Editorial: Getting back on top of milfoil

When at their town meetings next Monday, Salisbury and Leicester residents will be asked to approve a temporary hike in funds needed to get the milfoil eradication program back on top of the problem. The $5,000 or so in extra funding for each town isn’t a huge amount, but it is critical to the success of the program and the long-term health of Lake Dunmore and Fern Lake.

The temporary hike in funding is prompted by two issues: a significant reduction in state funding and the August flooding in 2008 that spurred a flurry of new milfoil growth. The expectation is that the additional funding will get the milfoil growth under control again, and future costs can be reduced.

The numbers tell the story.

In 2008, the Lake Dunmore Fern Lake Association had a milfoil eradication budget of $53,845. Of that, $22,274 was provided by the state, while Salisbury, Leicester and the LDFLA each paid a modest $2,624. The balance of the budget was provided by in-kind contributions of volunteer time, equipment and storage facilities.

Last year expenses grew to $67,247. That’s primarily because the pulling crew was increased from four to six due to the sudden growth in milfoil plants, and 40,000 plants were hand-pulled compared to just 18,415 in 2008. Because the state cut its funding almost in half, the LDFLA dipped into its bank reserves last year to pay an additional $5,473 (depleting its bank account) and will seek higher dues this year from members to help meet future expenses.

This year’s milfoil eradication budget is being pegged at $72,982, of which $47,987 is needed in cash. The expectation is for the state to give at the same reduced level it did last year ($12,500), coupled with $7,225 each from Leicester and Salisbury, and $21,037 from the LDFLA. Number crunchers will note that while the two towns are being asked for an additional $5,000, the LDFLA has increased its share by over $18,000.

While the lake association has taken the lead to cover for the state reduction, it makes economic sense for the two towns to help as well. That’s because the consequences of letting milfoil overtake the two lakes would greatly devalue property around the lake, and those properties currently make up a significant percentage of the towns’ grand list. Such a loss of value on lake properties in the two towns would force property taxes up throughout the rest of the town.

Plus, there would be a significant loss of recreational activities if the lakes lose their battle with milfoil. Even those area residents who only occasionally make it down to the lakes for a swim or fishing would see a precious resource lost, when that does not have to be the case.

The milfoil eradication program has been able to keep control of the weed’s spread for the past decade and is one of the more successful efforts in the state. The sudden hike in expenses will hopefully pass within the next couple of years, when once again, a team of four pickers will be able to handle the yearly effort and expenses can be reduced.

To get there, however, voters in Leicester and Salisbury will hopefully approve the applicable line item in their respective budgets.

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Addison County Independent

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Middlebury, VT 05753

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