Deciding Where the Divers Work

Frequently we are asked, “When will the divers be working in my area?”

Although this seems to be a simple question, a proper answer requires some understanding of Lake Fairlee’s milfoil problem and some of the constraints under which our program works. First, Lake Fairlee belongs to the State of Vermont, not to the lake residents nor to the towns in which it is situated. What our divers do to combat milfoil is subject to permits issued by the State, as well as being partially funded by a State grant. Therefore Vermont has quite a bit to say about how and where we remove milfoil.

The state pays for almost half of the milfoil program. Another 10% is provided by the three towns, and the rest by contributions from LFA members. Some lakefront property owners are able to be exceedingly generous, while others contribute nothing at all. We do not, however, make decisions about where to pull milfoil based on who gives and who doesn’t.

There is much more milfoil growing in the lake than our divers can remove in a season. They are limited by the length of the season and the amount of money that the foundation can raise. They are not allowed to begin suction harvesting nor deploy bottom barriers before the end of fish spawning season. Before the middle of May or so the milfoil is dormant, and “lying down.” In October the days get shorter and the water gets colder, but by then we have run out of money anyway. In recent years we have raised enough money to keep four divers and a boat person working until about the end of September. We hope to be able to do at least that well this year. These considerations all impact our choices.


We make our decisions where the divers work based on the needs of the lake as a whole. We develop a plan early in the season based on a complete survey of the milfoil in the lake. We decide where suction harvesting and bottom barriers can be used to best effect, and make application to the State for those locations. This early plan frequently has to be changed as the extent of the milfoil evolves. Nonetheless these major decisions significantly affect each day’s choices.

Then each day we decide where to work, based on this ‘master plan’ and on the lake conditions that day. Generally we prefer to focus on one area until it is completely clear of Eurasian milfoil before moving on. Sun and wind can affect visibility under water, and can change from morning to afternoon. Planning deployment of our resources is an important and complicated process.

On the other hand, there are many areas of the lake that want our attention. Deciding between several similar patches can be a toss up. So it is only after weighing all these factors that the varying generosity of our contributors be considered.