Boat launch monitors at East Twin marina report successful dry run

Jeff Smith of Kinderhook, N.Y., drained and wiped down his Skeeter FXR20 at the conclusion of a day-long bass fishing derby on Sunday, April 21.

Debra A. Aleksinas

Boat launch monitors at East Twin marina report successful dry run

SALISBURY — The test run of a boat launch monitoring program at the East Twin marina, designed to keep invasive hydrilla from spreading, went off without a hitch on Sunday, April 21, according to Twin Lakes Association (TLA) officials.

The day-long soft launch coincided with a sanctioned bass fishing derby at East Twin, allowing a trio of state-trained monitors, all TLA board members, to have conversations with fishermen about invasive hydrilla’s presence in the lake, offer tips on preventing its spread, and visually inspect boats and trailers as they entered and exited the marina.

“It went better than we planned,” said TLA board member Adam Mayer, a full-time teacher, coach and resident at the nearby Salisbury School. He will be managing the Boat Launch Monitoring Program this summer as an employee of the town of Salisbury.

It was “just happenstance,” that the soft launch coincided with a bass fishing derby that drew about a dozen fishing vessels to East Twin Lake, said TLA president Grant Bogle, who was one of six board members who, a day earlier, completed the first of several training sessions offered by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

“We’re not an enforcement arm. What we are doing is educating people so that they do the right thing voluntarily, because the lake is a shared resource,” said Bogle. “Let’s not bring more in and transport whatever we have out.”

Mayer noted that “the goal is not to catch the boater, it’s to catch the spread of this highly invasive species. We will be interacting with the boaters. A big part of the process is like we’re becoming the hosts and stewards of the lake. The anglers love the lake, the water skiers love the lake…and we hope to preserve what we all love.”

Wanted: a few good monitors

The TLA is partnering with the town of Salisbury to hire a seasonal crew of eight to 10 boat launch monitors. They will be supplemented by trained volunteers from the community, including lake association members.

The monitors, under the supervision of Mayer, will greet boaters and explain and distribute educational materials related to the spread of hydrilla and other invasive plants threatening the lakes. They will also be responsible for collecting data and inspecting boats and trailers for potential invasive weeds before the vessels enter the water and again after they exit the lake.

“This hydrilla is serious business. The goal is to make sure that it is limited in its growth and will be eradicated not only in our lake, but in other lakes,” said Mayer.

The monitors will be paid $30 per hour and be on duty Friday through Sunday and on holidays from May 24 through Sept. 2.

A swift response, costly battle

The discovery of hydrilla last summer around the marina and in shallow waters north of the state boat launch has prompted a swift and sweeping response by the TLA to safeguard water quality.

East Twin was the first lake in Connecticut to confirm the non-native weed’s presence, first noted in the Connecticut River in 2016. Hydrilla has since infected at least a half dozen other state lakes.

TLA officials had estimated that it will spend about $250,000 this year on lake management, and similar amounts in future years, to conduct the required studies to monitor lake health, map the locations of aquatic species, both native and invasive, and use a combination of methods to control invasives and eradicate hydrilla.

According to Bogle, the cost to hire a manager and team of eight to 10 launch monitors for the program is estimated to cost the lake association an additional $30,000 to $35,000 per season, an expense that he said will be covered through fundraising and membership contributions.

“We’ve dealt with milfoil and zebra mussels in the past, but hydrilla is something else,” said Bogle of the worrisome weed, which has choked parts of the Connecticut River and is known to suffocate fish and rare aquatic plans and foul waters up to 20 feet deep.

“Our goal is to eradicate and control it here and stop it from going elsewhere,” he said.

Through the Connecticut Federation of Lakes and other working groups, the TLA has not only teamed up to share information and gain a stronger, unified voice in Hartford, but it has assembled a coalition of partners that includes the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Northeast Aquatic Research and SePro, a lake management consultant. Local and state officials, including Salisbury First Selectman Curtis Rand, State Rep. Maria Horn (D-64) and State Senator Stephen Harding, are also involved.

On patrol at the crack of dawn

Armed with informational flyers and sporting neon yellow vests identifying them as members of the “Twin Lakes Association Ramp Patrol,” Mayer, Bogle and TLA board member Russ Conklin arrived at the East Twin marina at the crack of dawn on the day of the monitoring program’s practice run.

They greeted the bass fishermen as they launched their boats into the lake, and again when they returned to shore about eight hours later. The goal that day was to inspect every vessel entering and leaving to make sure that no plant fragments were attached to boats, trailers, or gear.

The fishermen were given informational brochures and were asked to participate in a voluntary boat inspection and answer a few brief survey questions.

All went swimmingly, the launch patrol reported mid-afternoon as the fishermen returned to shore to drain and dry their boats, and check for any hitchhiking weeds, under the watchful eyes of the monitors.

Bracing for the summer surge

Dave Haab, who last fall marked his 50th year as business owner of O’Hara’s Landing Marina, said he expects there could be an uptick in business since the East Twin launch is the only location in town allowing boat access.

Two weeks ago, the state boat launch on East Twin, located a short distance from the marina, was returned to its original use as a car-top only launch, prohibiting boat trailers from entry.

Meanwhile, the Town Grove boat launch at Lakeville Lake remains closed indefinitely in an effort to keep hydrilla out, according to Bill Littauer, president of the Lake Wononscopomuc Association. However, about a dozen small rental boats will be available for fishing and other recreational uses, he noted.

The town also has blocked boat access at Long Pond and is allowing only car-top aquatic activities there, such as kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding, First Selectman Curtis Rand confirmed last week.

In addition, the TLA intends to drop a marker buoy in the northeast corner of East Twin, identifying the known location of the hydrilla bed and would encourage boaters to avoid the area if possible to minimize the risk of propellers chopping hydrilla plants and having the fragments float away and root elsewhere.

Later this year, subject to approval of DEEP, the TLA would like to treat the hydrilla beds in the northeast cove and use preventive measures, such as “floating limnocorrals” to separate the treated areas from the untreated areas and to protect rare or endangered plants. According to TLA officials, the barriers have been ordered and will be ready to deploy as needed.

Considering the spate of boat launch closings in town, Bogle said he has heard concerns from boaters that Twin Lakes, too, will become a closed lake, which is “absolutely not” the case.

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