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Rogers Lake Votes To Harvest Weeds

The Rogers Lake Authority unanimously approved a recommendation Tuesday to use harvesting as the way to rid the lake of invasive plants.

Residents clapped upon the passing of the recommendation, which will be made to the boards of selectmen of Lyme and Old Lyme, the two towns that share the lake. Many residents have objected to the proposed use of the herbicide diquat dibromide to kill the weed variable watermilfoil, saying that diquat, though deemed safe by the state Department of Environmental Protection, could cause unknown health problems down the road.

Authority Chairman Fred Holth was excused from the meeting for health reasons. Holth said in a seven-page letter addressed to the authority members and read by Secretary Liz Sunshine that he supported a vote in favor of harvesting. He said that though he felt the use of herbicides did not pose a “significant threat” to the lake or lakeside residents, he was worried about the binding of diquat with soil, which could create “a possible long-term effect with no expiration.”

The authority passed a recommendation to harvest the weeds for two years, preferably starting next summer, at an undetermined cost and with the possibility of eventually purchasing equipment for the towns to harvest on their own rather than rely on outside vendors. An initial estimate for harvesting was quoted at a public hearing earlier this year as $30,000 per weed-cutting session. It was not clear whether the estimate was for the center of the lake, where the weeds are most concentrated, or for the entire lake.

Holth had said in two public hearings during the summer that harvesting was not a viable solution because it, like mowing a lawn, is a temporary solution.

Acting Chairman Brian Kyle said after the meeting that the authority decided in favor of harvesting “because there were so many issues and concerns that the community as a whole had” about herbicide use. Kyle said the authority wanted to make a recommendation that the community would support.

Kyle said there are still some concerns about harvesting, mainly that cutting the weeds could fragment the milfoil throughout the lake and help spread it.

“A small fragment of the plant can actually re-root itself,” said Kyle.

The non-native species looks like a Christmas tree and grows in excess of an inch a day. It was found to be choking the center of the lake in a 2003 study, but the recent dry summer exposed a larger area of weed growth than originally estimated, authority members said.

“It was like a carpet on the top of the lake,” said Kyle.

Resident Elin Larson urged others to actively battle milfoil. She said she and her family rake and remove plants from the waterfront area of her property every year and don't use fertilizers in their lawn, which can run off into the lake and stimulate weed growth.

“Let's take a proactive personal interest in managing our waterfront,” Larson said.

Resident Diana Young said after the meeting that she was elated with the authority's decision.

But Maureen Plumleigh, a member of the Rogers Lake West Shores Association, warned that harvesting is not the solution.

“Harvesting is proven to exacerbate the problem,” she said.

Plumleigh, who also chairs the Committee for the Health of Rogers Lake, said the committee will be testing out inexpensive methods of treatment, including covering a portion of the lake with floating plastic to block the weeds' access to sunlight, to see whether there are other alternatives to treating the weed problem.

“We can do it,” Plumleigh said. “There's no reason to wait ... We'll build up and start with the lower-cost ideas and see where we're going to go from there.”
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