Jan. 21—The time since Eurasian watermilfoil was found in Cobbosseecontee Lake has been spent in a constant and expensive effort to keep the invasive plant from spreading. For the 900 or so property owners around the lake, and everyone else who enjoys it, the stakes couldn't be higher.
"A lake that becomes really infested is absolutely useless to everybody," one lake advocate told Chris Bouchard of the Kennebec Journal in August. "There's not boating or swimming."
So far, the effort has been a success. But it also shows no signs of ending — if the plant is allowed to spread, it could overtake the lake's shoreline and islands.
That's why it's so important to stop these infestations before they start.
So far, Maine, land of roughly 6,500 lakes and ponds, has been fortunate, with only about 30 infestations detected across the state. The prevention and treatment programs that began in the wake of a 2001 bill certainly are part of the reason.
But boat inspections didn't stop the milfoil from getting into Cobbosseecontee, and it may just be a matter of time before they fail elsewhere too.
And when a body of water gets infected, everybody loses. Water quality drops, mosquitos come in droves, and property values fall.
Conservation groups and lake association from around the state agree, and that's why they are backing a bill that could lead to more stringent laws governing the spread of invasive species. L.D. 1826 would create a committee to recommend ways to reduce the chance of infestations.
These same groups and associations tried to pass a "clean, drain, dry" bill last year that would have required boaters to drain everything from vessels, trailers and other equipment whenever they remove a boat from an inland body of water.
More than 100 people and organizations testified in favor of the bill recently, with few opposed. The state inland fisheries and environmental protection agencies were neither for nor against the bill, though the state was opposed to the "clean, drain, dry" bill, citing enforceability questions.
The state should reconsider. Such laws have worked in other states, and they have the full backing of the people who know Maine's lakes and ponds the best — those who have been taking care of them and keeping them clean for years.
Those folks say overwhelmingly that more is needed to keep destructive infestations out of the lakes and ponds we cherish so much. They are the ones who have been keeping watch over the lakes, walking the shorelines and out on the water.
They know the lakes better than anyone, and they have shown how much they care about them. We should listen to what they have to say.