LITCHFIELD — Officials in the five towns surrounding Cobbossee Lake are brainstorming solutions to the Eurasian watermilfoil infestation, including working with local marina owners to have a trained invasive species boat inspector on site.

The invasive Eurasian watermilfoil has threatened Cobbossee Lake, also known as Cobbosseecontee, since 2018. Just one fragment of this plant can quickly spread and take over a lake, hurting the aquatic flora and fauna, endangering swimmers, hindering boaters, and reducing property values.

Following a recent meeting between the CYC Lake Association, Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed, and the five towns surrounding the 8.7-square-mile lake (Litchfield, Manchester, Monmouth, West Gardiner and Winthrop), Litchfield officials discussed their options moving forward.

According to the lake association, the combined value of shoreline property along the lake exceeds $700 million.

A 2010 study showed that the presence of the Eurasian watermilfoil can reduce property values by 16%, meaning a potential $100 million loss for the Cobbossee Lake properties.

In 2019, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection treated the lake with the herbicide ProcellaCOR, which only targets invasive plants. However the watermilfoil was discovered once again in the northeast corner of the lake in 2020 and, in late 2021, a fragment of the plant was discovered as far down as Farr’s Cove, which is roughly halfway down the lake.


Litchfield Town Manager Kelly Weissenfels said during a Monday selectmen meeting that he and selectperson Rayna Leibowitz attended the joint meeting, and that some of the surrounding towns have begun creating ordinances that would require local marina owners to have a trained invasive species boat inspector on site.

“They thought it would be helpful if they expanded that to include any private organizations with a boat ramp,” said Weissenfels, “and for us that would mean Birches (Lakeside Campground).”

Leibowitz said the ordinance would need to be adopted by the community. If the ordinance does require an individual on the site inspecting watercraft, then the campground would need to hire or train staff to inspect boats for the watermilfoil.

Weissenfels on Wednesday said the board considered alternatives to the ordinance.

“There may be a different solution in working with those businesses,” he said, “rather than having an ordinance, but being able to get some cooperation from them without having a demand.”

He added that all of the board’s discussion on Feb. 14 was preliminary, and that no final decisions have been made.


“For Litchfield, it’s really a matter of how we can best work with local businesses so we don’t put roadblocks in their way, but at the same time making sure everyone is acting responsibly,” he said. “Birches Lakeside Campground has been great, and they’ve been expanding recently. We want to do everything we can, and I’m sure they realize this is in their best interest, so we’ll be talking with them as well.”

Philip Roy, general manager of Birches Lakeside Campground, said that while the town hasn’t been in touch yet, he is very supportive of efforts to eradicate milfoil on the lake.

Roy is particularly close to the issue, as he worked as a milfoil diver with the Little Sebago Lake Association for 18 years.

“I have a very personal knowledge of milfoil, Eurasian and others, so when they were trying to eradicate it on the north end of the lake, we were very much involved in that,” he said. “We’re very supportive of any efforts to eradicate it sooner than later.”

Weissenfels said the second item of discussion brought up during the group meeting was dedicating a portion of the each town’s boat excise revenue toward efforts to protect the lakes.

Selectman Gary Parker said Litchfield’s boat excise money, which averages out to about $8,000 a year, likely wouldn’t go far, especially considering the amount of time and work required to fight the invasive plant.


The CYC Lake Association found that lakes of a similar size with Eurasian watermilfoil have required between $200,000 and $400,000 annually to control the infestation.

Weissenfels said the town could consider evaluating the costs of investing in the aforementioned options versus the negative impact the invasive species would have on the town’s property values.

“I think it’s probably a good thing, but I also think that we need to make sure that it’s not impacting our tax dollars in a huge way,” said Parker, “because I think we have an ample amount of things to spend our money on.”

The town, according to Weissenfels, already pays $3,750 annually to the Tacoma Lakes Association and the CYC Lake Association, in addition to $5,000 for the FCW’s diver-assisted suction harvester (DASH) boat program. The DASH boat, which has a vacuum that ensures broken bits of the plant don’t continue to spread, was used on variable leaf milfoil in Litchfield’s Pleasant Pond.

Litchfield’s future plans regarding the lake will begin to solidify as the selectboard begins discussing the municipal budget. Weissenfels said budget discussions will begin at the board’s next meeting.

He said that while a date has not been set for the next joint meeting between the communities and lake organizations, it will likely occur within the next month.

“I think it’s going to be an interesting discussion,” said Leibowitz, “to see everybody come together with suggestions and brainstorming.”

As a milfoil diver, Roy said he’s seen lakes completely overtaken by invasive plants, and hopes Cobbossee Lake never reaches this point.

“I remember pulling 300 to 400 bags (of milfoil) a day,” he said. “I’ve seen it so that you literally couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. I would never want to see Cobbossee in that light; it would just be devastating to the economy, the taxpayers and the towns.”

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