A small amount of invasive variable leaf water milfoil, a quick-growing plant known to harm ecosystems and lower property values, has been found in Annabessacook Lake in Winthrop.

Two samples of the invasive aquatic plant species were found in the north end of the 1,400-acre lake during a July survey of its shoreline. Workers for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection removed a plant Wednesday after DNA testing confirmed it was the invasive milfoil species, said John McPhedran, the department’s invasive aquatic plants unit leader. It’s the first time invasive milfoil has been found in the lake, according to the department.

Two of eight plant samples tested were found to be the invasive milfoil, McPhedran said. One of the confirmed samples was floating and the other was from the plant removed Wednesday, he said. The department also took samples from several other plants in the area for additional testing, McPhedran said.

“We feel that the variable milfoil is not widespread throughout the lake, but we need to do additional surveys next year and annually to confirm that,” McPhedran said.

Members of groups that assisted the survey in late July said even though the results confirmed the plant had been growing in the lake, knowing its location and that it appears to be a small amount came as a relief.

Teams from DEP, the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program, the Annabessacook Lake Improvement Association, the Cobbossee Watershed District, Friends of Cobbossee Watershed surveyed Annabessacook Lake for milfoil in July after a boat inspector found a fragment of the plant near the Waugan Road boat landing in August 2013.

Sue Neal, president of the Annabessacook Lake group, who has lived on the lake since the mid-1960s, said she wouldn’t call what was found an infestation.

“I’m relieved that we found it because the fragment was just floating. We had no idea if it had been growing in the lake or if it came in on a boat or bird or whatever,” Neal said. “Now that we’ve found it, at least we know where it is, and we can deal with it.”

Tamara Whitmore, executive director of Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed, said it’s great news that the amount found was relatively small.

Even though the organization never wants to find invasive milfoil growing in a lake it hasn’t been identified in before, it was a relief to actually find where the milfoil was growing, Whitmore said.

Invasive variable leaf milfoil has infested parts of the southeast section of the Cobbossee watershed for years. The plant can already be found in Pleasant Pond, Cobbossee Stream, Horseshoe Pond and Purgatory Stream, one of 23 Maine water systems infested by invasive water plants, according to the DEP.

Whitmore said there is always a concern of it spreading to other bodies of water in the system because they’re all connected. The organization will look carefully at Maranacook Lake, which connects to Annabessacook Lake’s north end where the milfoil was found, as well as other bodies of water for the plant, she said.

Using a diver-assisted suction harvester boat, the organization pulled out 15,000 gallons of invasive milfoil from Pleasant Pond and Cobbossee Stream this summer and more than 40,000 in the last three years, Whitmore said.

“We don’t want it to become really infested like Pleasant Pond is,” she said of Annabessacook Lake. “That’s really a lot of money to take care of it.”

Nearby lakes in Belgrade and Oakland have been infested with variable leaf milfoil, which is the most prevalent invasive aquatic plant in Maine.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig

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