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What is Milfoil? Lake Rescue & Lake Pauline

One of the reasons why so many people call the Okemo Valley home is because of the four-season lifestyle it offers, including spending the summer by the lake! Did you know the area has its very own lakes region? Here you will find a chain of lakes that allow visitors and locals alike to enjoy the crisp and clean water. While these lakes look quite perfect on the surface, underneath the water lives an invasive species that could cause great damage to our beloved bodies of water. 


Eurasian milfoil is an aquatic invasive species that can grow into thick surface mats that interfere with swimming and boating activities and crowd out native fish and plant species. It is not native to North America, likely arriving in the 1940s. Today, however, it is found in lakes and ponds across much of North America. Milfoil plants grow through a root system and also from fragments that float downstream or are attached to boats or their propellers. The fact that the plants spread so easily, coupled with a growth rate of a foot a week in the hot summer months makes this plant extremely invasive if left unchecked. Any disruption to the water, such as flooding, outboard motors, or other disruption easily causes fragmentation and the spread of the plant.


Milfoil was first found in Lake Rescue in 1998. The Lake Rescue Association board acted quickly to employ divers to hand the discovered plants. Every year following this finding, divers have been employed by the association to survey the lake. From 1999 to 2003 our paid divers searched and removed about 100 milfoil plants. Lake Rescue was free of milfoil from 2004 until 2013. Unfortunately, Tropical Storm Irene hit our region in 2011 and the massive inflow of sediment from the storm made it into our lake, causing much difficulty to search for milfoil in 2012 and 2013 when the first, new milfoil plant was found by professional divers. In 2014, the LRA began its Greeter Program, in which they would greet boats at the Fishing Access boat launch to check for plant material on boats, as we learned it can spread quickly, and pulling out fragments is important. 


Today, Lake Rescue has seen extreme milfoil growth that developed in 2020. The LRA board agreed to purchase their own diver-assisted suction harvester (DASH) boat. A pre-owned pontoon boat was purchased and was retrofitted by the divers as a DASH-equipped boat, ready to employ on July 1, 2021. The LRA continues to take action to keep our lakes free of invasive species so that we can enjoy the water for years to come. 


We are hopeful that within a few years we will have milfoil under control, though probably not eradicated, and continued vigilance will be required long into the future. Milfoil is not difficult to identify, so if you see floating fragments, help our community by discarding them. It typically grows in shallow (less than 20 feet) water and the tops of the plant, both stems and leaves are often red. If you see such a plant, email the LRA right away with the location at lakerescueassn@gmail.com., mark it with some kind of temporary buoy, and our divers will come and investigate when they are at the lake. Alternately, with training, homeowners can carefully pull the plants in shallow areas surrounding their waterfront.


For more details about Eurasian Milfoil, please click here. Thank you to the Lake Rescue Association for helping us write this informational review on milfoil. Thanks for helping our community!


- The Vermont Properties Team