BENNINGTON — Principals in the Save Lake Paran initiative to combat invasive weed species that threaten the lake’s long-term existence met with the Bennington Select Board Monday. They hope the town, the village of North Bennington and Shaftsbury can help fund a multi-year lake weed management program that is being developed.
Camille Kauffman, program director of the not-for-profit Paran Recreations, which operates the recreation area in the village, said more than 600 signatures had been collected on a petition urging steps to control nuisance weeds – primarily Eurasian milfoil.
She said the invasive species first appeared in Lake Paran in 1960 and was identified in a 2018 study as the dominant invasive species there. She said weeds are increasing to the point they could fill in the lake bottom and eventually turn the 36-acre lake into a swamp area if unchecked.
Weeds have been pulled out and harvested by hand, she said, but that method can’t keep up with the milfoil growth, which also negatively affects native plant species and the environment.
Lindsay Restino, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, said thick weed patches block sunlight from penetrating the water and that threatens aquatic life and native plant species.
The weeds also interfere with fishing, boating and swimming in the popular lake – sometimes becoming a danger when children become tangled in the plants.
The options under consideration, they said, include treatment with herbicides and hiring a specialized contractor to “suction harvest” the weeds from the lake bottom.
Over time, said Restino, those weeds that die over the winter build up on the lake bottom, which could lead to displacement of water and eventually to swamp-like conditions.
Kauffman said the group is considering the use of ProcellaCOR, an herbicide she described as nontoxic except to milfoil, and certified for use by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
A state permit is required and the cost would be about $8,000 per acre of lake treated, she said, adding that ProCellarCOR has been used on about 10 lakes in Vermont.
Kauffman said the initial target areas would comprise about a quarter of the lake’s 36 acres, but further study would be required to narrow down the amount of herbicide needed and the area to be treated.
The other weed control option being considered is to have a licensed contractor suction harvest the weeds from the bottom. The cost for that method was estimated at $1,750 per day and would require five to eight days at Lake Paran.
Kauffman said the group is still weighing options for next summer and hasn’t decided on a specific plan for 2023, but they intend to come back to the two towns and North Bennington village with funding requests.
She said foundation grants and donations and support from community partners and individuals also will be sought.
Michael Fernandez, of the Bennington County Conservation District, who is assisting the effort on scientific issues, said, “The district is highly recommending the use of ProcellaCOR, as opposed to the suction harvesting, as we believe it will be more effective and possibly reduce some spread as results from fragmentation (with) suction harvesting.”
He said harvesting in the years after application of the herbicide could prove a more effective treatment than suction harvesting alone.
Fernandez said the intent is to apply for a state nuisance species grant, for which the Lake Paran effort should qualify, and which will require a 20 percent local match.
Select Board Chairwoman Jeannie Jenkins and Town Manager Stuart Hurd said the time frame for seeking town funding for next summer would require knowing how much is requested.
Jenkins also asked that more information on the herbicide and how it is applied be provided to the Select Board, noting that while ProcellaCOR targets only milfoil, that doesn’t necessarily mean it can be considered nontoxic.
Lake Paran is a man-made lake that was built in 1851, and the nonprofit Paran Recreations was formed in 1960 when a small strip of land bordering the lake was purchased for recreational use.