The Suncook Lakes

Milfoil Eradication

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In three years, variable milfoil went from about 1% coverage in Lower Suncook Lake to 100% coverage of areas that contained silt and sediment. This amounted to almost half the lake area. In 2004, the Suncook Lake Association (SLA) started an eradication plan called STOP Milfoil. It has restored the lake and it is now completely free of variable milfoil.


Ed Neister, chairman of the Suncook Lake Association Milfoil Control Committee, points out the numerous areas of the aquatic weed in Lower Suncook Lake documented through diving research. The lake will be treated with herbicide 2,4-D on Friday to kill the milfoil. (Citizen Photo/Krista Marrs)


Link to the National Public Radio Interview

The National Public Radio Interview:

Ed Neister has owned a summer place near Lower Suncook Lake for the past 6-7 years.

Sfx: motor

We are in his skiff, cruising around the lake, looking for milfoil.

Neister and a handful of other Suncook Lake residents have already begun working toward their goal this summer: eradicate the fast growing invasive plant.

With the help of a GPS system, the team has mapped many spots across the 300 acre lake, where the milfoil is growing.

Neister still remembers the shock of seeing milfoil for the first time.

:09 ...I was out just for a nice Saturday dive, and I'm swimming along, and I see this plant in front of me, and I'm right along the bottom. And I see this plant and it just, I'll never forget the image, I see this thing, and I start looking up and I can't believe it. I am standing up, and I'm almost six ft. and I'm on my I am seven and a half feet, and this thing is still over my head. And I think, my god, what the hell is this thing.

Milfoil is an invasive species that has taken root in 59 of the state's lakes.

Since the plant isn't native, there little to stop its growth.

And it has been known to grow so dense; it can impede motor boats, canoeists and even fish from passing through.

T. 12
:57 there's some right there...see it? Let me back up...there's another batch right there....there's another's very silky. You can see it right now...the light gets right down in it. It looks like a little fury pine tree doesn’t it?...look at how dense it is.

More than a pine tree, the plant resembles a dozen giant-sized fuzzy green worms, crawling over each other.

Neister turns off his engine.

Just seeing the huge growth gives him the shivers.

4:06 it scares the hell out of you when you see it. this is growing here, and people say, aw, it's not going to get does, and it literally saturates an area and what happens is you see something like this, and you get other plant material and pretty soon it becomes a marsh, and a wetlands, and pretty soon you've lost the ability to use it as a lake.

Neister and his neighbors are hoping they'll be able to avoid that.

In addition to the GPS-guided mapping, their game plan calls for the application of the herbicide 24D.

After that, divers will follow up, hand pulling any plants not killed by the herbicide.

They will conduct such search and destroy missions until the water turns cold this fall.

Speaking with the confidence of a grizzled football coach, Neister predicts this approach will ultimately lead to the eradication of milfoil on Lower Suncook.

He's optimistic because in his search for a solution to milfoil, he came across a Washington State report that said milfoil eradication is possible.

University of Washington research associate Marianna Tomayo says the Suncook plan has the markings of successful operations she's seen in Washington.

3:18 often the best strategy is to have a combination fo programs, having divers, having 24D, and the divers are key too. Even if you are doing the spraying, you have to monitor...if some areas were missed. Often you see really good programs if you are combining techniques.

The state is contributing some $60 thousand dollars to the effort.

State officials are looking to the Suncook experiment as a potential model.

Part of the optimism is due to the fact that the chemical 24D will be used instead of dyquot, an herbicide considered to be less potent.

UNH Associate Professor Jeffrey Schloss says another reason people are excited is because they want to do more than just throw money at the problem.

4:04 ...the major interest here is it is not just an application, it is a well thought out research approach on a lake which has a very well organized set of volunteers that are willing to do additional control methods, diving and handpullling, to try to see if we can have a truly successful treatment.

Some wonder, if you can eradicate an unrelenting plant like milfoil, what is going into the water.

24D is a powerful herbicide.

Swimming in the lake will be banned for seven days after the application.

People who take water directly from the lake won't be able to for 30 days.

Part of the Suncook experiment will include the University monitoring nearby wells for 24D contamination.

In the event of contamination, the lake association has promised to mitigate the situation and bring in fresh water.

Schloss, who has a background in water resources, says he is not too concerned about environmental risks.

13:33 you always want to be concerned about any kind of treatment. This is an aggressive treatment ofr an aggressive weed species. I wouldn't advocate the use of this in all cases nor would I advocate it for anything but a non-native species and I would prefer to seem some alternative methods come along...but in the controlled use of this I am not as concerned as I would be if they were using some other substance, or not as much thought went into this project.

The Lower Suncook Lake is scheduled to be treated with 24D Friday.

For NHPR News, I'm DG.


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