Residents on offensive in battle against milfoil

Property owners at Tinmouth Pond, also known as Chipman Lake, an 80-acre lake located in the southwest corner of Tinmouth in Rutland County, have taken what they are calling a "green-alternative" route to treating invasive Eurasian water milfoil-a route the no other Vermont lake association has tried to date. While the results are preliminary they show some promise.

Tinmouth Pond drains directly into the Tinmouth Channel, the state's largest class I wetlands. The channel provides high quality habitat for wildlife and migratory birds, including some threatened and endangered species.

While many Vermont lakes associations are employing chemical treatments, the Tinmouth Pond Milfoil Project opted to use SolarBee-brand circulators in conjunction with a suction-harvesting program.

The pond's relatively small size makes the use of SolarBees a viable tool, according to Holly Webb with the project.

"SolarBees are floating solar-powered circulators that mix the water vertically and horizontally, drawing water from below the machines and spreading it very slowly across the top of the lake," Webb said. "Circulation accelerates the biological and chemical processes that clean up the water, allowing nutrients in the lake to be effectively processed. Annual aquatic surveys indicate the improved lake ecology has stimulated growth of native aquatic vegetation, forcing milfoil to compete against it for habitat."

Lakes with intense milfoil infestation can experience toxic water conditions, especially shallow lakes such as Tinmouth Pond.

"While periodic blue-green algae development was evident prior to introduction of the SolarBees, none has been present in the pond since the SolarBees were installed in 2006. After three years' use of SolarBees in the lake, native vegetation increased 9 percent in 2006, 9 percent in 2007, and a fastastic 19 percent in 2008," Webb said.

Native plants are successfully competing against the notoriously invasive milfoil. Eurasian water milfoil remained under 8 percent of total lake coverage in 2008.

"Seeking an ecologically friendly alternative to chemical lake treatments, pond property owners donated the funds to purchase the first SolarBee, with a second unit financed. After three years with continuing positive results, the Tinmouth Pond Milfoil Project is now seeking community support from donors interested in helping to retire a $38,000 loan for the second SolarBee," Webb said.

Researchers are investigating milfoil as a potentional biofuel source.

To learn more: Holly Webb, Tinmouth Pond Milfoil Project, 20 Chipman Dr., Tinmouth, 05773, or e-mail: hwebbvt@vermontel.net.

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