Dear SBA members,
Our elusive enemy, Eurasian Water Milfoil, has evaded capture and destruction by disappearing this summer. Two days ago, SOLitude’s lead biologist for Stockbridge Bowl and I spent two hours circumnavigating the Bowl, examining by underwater camera the aquatic vegetation growing near shore, i.e., the terrain usually home to milfoil. We found very little.
While many parts of the lake are being choked with native nuisance vegetation,
milfoil has become relatively scarce. Although there can be more than one explanation, lake expert, Dr. Ken Wagner, tells us that most commonly, herbivorous insects build up a population capable of thinning milfoil, until the insects themselves become prey for fish. The milfoil, consumed down to its root crowns, rebounds, usually within two years.
Though the detailed aquatic plant inventory taken by SOLitude two years ago showed milfoil to be the most prevalent species growing in the Bowl, this year could hardly be more different. In past years, milfoil has been prevalent in different places, sometimes around almost the entire perimeter of the lake, sometimes dense in some places and less so in others. If the amount of milfoil found this week were typical of every year’s, no one would be spending time and money seeking to eradicate it.
By contrast, on neighboring Lake Onota in Pittsfield, they are seeing widespread milfoil this summer. (By the way, both the Bowl and Onota had no winter drawdown this past winter, so the absence of a normal two-foot drawdown is not likely the cause of milfoil disappearing out to its usual depth of 17 feet.)
We had been preparing to test the herbicide fluridone in two test plots, beginning with an underwater counting of stems of all plants, later this summer. We had picked out the areas where the predominant plant in 2018 and 2019 was milfoil, however the sudden paucity of milfoil in those designated areas makes proceeding with the test baseless. Next year may produce a very different picture.
For the time being, I believe that we should go to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), explain the situation we are observing and recommend adjourning the fluridone test.
For the remainder of this year, we should consider turning our attention to other Bowl issues, including:
- getting DEP and Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) to adopt sensible rules for harvesting such as have been followed for years up to now.
- encouraging the Town’s contractor to press for agreement with DEP on plans for dredging a channel behind Kwuniikwat Island and down the outlet.
- working with the Town on proposing reasonable rules for hydro raking.
- assisting the new Stockbridge Bowl Stewardship Committee in its mission to develop a “lake management plan” under which there could be annual monitoring of the lake, leading eventually to a plan to combat future hazardous algae blooms.
After our hard-fought battle with the Stockbridge Conservation Commission and our decisive victory in Superior Court to get permission to use an herbicide in the lake, it feels strange to have the target of our herbicide virtually disappear this summer, but, it is better to acknowledge that reality than be caught tilting at windmills.
Stockbridge Bowl Association
Stockbridge, MA 01262