AYER — The Ayer Conservation Commission unanimously voted (5-0) on May 26 to approve contracts with two companies to help eradicate life-choking, invasive weeds in three town ponds.
Lycott Environmental Inc., of Southbridge, was awarded a $28,200 contract to tackle the proliferation of fanwort and milfoil at Flannagan Pond. The company will use the federally and state-approved herbicides Sonar and Reward. The contract includes the costs of all materials, labor and equipment needed, as well as the work to submit an application for a MassDEP permit for the treatments and water sampling along the way.
Before the treatment occurs, posters notifying the public of the treatment program will be posted and town officials will receive a week’s notice. On the treatment day, the pond is not to be used at all. For the next 90-days, the Flannagan Pond water should not be used for irrigation, an illegal use in any event. Conservation Commission Chairman Bill Daniels sagely noted that a homeowner disregarding the ban to use the treated water on their lawns would “probably get a negative result.”
By keeping the sonar (fluridone) levels at least as high as eight parts per billion for 60 days, Lycott guarantees at least an 85 percent control rate for both the fanwort and milfoil growth with “little impact on nontarget vegetation and organisms” according to the Lycott proposal.
Work includes surveys of the weed density conducted both before and after the work is done and using GPS devices to track the test boat’s exact location upon the pond in order to return to the same locations after each treatment.
The expense will be covered by the town’s Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG). The selectmen approved up to $35,000 for spending this summer to re-launch a weed treatment program.
Daniels elicited laughter when wondering aloud if that “leaves $6,800 to do the dam(n) management — excuse me — to the management plan for the dams.” Chuck Miller, who helped lead the “Save Our Pond” effort among Flannagan Pond abutters said, “It was right the other way, too.”
The selectmen are looking to empanel a committee to help craft a comprehensive dam management plan for the town’s water bodies. In the meantime, several municipal groups are called upon to step in in the absence of a clear management plan for the pond.
Due to heavy rains a couple of weeks ago, the Ayer Fire Department had to remove one board in the Flannagan Pond dam structure to let rising water escape. The Fire Department has routinely been tasked with managing the pond’s height.
Coincidentally, the emergency draw-down may help eradicate the weeds this summer. Lower water levels will help keep the chemical solution potent to help knock-down weed growth quickly.
The UDAG money comes atop another $35,000 approved by voters at the May 9 Annual Town Meeting for weed treatment at Flannagan Pond next spring, well into fiscal 2012.
In asking the Conservation Commission to approve the RFP from Lycott, Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand appealed to the board to work together with the selectmen on both weed control and dam-management issues. “It is imperative that we have an official dam-management plan. That will involve some cost at some point … we need both plans.” While budget planning for fiscal 2013 is right around the corner, Pontbriand said he’d seek Conservation Commission input to ensure “these things are taken into account moving forward.”
Selectman Chairman Gary Luca said his board wanted to work “in conjunction with the committee” and not place the vegetation and dam management “on your shoulders … we realize it’s very time consuming … but we want it done right.”
The Save Our Pond effort has refocused the town’s attention on the weed proliferation at Flannagan Pond. Luca said while there’s been a flurry to fix the problem this year, he offered “shame on us for ignoring it for so long, but it needs to be done.”
The audience roared when Daniels suggested the company hold off on treatment “because the vegetation hasn’t come up yet.”
“There are flowers on it,” said a voice from the back of the room. The neighbors murmured that the weeds are up and breaking the pond’s surface. “It’s very pretty,” deadpanned Daniels.
Sandy, Pine Meadow ponds
Aquatic Control Technology of Sutton (ACT) was unanimously selected by the Conservation Commission to perform weed treatment at the Sandy and Pine Meadow ponds. The ACT bid was for $7,200.
ACT has long worked with the town on weed treatment in ponds, but only bid on the Sandy and Pond Meadow Pond work this year. The Conservation Commission chose ACT over Lycott, which bid $12,400. The commission only had $8,640 budgeted for weed treatment at the two ponds.
ACT will treat the Sandy Pond town beach area where the plants consist mainly of sparse pondweeds, bladderwort and nalad. Since there is little fanwort in the beach area, the weeds will be treated with Reward with follow-up fall treatment with AquaPro.
In Pine Meadow Pond, Reward and Rodeo spot treatments will be applied for waterlilies, coontail, purple loosistrife and watermilfoil. There’s been no need stated for a full, pondwide treatment. ACT proposes keeping at least 30 to 40 percent of the bottom vegetation intact for warm-water fish and wildlife that live or take refuge in the pond.
ACT also guarantees at least 85 percent weed control at each pond within 14 days of treatment. On the day of treatment, the ponds would be closed to swimming, boating and fishing. Water use for irrigation and drinking could resume five days after treatment.