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8.2020 Eurasian Water Milfoil

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:

  1. 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.
  2. encouraging the Town’s contractor to press for agreement with DEP on plans for dredging a channel behind Kwuniikwat Island and down the outlet.
  3. working with the Town on proposing reasonable rules for hydro raking.
  4. 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.

Richard Seltzer
President
Stockbridge Bowl Association
Box 118
Stockbridge, MA 01262
richard@seltzer.org

2020-08-14T13:25:52-04:00August 14th, 2020|

6/2020 Letter from SBA President Richard Seltzer

Welcome to Stockbridge Bowl.

Since 1946, residents living on and near Stockbridge Bowl have supported the Stockbridge Bowl Association in order to preserve one of the most beautiful and most widely seen and used lakes in Massachusetts.

Everyone, no matter where they are from, is encouraged to use our lake for sailing, sculling, canoeing, kayaking, water skiing, SUPing (that’s paddling a Stand Up Paddleboard), and fishing.  We do exclude jet skis; and we do ask boaters not to make any wake before 10 a.m.

We also welcome all comers to hike our trails in the 52 acres of Bullard Woods on the north end of the lake and on our 3 acre Kwuniikwat Island.

Our current capital projects are applying a narrowly targeted herbicide to control invasive Eurasian Water Milfoil, dredging decades of accumulated sediment from the channel behind Kwuniikwat Island and down the outlet, and hydro raking dense patches of water lilies that make water access to some homes difficult.

New members are encouraged to join.  To join or donate, see the section of this website entitled Support the SBA.

Richard Seltzer
President
Stockbridge Bowl Association

2020-06-22T11:47:03-04:00June 16th, 2020|

12/10/19 From:  SBA President Richard Seltzer:

We have just received a ruling by the Massachusetts Superior Court holding that the decision of the Town of Stockbridge Conservation Commission to deny our application to use fluridone to control Eurasian Watermilfoil must be set aside because it is not “based on substantial evidence.”  The court dismissed the ConComm decision describing parts of it as “sophistry,” “rather misleading” and “rather disingenuous.”  Analyzing the four bases for the ConComm decision, the court held:

First, as to the ConComm finding that the use of fluridone would lead to a removal of valuable habitat for wildlife, the Court ruled that “this conclusion is not supported by the evidence . . and is in fact contradicted by the DFW [ Dept of Fisheries and Wildlife,  Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program] and Dr. Kortmann,  the Commission’s own expert.  “DFW explicitly approved an entire-lake application of fluridone,” the court found.

Second, the Commission had ruled that fluridone used in other lakes had reduced the fish populations there compared to Stockbridge Bowl. The court stated flatly that “this conclusion is sophistry.” Anecdotal reports from local fisherman cannot constitute substantial evidence “particularly in the face of the opinions of DFW and Kortmann, the Commission’s expert.”

Third, the argument that fluridone would inhibit the formation of calcite was “also not supported by substantial evidence, and is rather disingenuous.”  Even Kortmann, the proponent of the calcite hypothesis, has testified that he favored treating a large block of the Bowl with fluridone to check for any impact on calcite formation; and, “the SBA had assented to this recommendation,” the court noted.

Fourth, the Stockbridge ConComm had claimed that there was a lack of studies done on similar lakes, to which the Court stated “this finding is not supported by substantial evidence and is again rather misleading.”  Again, the court found that Kortmann had explicitly testified that it was appropriate to proceed with fluridone even in the absence of further lake studies.

The case is now remanded to the ConComm to issue a permit consistent with this decision and the recommendations of Dr. Kortmann.

Next we shall also have to convince the Massachusetts DEP that our use of fluridone will not violate the state’s Wetlands Protection Act, a finding which DEP has previously made in favor of many neighboring lakes that have been using fluridone for years.

Needless to say, we find this decision gratifying

Richard Seltzer
President, SBA
December 5, 2019
2020-06-15T15:07:19-04:00December 10th, 2019|