The Hartford Parks & Recreation Department is hosting a volunteer day to have volunteer assist with the control of the spreading of eurasian watermilfoil at Dewey’s Mills Pond located in Quechee on Saturday, July 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Meet at the Dewey’s Pond landing on Main Street. Volunteers will be taught how harvest the plant through hand pulling.
In cooperation with the U.S. Corp of Engineers control efforts to keep the eurasian watermilfoil are being made through hand pulling and suction harvesting the plant. The U.S. Corp of Engineers, Town of Hartford and State of Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation has been working together since 2003 to keep Dewey’s Mills Pond clear of the nuisance species.
QUECHEE — Just like he’s done every summer for the last decade, Gary Pelton spent Monday in a life preserver and blue wet shoes, sitting in his canoe in the middle of Dewey’s Pond. He reaches his entire arm underneath the water and then pulls out long strands of a green weed called milfoil by the handful.
Pelton, a former wildlife biologist who worked for the U.S. Army, has been working at Dewey’s Pond pulling milfoil by hand ever since he discovered the invasive weed in 2003. Back then, he could manage the milfoil, getting interns to scuba dive with him and help him pull the weed.
It all changed after Tropical Storm Irene. First the storm washed away the lily pads, which prevented the milfoil from growing. It also washed away 40 feet of sediment and all of the Elodea — the non-invasive plant that grew where the sunlight touched the bed of the pond. Then, the milfoil spread.
Now, thick blankets of milfoil nearly cover the entire pond. Even though Pelton retired in January, he’s taking care of the entire 150-acre pond by himself.
“If I don’t do it, I don’t think anybody else will,” he said.
Sixty-six lakes and ponds are infested with the plant, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. It is typically spread by boats — pieces of the plant cling to a boat’s motor or trailer, and it takes just a fragment of the plant less than a few inches long to start a new one. Left unmanaged, milfoil can overcome a pond, sucking the oxygen from the lake, killing everything in it.
“All I know is that if we don’t do anything about it, there isn’t going to be a pond,” said Hartford Parks and Recreation Director Tad Nunez.
It isn’t possible to fish in Dewey’s Pond anymore and Pelton rarely sees swimmers or kayakers. If Pelton stopped what he was doing, in five years, the pond would be completely taken over, he said. Each year for the past 10 years the town has received an aquatic nuisance grant for $11-$18,000, which pays for wetsuits, supplies and a suction harvester to come for one week every year.
This last week, AE Commercial Diving Services has been in Quechee with a suction harvester. The scuba diver gathers and feeds the plants into a vacuum hose while a second crewmate at the end of the hose collects the milfoil and dumps it into a blue bucket. They fill 50 one-gallon buckets each day at Dewey’s Pond.
AE Commercial Diving Services manages about 25 other bodies of water.
“This is one of the worst we’ve seen,” said Rob Patton who dives for the company.
Some states have used a weevil, a beetle less than six millimeters long, that feeds and develops only on the milfoil. But it’s not legal to use in Vermont without a permit. The next step would be to dredge it, which could cost up to $750,000.
“If we don’t do anything, we’ve been told that it would become the Dewey’s Marsh,” Nunez said. “Mother Nature is going to continue to grow, it’s just inevitable.”
Sometimes Pelton is the only person on the pond. He’s spent 140 hours pulling the weed so far this summer. On Sept. 14, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Pelton is asking volunteers to come to Dewey’s Pond to help him get as much milfoil out of the pond as possible. Though he admits it may be a difficult process.
“We’ll never get all of it,” Pelton said. “There’s always going to be that last piece.”