The Presidents Report Presented at the Annual Meeting 8/21/2021

by | Sep 30, 2021 | Meetings, News | 0 comments

President’s Report: A Year of Challenges and New Directions

  • The one constant for more than a year now has been COVID-19. It was raging last summer, causing the Fund to hold its AM virtually. While the pandemic has waxed and waned since then, it is unfortunately intensifying again, so please stay safe.

 

  • Here on the lake and within the LSSCF, many things have changed this past year as we have addressed new situations.

 

  • Let’s begin by looking back to where we were at the time of last year’s AM.
  • Navigating Little Lake in August 2020 was growing increasingly difficult as EWM proliferated everywhere, despite the best efforts of our harvesting program.
  • The question of turning the aerators back on, much less setting up a full-lake aeration system, was up in the air, trapped in a seemingly endless review by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (or DEC).
  • Talks about cooperation between the Fund and the Lake St Catherine Association (LSCA) had barely gotten underway and were still mired in a history of bad blood and mistrust.
  • Perhaps, most importantly, the idea of supporting the use of herbicides in Little Lake was not even on the table.

 

  • So, what happened and why?
  • The aeration issue, which the LSSCF Board still strongly supports as the best, long-term option for dealing with the problem of excess organic material (AKA, muck) in Little Lake, had been up in the air since the fall of 2018 when the DEC told us to turn the system off.
  • Throughout the rest of 2020, we continued to fight as hard as possible to convince the DEC to approve our application for a permit to expand the system across all of Little Lake, as well as a permit to utilize bioaugmentation through enzymes to accelerate the decomposition of the muck.
  • As 2020 drew to a close, and it became increasingly apparent that the DEC was going to deny our permit applications, we stepped up our dialogue with the LSCA, looking for ways to work together for the health of the entire LSC system.
  • Led by former Fund Board member Rick Newell and later by new member Karla Dendor, we worked on specific areas of cooperation starting with the Lake Wise program and then on how the combination of herbicide use and harvesting to maintain navigation lanes in Little Lake might work.
  • After the DEC handed down its final decision in early March 2021 denying both permits, we explored appeal options, but based on legal advice, decided an appeal would be too expensive and unlikely to succeed.
  • Knowing that something had to be done to combat the milfoil, we decided to join forces with the LSCA to raise funds for a three-year herbicide use plan to treat Little Lake. Thanks to your generous support, we quickly raised the needed funds for Year 1 and have a good head start on funding for Year 2. At the same time, we started work on a detailed plan to monitor conditions in Little Lake to ensure that the benefits of killing off the EWM were not offset by new problems such as fish kills or a drop in dissolved oxygen.
  • We also worked with the LSCA to step up community awareness about the need to control the spread of milfoil floaters to avoid having this highly effective plant reestablish itself over time. This meant devoting operating time of our harvester to skim up floaters, educating boaters to stick to the navigational channels in Little Lake to allow the herbicide time to do its work, and organizing a meeting at the Town Park and a Community Day to highlight how the entire community can help win this fight.

 

  • It is early days, but so far, the results of this major policy shift have been promising.
  • Without question, the herbicide application has knocked back the EWM growth in Little Lake.
  • Potential problems such as fish kills and algae blooms have not occurred. The rapid growth of native aquatic plants to fill in the void caused by the die-off of the milfoil has not yet become a problem.
  • The boating traffic in Little Lake has soared including some intrepid tubers and water skiers. While this is great to see, we need to temper our enthusiasm with a bit of caution. EWM spreads through fragmentation, either naturally or caused by outside forces like boats. Until we have gotten the milfoil under control, we urge everyone to use the navigation channels around the lake and straight down the middle.

 

  • The decision to support herbicide use was a wrenching one, especially since the Fund was set up more than a decade ago specifically to find non-chemical ways to restore Little Lake to its former glory. Moreover, we know that herbicide use is not going to solve the core problem, namely the muck.

 

  • With the option of using aeration closed, at least for now, however, we needed to adjust. Not all Fund Board members agreed with this change, which led to some tension within our deliberations and, ultimately, to some resignations.

 

  • Thankfully, even those who stepped down remain committed to supporting the Fund’s efforts and have pledged to help wherever they can.

 

  • A few notes of thanks before I close:

 

  • This year has been marked by tremendous community support for the Fund. You and your fellow members responded very generously to our special fundraising appeal last fall. You stepped up to match the funds donated by Board members, which resulted in over $19K to underwrite our work.

 

  • The community pitched in again in June by participating in and supporting our first Fishing Tournament. This event was a great success and a lot of fun. It also raised over $3K. Special thanks to organizers Rich and Peggy Young, Sue Ritchie, and Ron and Heather Carleton. Mark your calendars – we will do this again, probably in June.

 

  • We also want to thank the residents of Wells for voting, once again this year, to provide $20K to support the Fund’s work. Special thanks to the members of the Wells Select Board, former State Representative Robin Chesnut-Tangerman, newly-elected State Representative Sally Ackey, and State Senator Brian Collamore for their strong encouragement and support for our efforts to convince the DEC to allow the use of aeration and bioaugmentation in Little Lake.

 

  • Saving Little Lake will take years of effort by all of us. Please urge your friends and neighbors to help in the fight by joining the Fund.

 

Delivered at the LSCCF Annual Meeting in August 2021