Boaters asked to avoid Songo Lock

NAPLES — “Remarkable progress” has been made in controlling the milfoil infestation on the Songo River this summer, but the Lakes Environmental Association (LEA) is still asking boaters to avoid Songo Lock during the next critical month.

The milfoil infestation on the lower Songo River has not been as massive as during the long hot summer of 2010, said Peter Lowell, LEA executive director. LEA’s milfoil crew has also been working hard to clear a “safety zone” below Songo Lock, clearing out the basin just outside the lock and then down the river for about 800 feet. But, milfoil growth is now reaching its peak and courtesy boat inspectors at Songo Lock are finding an increasing number of milfoil plants.

“It’s essential to keep traffic through the Lock to a minimum until after Labor Day,” said Lowell, LEA.

The LEA milfoil crew has been working since late May on the milfoil infestation in Brandy Pond and the Songo River, the seventh year of plant control work there. All commercial and private marinas on Brandy Pond have infestations, which LEA has been controlling. In addition to those six sites, there are about six other locations where plants have been harvested.

“We are asking boaters and property owners on Brandy Pond and Long Lake to look carefully for milfoil plants,” Lowell said. “One alert homeowner found a new patch of milfoil just this week in the southern end of Brandy Pond.”

Since LEA’s crew has found only scattered plants in repeated surveys of Brandy Pond and the upper river, it has been able to concentrate resources on the boat-waiting zone just below the Songo Lock and on the stretch of river downstream.

Maine’s federal funding for milfoil control was lost to cutbacks just as the season was about to begin, leaving LEA about $10,000 short of what’s needed to complete this year’s control work. Jim Allen of Naples Marina and Dan Allen of Causeway Marina are planning a fundraiser on Saturday, Aug. 20, to increase milfoil control resources. More details will be available later.

The Portland Water District, Naples Marina, the Town of Naples, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Lake Region 4-H Club also have contributed to this summer’s success by helping LEA with funding and the development and deployment of a new bottom barrier made of shrink wrap and iron rebar. These new tarps measure 20-feet wide and can be cut to any length. They are very easy to place and are designed to follow river contours.

Right now, though, those who care about Brandy Pond, Long Lake and the other waters in the Lake Region can help most by staying out of the lower Songo River and avoiding Songo Lock, Lowell said.

“We’re not pushing the panic button,” he said. “We’re just saying if you really want to protect these lakes, then why run the risk?”

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