlee. Your diligence shows exactly how the Greeter Program and Greeters like you, are the best front to stopping potential new threats to Vermont’s waterbodies. Thank you so much for your hard work.

Please be sure to send me any other questionable specimens, we trust you will be on guard!


Kim Jensen

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From: Wanda Vaughan
Date: August 21, 2018 at 11:15:23 AM EDT
To: Kimberly Jensen, Joe Taft, and Josh Mulhollen
Subject: Re: Different Invasive?

Dear Kimberly and Josh,

I am so grateful it got intercepted.  Any of our Greeters would have done the same thing. I can’t believe it lasted a week on a trailer axle that traveled from Massachusetts.

In review, every cell in my body wanted to tell this boater to not come into our lake AT ALL.

I did follow protocol by taking off all the specimens I could see and the boater did go to the Bradford Car Wash to wash the boat and trailer in hot water.

However, in the future could I tell a boater they could not come in the lake?  This boater was already annoyed but he did do what I asked.  What are your thoughts?  I am so scared I missed a tiny piece and it is now in our beautiful lake.  Thank you again for all the support your office provides us.  I am back in my Kindergarten classroom and will miss all of you.  See you next May!


Good evidence that our greeter program is working!

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The Permit Application Process

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Frequently when scientists from the State are asked questions about chemical treatment of our lake they suggest that we look to Lake Morey’s aquatic herbicide permit for guidance.  This document is available on the Department of Conservation’s website, and we have previously provided a link to it on this blog. Because it is 34 pages long and may seem daunting, we will try to summarize the parts of it that might apply to Lake Fairlee’s permit process.

Lake Morey’s Herbicide Permit

There are two sections to the document.  The first 9 pages contain the actual terms of the permit,  There are 36 sections and numerous subsections spelling out the requirements under which the herbicide application may proceed.  Among many other terms are included

  • Specifications about the herbicide to be used
  • Instructions for the disposal of surplus herbicide and containers
  • Detailed instructions to ensure actual notice of abutting and downstream landowners
  • Requirements for posting signs every 1000 feet around the lake
  • Who may actually put the herbicide in the lake
  • A requirement that all benthic barriers be removed from treated areas
  • Restrictions on swimming/boating/fishing for two days
  • Restrictions on use of lake water for irrigation for up to 120 days
  • Frequent water sampling and testing
  • Reporting requirements

The second section is called Findings.  It enumerates the conclusions that the Department of Environmental Conservation has come to that provide the legal justification for the issuance of the permit.  There are five ‘findings’ that they have to determine in the alternative before a chemical permit can be issued.

1.  There is no reasonable non-chemical alternative.  Here they enumerate the various milfoil control methods and explain why each is ineffective or inappropriate in this situation.

2.  There is acceptable risk to non-target environment.  Here exhaustive evidence is presented to explain how and why triclopyr will not adversely affect other plant or animal species.  This section is nine pages long, and relies on Vermont’s growing body of experience with chemical control methods, including tables of data from Lake Morey itself.  Its primary concern is that other plant species in the lake do not suffer as the result of our actions.  It talks about the timing of the treatment and the concentration of chemical to be used.  It also addresses specific concerns raised by VT Department of Fish and Wildlife about toxicity to fish eggs that might be in the targeted areas.

3.  There is negligible risk to public health.   This section is the result of the Department of Health’s review of the proposed treatment.  It prescribes many of the restrictions that find their way into the requirements of the first section of the permit, like how far downstream must be placarded and tested, and when various water uses may resume.  It concludes that if all of the restrictions are met, there will be negligible risk to public health.

4.  A long range management plan has been developed which incorporates a schedule of pesticide minimization.  Here the state seems to be concerned that the chemical treatment is an integrated part of a macro health plan for the lake.  In particular, they want a five year plan that employs non-chemical measures where they can be effective.

5.  There is a public benefit to be achieved from the application of the pesticide.   This section seems to be a recitation of the environmental and economic harm done by milfoil that the proposed treatment will alleviate.

Our Comments

The State of Vermont is very strict in its regulation of pesticides.  There seems to be quite a lot of requirements and restrictions built into the process.  While we are not glad for the amount of work  to complete the application, we support the State’s generally restrictive attitude towards chemicals.  We cannot be sure how nearly Lake Fairlee will track Lake’s Morey’s process.  Nonetheless we are grateful for their proximity and their similarity.  As we proceed in the process we will learn more, and will share it with you here.

Consultant’s Report Received

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Lycott Environmental, Inc., has prepared a report of the comprehensive survey of Lake Fairlee they conducted at our request.   The report, titled Aquatic Vegetation Report for Lake Fairlee, details the methods and results of two days of surveys, during which they cataloged the aquatic flora at 206 randomly selected locations in the lake.

This report is an important step towards our possible request for a permit to use an herbicide in the lake next summer to kill the milfoil.  It also promises to replace our rough estimates of the extent of milfoil’s spread with actual numbers.  As soon as the LFA board has had an opportunity to receive and review it I hope to make it available to you here.

Meanwhile, here is a photo of this years spectacular fall colors around our lake.img_6564-2

This is the hill in back of old Camp Norway.

Making sense of difficult information

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

On August 31 we held an informational meeting to discuss our board’s decision to proceed towards herbicide treatment of Lake Fairlee next summer (2010).  We reminded all attending that we take seriously our role as stewards of the lake, and that the decision to hire an outside consultant to conduct an initial survey was made reluctantly and after considerable discussion.  We emphasized that we (board members) are not scientists, and are struggling to learn all we can about chemical treatments and alternatives.

There is an abundance of information available about the herbicide triclopyr.  (Ann Bove would remind me here that we are not assured of getting a permit for herbicide application, and we don’t even know which herbicide will be recommended)  Only a little of it is original research – most simply summarizes scientific data collected by others.  This information is available from a various different sources, and often reaches a variety of conclusions.

Most of the published scientific research on triclopyr was conducted by the manufacturer (Dow Agrosciences) pursuant to their EPA registration.  This is unfortunate, but typical.  Research is expensive, and most easily funded by a large company with an expectation of future profits.  Most of the information about triclopyr found on the web is based on this original data, digested and explained for non-scientists.

One contributor to the meeting suggested that we look at a website called “,” which contains a factsheet about the herbicide triclopyr, and that we include a link to it in this blog.  As promised, I include the link HERE.  I feel compelled to add few words of caution.

The website is maintained by the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides [NCAP].  This is an outfit dedicated to reducing pesticide use, and “keeping [us] informed about pesticide hazards . . . .”  We applaud their mission, and agree that pesticides are overused and sometimes dangerous.  Nonetheless their “factsheet” on triclopyr seems selective in its choice of facts, and slanted in its conclusions.  The facts it includes are true, but they are chosen selectively.

The factsheet was written in 2000.  The formulation of triclopyr we are considering was not released until later, and arguably is a safer formulation.  Renovate 3 contains the triethylamine salt of triclopyr, and references to the butoxyethyl ester of triclopyr in the factsheet may not be applicable.

In this blog I have tried to include links to sources that are understandable and reliable.  I have also looked for sites that are balanced.  The “Triclopyr Questions and Answers” from the State of Washington (LINK) is a good example. I can understand how someone who is vehemently against all use of chemicals might see this as slanted in favor of chemical use, just because it does not conclude that using triclopyr is always bad.

I remind all concerned that none of us wants to introduce an herbicide into the lake.  We agree that it would be preferable to find a non chemical alternative.  We believe that we have exhausted all other available alternatives, and that doing nothing would be unacceptable.  We examine each choice asking, “What is best for the lake?”  The wishes of our members and donors can be taken into account, but the welfare of the lake is our first concern.

I urge each reader to scrutinize these resources, and others, and to come to her own conclusions.

Newspaper coverage of August 31 meeting

Monday, September 7th, 2009

The September 2nd issue of the Bradford Journal Opinion contained the following article:

Lake Fairlee moves closer to chem treatment

by Alex Nuti-de Biasi
THETFORD–Just over a month after advocates with a Lake Fairlee advocacy group said they were considering a chemical treatment to combat a Eurasian milfoil infestation, board members of the Lake Fairlee Association told a public gathering on Monday night that they are now moving forward with plans to seek a permit from the state to apply a herbicide next summer. The move represents a shift from the prior practice of removing the invasive weed by mechanical and manual means.

It is estimated that about 10% to 20% of the 457-acre lake is impacted by milfoil, which was first discovered in the lake in 1995. Since then a battery of methods, including hand pulling by divers, bottom barriers and suction harvesters, have been used in an attempt to contain the weed.

But despite those efforts, LFA board members say they are no longer able to keep the milfoil under control. Milfoil can grow to form dense mats near the surface of the water that makes swimming, boating and other recreational activities near impossible in infested areas. Additionally, it can crowd out and kill off native aquatic plants.

The limited effectiveness of non-chemical treatments have forced lakeside property owners to consider alternative methods despite some objections from those.

“Each of us are admittedly anti-chemical in that it is not our first step,” Skip Brown told attendees at the informational meeting at Ohana Camp on Aug. 31. Brown is the LFA’s milfoil program director. He said board members have had “heated discussions” about resorting to herbicidal treatment in an effort to control milfoil, but have been assured by state regulators that certain herbicides are safe for both humans and wildlife.

Ann Bove, a biologist with ANR’s water quality division, said that Vermont is very strict in the permitting process and collaborates with the Department of Health to prevent risks to sensitive populations such as children and women of a child-bearing age. At a meeting last month she said risks to humans are minimal when the chemical is applied consistent with directions and she added that triclopyr, the chemical used in Lake Morey to combat milfoil, breaks down very quickly. (more…)

Chemicals in Lake Fairlee — A Hard Decision

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

[ the following is the text of an announcement of our upcoming meeting ]

Meeting – 7:00 pm, Monday August 31st – at Ohana Camp

(formerly Lake Fairlee Camp on Quinibeck Road)

The Lake Fairlee Association has decided that our milfoil control program is no longer adequate to its task, and that the future health of Lake Fairlee requires a new approach. After review of the alternatives available, and after discussion with the Vermont DEC, the Lake Fairlee Association board has decided to begin the process leading to the use of an herbicide on the milfoil next summer.

Why now?

  • The milfoil has spread so much, in spite of our strenuous mechanical control program, that we are no longer able to keep it under control.
  • Since our informational meeting last month public opinion around the lake has been strongly in favor of using chemicals.
  • Some of our most generous donors, upon whom our program largely depends, have decreased or completely withheld support unless and until we change course.
  • Others who have never supported our milfoil efforts have promised to contribute in the future if we add the use of herbicides to our overall program.
  • Many who argue against the use of chemicals have never contributed to our dive program.

The safety of the process, and of the particular chemical used, continues to be of paramount importance.  The information we have received from the State scientists and others indicate that, if used properly, this herbicide is safe and effective.  We invite a thorough and thoughtful discussion of the risks, known and unknown, and an analysis weighing these risks with the costs of not proceeding and the benefits of doing so.

We believe that the engagement and support of the community is essential.  Towards that end we are holding another meeting to help residents and lake users fully understand our decision to employ this measure at this time.  We plan to have additional opportunities for discussion as the process unfolds.  Representatives from the company we select to do the treatment will be invited, as will scientists from the State DEC.

Please attend this meeting and join us in supporting Lake Fairlee.

Information Requested at our July 21 Meeting

Friday, July 24th, 2009

I will post a summary of the meeting and the topics discussed soon.  If you were not there, you should know that about sixty lake residents and users attended, and that we had a spirited discussion about the future of Lake Fairlee.

The experts from the State were able to answer many questions in summary fashion.  But the issues are complex, and the information often inconclusive.  As promised, we are making some of the original data available on this blog, so that those interested can form their own conclusions.

Lake  Quality – Lay Monitoring Data For 30 years volunteers have measured phosphates and underwater visibility several times each summer in the lake.

  • Raw annual data for Lake Fairlee may be found HERE
  • A so called “Summary Report” for Lake Fairlee can be found: HERE
    There is a “key” which will help in its understanding: HERE

Triclopyr – the herbicide used in Lake Morey.  Look in these articles for citations to the original scientific research.

  • Triclopyr Questions and Answers. LINK These questions were submitted by the public, and answered by a team of experts for the Washington State Department of Ecology.  This 12 page document is an excellent good starting place.
  • A summary LINK from EXTOXNET, A Pesticide Information Project of Cooperative Extension Offices of Cornell University, Oregon State University, the University of Idaho, and the University of California at Davis and the Institute for Environmental Toxicology, Michigan State University:
  • From National Pesticide Information Center, a cooperative agreement between Oregon State University and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with source citations: LINK
  • Lake Morey’s 2009 application for herbicide application LINK – 34 pages but there is LOTS of information buried here, particularly about how Vermont approaches the treatment of lakes with chemicals:

Other pages of interest

  • Vermont DEC’s main page on Aquatic Invasive Species HERE
  • About Vermont’s issuance of Aquatic Nuisance Control Permits HERE

Materials for the Informational Meeting

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

This is the sheet that was handed out at the meeting.  It is reproduced here for the benefit of those who could not attend.

Lake Fairlee Informational Meeting
Thursday July 23, 2009

Goals for this meeting:

  • To bring together lake users
  • To share information about the condition of the lake
  • To learn what LFA has been doing about milfoil, and to what effect
  • To hear from constituents
  • To learn from each other
  • To work towards understanding how best to care for the lake

Each of us should:

  • Try to keep an open mind, and to LISTEN to other speakers
  • Respect whoever has the floor, as you would hope that s/he would respect you
  • Identify yourself by name and connection(s) to the lake
  • Try to plan your questions or remarks so as to be brief


  • Skip Brown (LFA) will act as moderator
  • First he will give preliminary remarks, summarizing where we are and how we got here
  • Then will introduce the representatives from the State
  • They may make a few observations, but are present primarily to answer our questions
  • Everyone who wants to speak will be afforded an opportunity. This means that you may not get a second chance until others have had theirs.


  • Directors of the Lake Fairlee Association
  • Divers – employees of LFA who know the condition of the lake better than anyone
  • Representative of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Department of Environmental conservation. These are the folks who license and help fund our milfoil program, AND who are charged with licensing and monitoring chemical applications such as in Lake Morey

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Fact, Surmise, and Opinion

1.    Milfoil has been growing in Lake Fairlee for at least 15 years.
2.    LFA has been removing it for almost that long.  Until recently we used only hand pulling. Now we also use suction harvesting and bottom barriers
3.    LFA has been spending in excess of $100,000 per year to remove milfoil — about 40% from the State, 10% from the towns, and 50% from donations.   (thank you all)
4.    Milfoil spreads three ways: by seeding, by root propagation, and by fragmentation.  Yes, we know that harvesting also spreads it.  But at this point we are resigned to removing as much as we can each season.
5.    Other factors affect the amount of milfoil in the lake as much as or more than our eradication efforts.  These include lake temperature, sunlight, and phosphate levels.
6.    The milfoil is growing and spreading faster than we can remove it.  Our divers remove an estimated 10 to 15 percent of the milfoil each season. IF we had two or three full time dive crews we might be able to get ahead of it.
7.    Membership and donations in support of our dive program are declining.  Again this year we will likely have to stop our dive program early due to lack of funding.
8.    Some members believe that we should follow Lake Morey’s lead and use a herbicide to kill the milfoil.  Even if we did this and it removed all or most of the milfoil we would have to continue a (more modest) dive program to ensure that the milfoil not become widespread again.
9.    Other members are adamantly opposed to the use of ANY chemicals in the lake, fearful of unknown consequences and mindful of the many examples of man’s disastrous intervention with nature.
10.    To date we have put NO chemicals in the lake, nor have we spent one dollar on planning for chemical treatment.  We have, however, invited two companies to inspect the lake and advise us on possible courses of action, including chemicals.

Triclopyr is the chemical used to kill milfoil in Lake Morey

It is an herbicide that mimics a plant growth hormone.  It affects certain grasses.  In the doses used (2.5 parts per million) it is not toxic to humans, animals or fish.  It has no known reproductive toxicity, teratogenic effects, nor carcinogenic effects.
It has been in use since 1979.  (DDT was used for more than 30 years before being banned)
Over 70,000 lbs are used annually in the USA.  (I am not claiming this is a good thing)
It breaks down rapidly in water.  Renovate OTF (the triclopyr formulation used in Lake Morey) is a triethylamine salt, which dissolves in water and breaks down with a half life of 2.8 to 14.1 hours, depending on season and depth. (photolysis needs sunlight)
A toxic dose of triclopyr (LD/50) for a 120 pound person would be ingesting about an ounce of the raw chemical before it is applied, or drinking more than 3800 gallons of water to which it has been added. It is not readily absorbed through the skin.  It can cause burning of the eyes (hence the no swimming rule).

Informational Meeting Notice – July 23rd

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

What follows was circulated and posted around Lake Fairlee in the weeks before July 23rd under the banner,  Chemicals in Lake Fairlee? This headline was intended more to attract peoples’ attention than to frame the discussion.  We have reached a tipping point, where our efforts to control Eurasian Milfoil are not keeping up with its growth in our lake.  We need to come together as a lake community and take ownership of this problem, and begin to work to address it.  The Lake Fairlee Association has called this meeting to begin the process.

– – – – – – – – – –

All Interested Parties Please Attend
An Informational Meeting and Discussion
Concerning the Future of Lake Fairlee


For over a decade Lake Fairlee has been dealing with an invasive weed called Eurasian milfoil.  The Lake Fairlee Association has developed an extensive program using scuba divers every summer to clear patches of milfoil using hand picking, suction harvesting, and bottom barriers. This has been funded by donations from residents, from the three adjoining towns, and by grants from the State of Vermont.  Even though our dive program has been called a model program by the state, our resources are limited, and the milfoil continues to thrive in Lake Fairlee.

Meanwhile our neighbor Lake Morey has been combating milfoil for even longer.  Three summers ago they received permission to use an herbicide to kill milfoil in the lake.  They appear to have had good results, and the milfoil in their lake is greatly reduced.  Some Lake Fairlee people have suggested that we ought to do the same.  They have serious concerns that that our dive program is not the most efficient use of our resources.  Others are disinclined to allow the use of any chemicals in our lake.  The LFA Board has determined to be open-minded and cautiously consider the issue.  We have begun to gather information, and invite all interested parties to participate in the discussion.

Assertions – which the LFA Board wants to examine and understand

•    Even if all the milfoil is killed or removed from the lake, it will likely return.
•    Our dive program, at the level at which we can afford to maintain it, is not gaining ground on the milfoil problem.
•    Vermont, which regulates all of our milfoil activities, is among the most restrictive of all states about approving the use of chemicals.
•    The chemical triclopyr (used in Lake Morey) acts on a growth hormone in a certain class of plants.  It does not “poison” people or animals.
•    Triclopyr has been around for 30 years, and its toxicity has been exhaustively studied.
•    Triclopyr, and its chief metabolite TCP1, have known and measured levels at which it poses a danger to humans and animals, which is many times higher than the levels at which it would be introduced into the lake.

Please join us at 7:00 pm Thursday, July 23rd, at Horizons Day Camp, on Route 244 at Middlebrook Road.  Representatives from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources will be on hand to answer questions.  Bring your issues and concerns, and see if we can develop a consensus on how to proceed.

Chemicals in Lake Fairlee?

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

[ Editor’s Note: At the time this post was written in August of 2008 our understanding of the herbicide issue was incomplete.  In the ensuing year we have learned more about triclopyr use and about the permit application process.  Please rely on more recent posts for better information. ]

Last year our neighboring Lake Morey began treating its milfoil infestation with the herbicide Triclopyr.  Although they are only in the second year of a planned five year program, it is clear that the treatment is having the desired effect, and that milfoil populations have been greatly reduced where the chemical has been applied.  So far no adverse effects have been reported: native fish populations and plants species seem not to be suffering.  The chemical doesn’t work as well on strips along the shore as it does on large patches of milfoil, but Lake Morey is hoping to overcome this by using a higher concentration in future applications.  Finally it must be noted that nobody expects this to be a permanent solution to the problem.  The milfoil will come back, sooner or later.

Lake Morey’s success has prompted discussion among Lake Fairlee residents and the Association Board about whether we too ought to be using chemicals.   Some have suggested that we are wasting time and money on our program of suction harvesting, hand picking, and bottom barriers.  A few long time donors have told us that they would rather support treatment with chemicals than the seemingly ineffectual program of diver harvesting.  Others have spoken out strongly against putting chemicals of any sort in our lake, saying that the long term consequences cannot yet be forecast with certainty.

The Lake Fairlee Association board is evaluating every reasonable suggestion and giving serious consideration to each alternative.  This summer we have been gathering information, which is presented here, so that you will know what we know.  You will see that the situation is complicated by various factors, and that there is no easy answer.

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Preparation – Permits and Consultants

All milfoil control efforts are regulated by the State Department of Environmental Conservation.  Permits are required for suction harvesting, bottom barriers, chemical treatments, and biological controls.  Before a permit for herbicide application may be issued, the applicant must demonstrate that the nuisance species is not responding to other less drastic means of control, and that there are no reasonable non-chemical alternatives available. The applicant must contract with a licensed company that is approved by the State to develop and execute a comprehensive plan for milfoil control that includes the proposed herbicide application.

Lake Fairlee is successfully controlling its milfoil infestation.  After its discovery in 1993 milfoil was at first removed by hand picking.  Over the next decade the milfoil population grew steadily, and it spread to numerous parts of the lake in spite of our efforts to control it.  In 2002 we began using bottom barriers, which increased our effectiveness.  In 2005 we began suction harvesting, which allows a smaller crew of divers to remove much more milfoil than they might with hand pulling alone.  We cannot prove whether our efforts alone are responsible, but the milfoil population in Lake Fairlee seems to have stabilized over the past few years.

For whatever reason, Lake Morey’s milfoil problem got out of control.  By 2004, the north end of the lake was thickly infested with the plant, and other areas became too widespread to manage.  After a difficult application process, Lake Morey’s herbicide permit  was issued in 2007 to cover a five-year plan of treatment.  The plan approved included application of Renovate OTF (triclopyr) to the densest patches of milfoil in the first year, and the continued use of non-chemical means (harvesting and bottom barriers) in other area of the lake.  It anticipated subsequent applications for up to five years, with the exact areas and other requirements to be negotiated each year.  It must be understood that this “cure” is not permanent.  Even if 100% of the milfoil in Lake Morey could be eradicated, it seems likely to be reintroduced sooner or later.


If we were eligible for a permit, the tightly regulated application and herbicide treatment process is certain to be expensive.  Lake Morey’s annual milfoil costs increased by half the year they began using triclopyr.  The chemical treatment is expensive, in part because all work with it has to be done by an outside firm that does the application and conducts the extensive monitoring and pre- and post- testing.  In addition, we would have the expense of continuing conventional means in untreated areas.  We have had trouble raising enough money to pay for the program we run now. Lake Morey has “deeper pockets” than we do, for a number of reasons.  We would likely have to find an additional source of money for us to consider using chemicals.

Multiple Town Ownership

Lake Fairlee is bordered by three towns, any one of which might block a planned chemical application.  Unlike Lake Morey, which is completely within the Town of Fairlee, our lake is adjacent to Thetford, West Fairlee, and Fairlee.  Although only the Town of Thetford’s Selectboard would be directly involved as the permittee, the selectboards or citizens of any of the towns could object, with or without good reason. Because the herbicide can only be applied after the milfoil has started actively growing in the late spring and before the fish begin to spawn, there is a narrow window in which it can be used.  A lone citizen might therefore bring a lawsuit which could, by delaying the application, effectively block it even if the suit is unsuccessful,  We are cautioned by the experience of Lake Morey, whose earlier application was stymied by a court challenge, and whose recent attempt required a special election.  In our case these impediments could be compounded threefold.

Chemical Unknowns

These are all complicated realities. If we were eligible for a permit, and if we could come up with the extra money, we would still be compelled by the state to be in the business of divers, harvesting and bottom barriers. And all of this does not touch on the possible  long-term adverse effects to the ecosystem that might be caused by introducing this herbicide. We have learned a lot about triclopyr, how it works and that it is relatively safe. Nonetheless, the history of man’s intervention in nature is replete with tragic tales of unintended consequences. We are open to every reasonable approach, but want to be certain that concerned citizens know the issues and do not oversimplify the solution.