Dam Meeting August 2nd

The public is invited to attend a presentation by the Tri-Town Committee about plans to rebuild the Lake Fairlee dam in 2015.  The meeting will be held at Horizons Day Camp, on Route 244 at Middlebrook Road, at 4:30 pm on Saturday, August 2nd.
The Tri-Town Committee was created in 2012 by the selectboards of Fairlee, Thetford, and West Fairlee, to respond to the deteriorating condition of the Lake Fairlee dam.  Preliminary engineering studies have been completed, and plans for its reconstruction in place have been drawn.  The three towns have discussed how they might acquire joint ownership of the dam, and how they would work together in the future to manage it.  We have discussed how to apportion the cost and how to raise the funds required for this project.
The committee has determined to proceed with the next phase of planning, a process that will result in final building plans, after which we will request bids from qualified construction companies.  We hope to complete the bidding process by the end of 2014.
This meeting will be the first of four.  Other will be scheduled later in the fall, one in each of the three towns.
At this meeting we will discuss:
  • Why the towns should repair the dam: economic benefits and tax consequences
  • Engineering studies, design considerations, and proposed plans
  • Proposed timeline – planning, bidding, contract award, bond vote
  • Legal considerations:
    • What property interest the towns will obtain in the privately owned dam
    • The ‘interlocal agreement’ that will allow the towns joint ownership
    • The Tri-Town Commission that will manage the new dam in the future
  • Funding:
    • A brief summary of the costs to date
    • A proposal for how to allocate the costs among the three towns
    • The proposed bond issues in each town
There will be an opportunity for questions and discussion as time allows.

New Vermont Law Promises Healthier Lakes

The Shoreland Protection Act

The Vermont Legislature has passed a new law that restricts development within 250 feet of any lake in the state greater than ten acres.  The flyer below is the best summary of the Act’s provisions we have found to date.

shorelands act summary

Click above for two page summary

The law is effective beginning July 1st of this year.  The DEC is quickly gearing up to issue permits, and to field questions about the law’s terms and exceptions.  At this point it seems to us that it cannot help but benefit the lake.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Shoreland Protection Act: LINK

The full text of the new law: HERE.

New 25 page Handbook for Shoreland Development: LINK

No Herbicide Treatment in Summer of 2014

The Lake Fairlee Association has had variable success dealing with the invasive Eurasian milfoil that has invaded our lake and many others around the region.  We do other things as well – we promote safe boating practices and encourage shoreline planting that is best for the health of our lake.  And we continue to build community and provide social opportunities around the lake — as we did 20 and 40 and 60 years ago, long before the advent of the milfoil.

In 2010 we successfully treated all of the affected areas of the lake with the herbicide triclopyr.  Within weeks 99% of the milfoil was rotting on the bottom of the lake.  Unfortunately the herbicide only kills the milfoil that extends into the water column; the extensive root system persists.  Also the small fraction that survived can reproduce by seeding, propagation, or fragmentation.  And new milfoil can be introduced by transient boaters or even waterfowl.

Management of milfoil is heavily regulated by the State.  That is not a complaint, as we are in favor of strict controls of what goes in the lake, particularly of herbicides.  But it means that politics and bureaucracy are involved at every turn in our attempts to control the weed.  Milfoil again affects significant portions of the lake, but we will not be treating it with herbicide this year.  We will negotiate with the State and attempt to duplicate our 2010 success in 2015.

Dam Meeting Scheduled for August 2nd

Construction Postponed

Repairs to the Lake Fairlee dam will not be made this summer.  In spite of the best efforts of the three towns that share Lake Fairlee (Fairlee, Thetford, and West Fairlee) the original schedule proved too ambitious.   A plan is in place, however, and we are hoping to remove and replace the dam in the summer of 2015.

Engineering studies have been completed, and initial plans prepared by DuBois & King, consulting engineers.  They conducted geologic surveys, collected hydrologic data, and explored construction options and permitting considerations.  They provided an initial cost estimates, which PC Construction has refined.  The repair will include the placement of a temporary cofferdam, the complete removal of the existing dam, and the installation of a properly engineered dam in the same location.  During construction the camp that straddles the middle of the dam will be jacked up, then lowered onto new pilings when the new dam is in place.

This summer DuBois & King will begin the next phase of planning, which involves working with State and Federal permitting agencies to develop final construction plans.  Once the final plans are drafted and the permits secured, we will invite bids from qualified construction companies.  Then we will select the best proposal, and award a contract for the work, conditioned on the successful passage of the required bond issues.  The voters of the three towns will be asked to approve issuance of the bonds and the creation of a joint Lake Fairlee Commission at Town Meeting next March.

The first of a series of public meetings will be held on August 2nd at which interested citizens can see the plans and learn about the proposed agreement among the towns and the cost sharing arrangement.  We will explain the economic importance of the lake to the towns, and its impact on property taxes.  Three other meetings will be held during the fall.

Review of 2013 Herbicide Treatment

Based on the recommendation of Lycott, Inc., and with the concurrence of State scientists this year we treated approximately 35 acres of the lake with Renovate OTF.  We were able to devise a strategy that accommodated the rare proserpinaca palustris growing near the mouth of Middle Brook.  The application was delayed by equipment malfunction, but a plan was quickly developed which allowed the procedure to progress the next day.  We are grateful to the State, and particularly to Matthew Probasco, for being flexible under difficult circumstances in the field.  Details of the treatment, including locations, concentrations, and problems are covered thoroughly in in Lycott’s “Final Report for Year Four of Myriophyllum spicatum Management” which has been separately submitted to DEC.

The treatment was not as successful as we had hoped.  Our only other experience with triclopyr in the lake (2010) was a resounding success.  Then nearly all of the E. milfoil growing in the lake was soon decaying on the bottom.  In 2013 only the treated areas along the northwestern shore remained milfoil free at the end of the summer.  Most of the rest of the perimeter of the lake showed growth in the September survey.  In particular, the bed at the mouth of Middle Brook that was a primary focus of our efforts, was growing robustly.  

Some good news . . . and some bad

We have receive the results of tests run on samples taken from the lake on June 17th.  We tested the same five locations, and none contained more than 15  ppb (parts per billion) of triclopyr.  Therefore the “voluntary” restriction on drinking and cooking with water from the lake has been lifted.  Again we remind you that we recommend that you never drink lake water without treatment or filtration.

At the same time we have been informed that, because triclopyr was found at detectable levels at the downstream testing site, we are required to extend the restriction (again, voluntary) on irrigation an additional 1.5 miles downstream. In accordance with the terms of our permit, certified letters have been sent to property owners downstream as far as 621 Barker Road.

[the following is the opinion of the author, who is not an expert]  We believe that the State’s restriction on irrigation is overly broad.  Triclopyr is an effective herbicide for dicots.  It is not toxic to monocots (e.g. grasses) or Gymnosperms (e.g. conifers).  There is no danger from irrigation of lawns.  In addition, the requirement that the concentration of triclopyr be less than one ppb (part per billion) Before the restriction is lifted seems unnecessarily low.  We would welcome some quantitatidata justification.


Results from First Post-Treatment Water Testing

We are required by our State permit to analyze water samples from the lake periodically after the herbicide treatment to determine the concentration of triclopyr present.  The removal of various restrictions on lake use depend on the concentration declining below certain levels.

Sampling Locations

The first samples were taken on Saturday, June 2nd, approximately 48 hours after the treatment.  They were collected from four locations around the lake where the herbicide was applied, and one downstream, as directed by the State.  Samples were obtained using a Van Doren collector, a device that allows collection from a specified depth in the water column.  We took samples from four feet from the bottom, or less in shallow locations.

The samples were refrigerated until Monday morning, when they were dispatched via FedEx overnight in their own little cooler to the SePro lab in North Carolina.  This is the company that manufactures the Renovate OTF formulation of triclopyr that we used.  They have a GCMS which can measure the concentration of triclopyr down to less than 1 part per billion.

A few days later the results came back.  The herbicide was applied at 2.0 parts per million (ppm), which is 2000 parts per billion (ppb).  The concentrations measured two days later in the areas treated ranged from 36 ppb to 370 ppb.

      number location concentration
1 North end 56.8
2 Aloha Hive 370.2
3 Middlebrook cove 36.2
4 Lochearn cove 130.2
5 1 mile downstream 32.8

This tenfold difference between the lowest and highest concentrations measured is unexplained, but repeats our experience three years ago LINK.

The restriction on use of the lake for swimming, fishing, and boating was lifted on Sunday, June 2nd.  The restriction on using the water from the lake for drinking or food preparation will be lifted once the herbicide concentration is less than 75 ppb.  Based on our earlier experience we are hopeful that this will occur two weeks or so after the treatment.  Therefore we plan to test again the week of June 17th.


So, we finally got the herbicide in the lake . . .

On Thursday morning the crew arrived and the boat arrived and the truck laden with pallets of triclopyr arrived. Will Stevenson, from Lycott Environmental  took his skiff out to warn a fishing boat of the impending herbicide treatment.  The pontoon boat was launched, and motored down to Aloha hive’s shore, where the herbicide was being unloaded from the truck.  That was the last thing that went well for a while.

Matthew and Will

It would take about seven trips with the pontoon boat to distribute the required amount of chemical.  The first load was onboard, but the motor would not start.  They tried everything, from drying the spark plug to a fresh fuel filter to a new battery.  Ultimately it was determined that there was water in the gas tanks.  New tanks with fresh gasoline were brought, and the motor was still nonresponsive.   The motor was taken to the local marine store, and diagnosed with a broken flywheel (later determined to be a broken flywheel key, no less debilitating).  No replacement boat nor motor could be found.  Finally – about four hours later – a new motor was purchased, to be installed overnight.

BUT the permit allowing us to perform the treatment was for that day, Thursday May 30th.  Further, it specified that the lake could not be closed on Saturday or Sunday.  Delaying the application until Friday would mean that there could be no swimming, fishing, or boating in the lake through Saturday.  We explored the possibility of postponing the treatment until the next week, but could not.

     Herbicide secured overnight in the Aloha Hive boathouse

Fortunately Matthew Probasco, the Aquatic Nuisance Control and Pesticide General Permit Coordinator from the Vermont DEC, was at the lake to oversee the treatment.  After some discussion he agreed to allow us to proceed with the application on Friday, provided that we were able to provide actual notice of the change to the lake users and residents.  So early Friday morning volunteers from the Lake Fairlee Association posted signs on the three Town Halls, made changes on the 46 signs posted around the lake, and visited every one of the hundred or so houses and camps on the lake.  Where we found people at home we explained what was happening.  Otherwise we posted a notice where it would be seen by anyone entering with the same information.  In every case those we met were supportive of the treatment and wished us good luck.

Will picked up the pontoon boat with new motor installed and was on the lake by about 8am.  Shortly the crew arrived and the first batch of herbicide was loaded aboard.  The boat departed and disappeared around the corner headed to the north end of the lake.  An hour later it had not returned.  Now there was a problem with the chemical being so moist that it was clumping up and not flowing smoothly down into the eductor – which is the gadget that creates a suspension of the herbicide particles in water so that it can be sprayed out on the lake.  After several experiments Will figured out how to rig sire screens in the intale of the eductor which would catch and break up the offending clumps.  The treatment was finished by mid afternoon.

We are grateful to all who participated and helped overcome the various difficulties.  Many thanks to all.


Interesting Lake Health Piece on VPR

On Vermont Edition this week there was a ten minute segment about lake health in Lake Memphremagog.  The part of this lake which is in Quebec is governed by strict laws protecting its shorelines.  The interviewee is a person who patrols the lake and shoreline and reports infringing construction, destruction of the buffer, etc.  Fascinating.

Click HERE.