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LWTF News Archives: Summer 2007

Message from Tom McGowan | Curlyleaf Pondweed Battle | State Approves Funding | Lake Conditions & Clarity | Transitions | End-of-Summer Updates

Message from Tom McGowan

Dear Friends of Waramaug:

The Task Force is very pleased to report that this summer after a long winter of careful preparation and a thorough spring invasive weed clean up Lake Waramaug is looking and feeling much better!

As you will read in this issue the Task Force spent the past two months surveying the lake for the invasive plant Curlyleaf Pondweed and, with the help of a specialized diving team, virtually every one of these non native weeds we could find has been pulled from the lake bottom!

We feel fortunate to have accomplished this without the use of a chemical application. It was a time consuming and expensive project and we are not done yet!

We are pleased to report the legislature finally approved funding for a State Invasive Plant Program and Coordinator. It has taken 3 years to accomplish this goal but was worth the effort. An effective statewide invasive plant prevention program will benefit Waramaug and all Connecticut lakes.

Our fight to maintain and restore lake water clarity continues. After enjoying steady water clarity improvement during the 1990’s and early 2000’s we are concerned that progress has stalled over the past two years. In response to this we are stepping up our lake monitoring and research program and are funding two special water clarity projects.

This year we will continue to encourage more land preservation. We will also focus on forging relationships with the area land trusts and the Lake Association to educate and facilitate donations of land and conservation easements.

We would like to thank all our 2006 donors. While many Connecticut lakes continue to decline, your generosity has enabled the Task Force to improve Waramaug’s water clarity and stave off an invasive weed threat. We have much more to do, so please give generously.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas A.J. McGowan, Executive Director

Curlyleaf Pondweed Battle: Task Force Wins Round One

We are pleased to report that we have had great success in controlling the invasive plant curlyleaf pondweed. Not knowing how much new growth we would find this spring we worked all winter to develop alternative plans designed to meet all possibilities.

Our Goal: Act quickly and aggressively to stop the spread of this invasive which if not controlled could fill lake shorelines.

Our Strategy: Develop non-chemical removal alternatives but at the same time apply to the State for a permit to apply an EPA approved chemical treatment - if necessary.

Our advisors recommended the use of chemicals, the same that is being used to control invasive plants at Bantam Lake, because they expected to find a robust pond weed growth this year at Waramaug. The Task Force has never resorted to the use of chemicals in its many years of restoring the lake and we very much hoped we would not need to start now.

Survey Shows Less Pond Weed Than We Expected!

You can’t imagine just how delighted we were to find that when spring arrived our scientists at first could not find ANY curlyleaf pondweed! Despite all warnings that it would be the first plant to sprout in the lake and should be visible in early April we detected NONE until May 3rd.

We found a sizable grouping of plants deep in the cove on the west side of Arrowpoint, as expected. But the plants at that time were no more that 4 - 6’ high. We conducted several follow up inspections and found none on the State Park shoreline where it had been observed in 2006. Patches of plants were found in a number of locations along the North Shore Road shoreline, at Arrowpoint and the area near the Warren Town beach. Based on these surveys we were confident that we could tackle the curlyleaf problem with non-chemical methods.

Non-Chemical Removal Plan Launched

Last winter we conducted extensive research on the alternatives for non-chemical removal methods and interviewed potential contractors. We met with the Inland Wetland Commissions in Warren and Kent and were given permission to remove curlyleaf by hand pulling, use of filter fabric or hydro-suction methods.

In the spring we engaged Bruce Lockhart of Lockhart Environmental Services to conduct the curlyleaf plant removal project. Bruce, a former Executive Director of the Candlewood Lake Authority, is an experienced diver who specializes in removal of undesirable lake plants. He has experiencein all the areas we selected: diver hand pulling, laying filter fabric and he owns a powerful underwater "vacuum" or hydro-suction system designed to remove plant and soft sediment from lake bottoms.

Chris Shaw from Lockhart Environmental hand-pulling curlyleaf pondweed from the mouth of a small stream that flows into Lake Waramaug.

Hand Pulling. Since late May, Bruce and his team have been laboriously hand removing the curlyleaf pondweed from Lake Waramaug. Using snorkeling gear they carefully worked the affected shorelines swimming at the surface "hovering" over the plant beds and pulling plants individually. The pond weed, roots and all, were immediately bagged, placed on the shoreline for drying and then removed for disposal. Bruce reported even better news that we acted quickly enough so that about 90% of the plants they pulled had not yet formed turions, the seeds for next year’s plants.

Aquascreen. In February we ordered 11 rolls of 7’ x 100’ Aquascreen, a micro-porous filter fabric manufactured in Canada designed to control undesirable water plants. Spread over larger beds of plants this plastic fabric blocks sunlight killing the offensive plants. The fabric’s micro holes allow lake bed gases to escape which prevents it from billowing up and being dislodged by wave and wind action.

Bruce outfitted each Aquascreen roll with a permanently balanced weighting system along the fabric edges to ensure the Aquascreen will sink and remain in place. He also designed a handy system for rolling out each unit of the fabric. These modifications added to our expense but improved not only ease of installation but also removal. Aquascreen is very durable and with proper care and storage we expect to be able to use it for many years.

We are currently evaluating laying Aquascreen in a very shallow shoreline not far from the Warren Town beach where Bruce discovered a sizable bed of the curlyleaf. Hand pulling here is not possible because the water is too shallow for the divers to "hover" and pull. Neither can they walk and pull plants because foot movement disturbs the sediment which clouds the water thereby obscuring the view of the plants.

Using the Aquascreen here offers the opportunity to monitor the effectiveness of the screen, and the rate of build up of debris on top of the screen and its ability to stop the turion seeds from sprouting.

Resurvey and Follow up. As this is written Bruce and his team are completing the hand removal process to be followed up with another shoreline survey. He will examine all shallow areas of the lake to ensure we have not missed an infected area. Curlyleaf pondweed typically dies off when the hot weather arrives in earnest so before long this summer’s removal work will be done.

The Future. We are under no illusions that this year’s success ends our work. Pulling weeds from an often murky "underwater garden" almost insures divers will miss some weeds. Inevitably some turion seeds will remain in the lake sediment ready to give rise to another (we hope much reduced) set of curlyleaf plants next year. Accordingly we will continue to actively monitor the likely sites of newly emerging plants and be prepared next year to conduct this removal operation again.

State Approves Funds for Invasive Plant Detection/Control Program

At the end of this year’s session the legislature approved and Governor Rell signed a bill authorizing 1 million dollars ($500,000 a year for each of the next two years) to implement the recommendations of the State Invasive Plant Council and establish a State program to combat the spread of both terrestrial and aquatic invasive plants.

Approval of this funding after three years of effort is a great victory for the Connecticut Federation of Lakes and all lakes and ponds in the State of Connecticut.

These funds will permit the State to hire an Invasive Plant Coordinator who will coordinate the invasive plant functions of the various State agencies. The Coordinator will also develop educational, training and a rapid response program designed to control the spread of invasive plants.

At long last it also provides the funding needed to enforce the law passed four years ago banning the sale and transport of invasive plants. This enforcement work will fall primarily to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and the State Department of Agriculture.

Although no specific amount of this fund is earmarked for grants these funds can also be used to support a grant program to Towns with aquatic invasive plant removal and control projects.

Tom McGowan, Executive Director of the Task Force who is a member of the Invasive Plant Council, said, "We have all our area legislators to thank for backing this bill and finally getting it passed, especially Sen. Andrew Roraback who helped us get this started and stuck with it for the past three years. Now we need to get this program up and running and stop these plants from moving between lakes."

Lake Conditions and Plans for Improving Water Clarity

Water clarity this spring was similar to the pattern experienced for the past two years. In late May the visibility was recorded by our scientists at about 11 feet but by the end of June clarity had dropped to just under 8 feet. On June 27th the scientists observed a mild algae bloom. Pending confirmation from the laboratory this appears to be anabaena which is a stringy shaped, green filamentous algae.

Troubling Trends
While 8 feet of clarity is certainly acceptable we are concerned about this early algae start and disappointed that over the past two summers we have not enjoyed the same level of average annual water clarity experienced in the prior three years. Dr. Kortmann has observed that the mild winters such as we had this past winter have encouraged an earlier start to algae growth in Connecticut lakes. Little or no snow cover on the ice permits greater light penetration, warms the lake water column and helps jump start algae growth in the spring.

Overall, Kortmann is concerned about the change in spring, summer and fall transitions. For example the past two years we had an extended summer and a short fall. These trends favor prolonged lake algae growth and reduction in overall water clarity.

Recommendations for Improvements
This winter the Task Force studied Ecosystems Consulting Services’ annual report and discussed its findings and recommendations with Dr. Kortmann. On this basis the Board increased this year’s lake monitoring budget and approved two special projects designed to combat these troubling trends:

  • Layer Air Systems    Ecosystem’s divers will more closely monitor the operation of the two Layer Air systems and depending upon the lake conditions will make adjustments to the air ports in these installations. Ports allow the scientists to regulate the return flow of cool well oxygenated water to specific levels in the lake to improve the performance of the systems.

  • Ash Swamp    Increased monitoring of Ash Swamp where the positive interplay and "kidney" benefit between the lake and the swamp may be diminishing. The invasive plant loose strife continues to clog the swamp despite the efforts of Ash Swamp neighbors who are trying to save the swamp.

  • Frost Site    Authorized modifications to the Arrowpoint "Frost" hypolimnetic withdrawal and circulation system to improve its operational capacity. This system injects over 2 million gallons of cool, well oxygenated water into the lake every day. It also takes phosphorous from the lake and "binds" it to the lake’s natural iron, rendering it unavailable to feed algae growth. To enhance these benefits Dr. Kortmann will install a small compressor and make other improvements that increase water circulation, enhance oxygen injections and bind more phosphorus.

  • Alewife    Alewife stocked in the lake by the State in the 60’s harvested the lake’s zooplankton which robbed the lake of the natural predator of lake algae. For 20 years the Task Force has stocked the lake with large brown trout that feed on and help suppress the alewife population. There has been some improvement in the zooplankton population but much more needs to be done. Dr. Kortmann will research additional methods to accelerate restoring the natural balance of zooplankton in the lake. We will report on his recommendations in the fall.


    Recently we were greatly saddened with the loss of our Board member Ernest Emerling of Warren. A board member since 2003 Ernest was a very talented man who loved the lake and made many good friends here. He was always willing to help in any way to achieve our goals and we will miss him dearly.

    After living and raising a family on the lake for too many years to recount -- Kay Brush, our quiet and effective Board member of 15 years, has resigned and moved to Princeton, New Jersey. Kay and her late husband Graham were always great supporters and helpers with the work of saving the lake and we were so fortunate to have them on our side. After a farewell lunch with her long-time friends and Board members Kay has packed off to Princeton. We hope that she comes back to visit often.

    End-of-Summer 2007 Updates

    On Sunday September 16, a joint meeting of the Lake Waramaug Association and the Lake Waramaug Task Force was held at the Lake Waramaug Country Club. Attendees heard a generally positive report on several fronts, including water quality and clarity; the ongoing threat from existing and potential invasive species; safety and progress on the Washington Boat Launch project.

    An announcement was made of an extremely generous gift from John A. Griner III to the Task Force to create a land preservation and protection fund. Sadly, only four days after the joint Association/Task Force meeting, John Griner, who had fought courageously against the grip of cancer, passed away. John loved Lake Waramaug and was one of our greatest supporters. He will be sorely missed not only here but in so many other places for his good works, his great charm and enormously positive attitude.

    The Task Force also announced the placement of a bench and plaque at its buffer planting site on West Shore Road acknowledging the extraordinary inspiration and leadership of Janet M. Bates. She is pictured here, enjoying said bench.

    Some highlights from the meeting:

    Washington Boat Launch: Washington's First Selectman Dick Sears announced that although bids on the project came in higher than expected, work will continue on schedule due to the generosity of the Lake Waramaug Association which will fund a $60,000 budget shortfall. The project is the key to the success of the agreement between the State of Connecticut and the Lake's three towns (Washington, Warren and Kent) to insure inspection of motorboats and prevent the spread of invasive plants.

    Invasive Species: Task Force Executive Director Tom McGowan gave an update on the Curlyleaf Pondweed eradication program, which continues to be successful without the use of chemicals. Mr. McGowan also warned of the spread northward of Hydrilla (see www.invasive.org/eastern/biocontrol/7hydrilla.html) and the need for continuing vigilance with respect to Eurasian Watermilfoil.

    He also warned that this year growth of the invasive plant Fanwort suddenly accelerated in Bantam River and the Bantam Lake system. Little Pond, a part of the Bantam River system and a beautiful water body on the grounds of the White Memorial Foundation, is now choked with Fanwort. This heightens the need to guard against boat movement between Bantam Lake and all other water bodies.

    On a positive note McGowan reported that the State is finally about to start up a State invasive plant prevention program. The State legislature finally passed a bill which was effective July 1 authorizing the creation of a special account in the State DEP budget for the control of invasive species. One million dollars ($500,000 for each of the next two years) was approved for deposit in this account. The bill states that the funds shall be used for the purposes of controlling invasive species, including, but not limited to, employing an invasive species coordinator, developing an early detection and rapid response policy, and educating the public regarding invasive species.

    He also announced that there will be a gathering of area lake and pond organizations on October 12 at the Woodridge Lake Clubhouse. The Task Force, working with the Connecticut Federation of Lakes, has organized this regional lake meeting to both educate and improve communications between lake organizations, especially in the common fight against invasive aquatic weeds. For more information on this contact Tom McGowan at 868-0331.

    Presentation on the Science of Saving Our Lake: Dr. Robert Kortmann, the Task Force's limnologist, gave an educational presentation on the status of the lake, how the current systems we employ work to restore water quality and ideas for future restoration programs.

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