Lake Issues

The SS Milfoil

Mascoma Lake Milfoil Barge

The “SS Milfoil” is a working barge on a pontoon base that is owned and operated by the Mascoma Lake Association. It is used for collecting water samples and patrolling the lake for invasive plants. It serves as the platform for divers to remove the milfoil. The barge is outfitted with an electric motor in addition to the gas one to allow slow, wakeless movement. If you see us out on the water please feel free to come over and say hi and see what we are doing—unless our dive flag is out. If you see the flag (shown on boat above), it means divers are active in the water, so please steer far around us.

The current caretakers of the SS Milfoil, chairing the Invasive Species Committee, are David Kelman and Martha Rich, who took over from Roger and Marta Barnes in 2011. Inspired by the late Bill Martin, Marta and Roger spearheaded over a decade of SS Milfoil management, creating a program of weed removal as the foundation of our approach to controlling Eurasian Milfoil in Mascoma Lake.

Weed watchers place floating markers in the water to indicate underwater milfoil plants that need to be removed. While the markers used always being improved, most are currently a yellow or orange foam-noodle type, with larger bright-yellow buoys for large infestations. A GPS system is now used for mapping purposes, to create an ongoing record of plant growth. Certified weed control divers, SCUBA-certified volunteers who have completed a special state-approved course, dive and remove each individual plant by hand. The process is tedious, but if any fragment of the plant is left in the water, a new plant can be started. While divers are removing plants under the water, support volunteers are watching the water surface, collecting the harvested weeds and recording counts, keeping divers supplied with new collection bags, and using nets to remove any plant fragments that are floating.

In 2013 over 3,000 plants were removed by this process. We need your help to continue keeping this invasive plant at bay. Weed watchers are always needed, no experience necessary. Surface support for the divers is also needed. We will train you. If you are a certified SCUBA diver with some time to volunteer, we can help you become a certified weed control diver. Join our S.W.A.T …the Submerged Weed Attack Team!

Everyone can help control milfoil!

  • If you see an orange-yellow foam-noodle milfoil marker, please leave it where it is and avoid motorized boating near the marker.
  • If you think you see Eurasian Milfoil, let us know and we’ll follow up on suspected sightings. You don’t have to be an aquatic plant expert, just an alert citizen!
  • If you would like to monitor the water near your property on a regular basis as part of the “neighborhood water watch,” let us know. Your commitment as a watcher would be to cruise your area from the shoreline to a depth of 12-14 feet when the lake is still and the sun is not directly overhead (usually early morning or late afternoon). We ask that you report at least once by July 15 and a second time by the middle of August. We particularly need weed watchers on the 4A side from the Baited Hook to the head of the lake.
  • If you’re a SCUBA diver or want to become one, we welcome new divers. With the state-approved training, it’s easy to learn the techniques of proper milfoil harvesting.
  • We also need people to become surface support crew on the SS Milfoil. Support volunteers accompany the captain and the divers on each harvesting trip. They clean collection bags, count plants, and record harvest locations on our GPS.