Pond Weed Clean-Up A Neighborhood Effort

After answering several inquiries regarding our success at eradicating weeds from Sluice Pond and raising funds to establish weed control, I thought an article describing a successful process would help others in Massachusetts and New England.

A brief history-Sluice Pond is a 50+ acre body of water with approximately 165 homes that abut the pond. Sluice Pond, fed by the Cedar Brook and natural springs, is one of five ponds located 10 miles Northeast of Boston that meander in a “Strawberry Necklace” through Lynn, MA to the Atlantic. There is a public boat ramp in a northern cove at Briarcliff Lodge that enables the general public to access the pond for boating, fishing and swimming from their boats.

The pond has 12 deeded right of ways that each enable about 65 property holders on nearby parcels to egress (enter or leave the pond). These pond paths were once water access paths for cattle, which were deeded to neighbors when older farms and estates were divided into building lots. Basically, there is a good deal of access to the pond as a four seasons recreational resource for both the general public at the boat ramp and through deeded egress for neighbors via the paths. The same public access is true at neighboring Flax Pond, which has a public beach for swimming. These access points helped us to qualify for public funding.

Evaluation & Water Level

Last summer Sluice Pond was at the lowest water level in 20 years due to a new gate system that remained open and there was tremendous weed growth. Preliminary research (backed by the experts in the evaluation process) showed that some of the rapid weed growth might be due to the low water level, which enabled more sunlight to hit the ever present weeds on the bottom of the pond in a greater number of places than usual causing rapid growth along the shore.

This year the Sluice Pond Association designated a Gate Liaison who communicates regularly with the local water commission and the water level has been much higher. Consequently, there are fewer weeds visible than this point in the summer last year, even in the coves which are largely overgrown by now. No treatment for weeds has taken place yet. We continue to record and investigate water level weed control. Weeds are also plants and respond to fertilizer run off from abutters lawns, so we have initiated an effort to ask abutters to please not fertilize near the lake edge.

After several discussions regarding the abundant weed growth last summer, we called Aquatic Control Technologies, ACT (there are only two weed treatment groups in the state). ACT had been the choice in 2001 when the pond received a chemical treatment. ACT sent an evaluation team upon request, a free service. They went around the shoreline in a boat last November to inspect the weeds and to provide us with an evaluation of the types of weeds present. They gave us a preliminary estimate for the treatment. I wrote up a summary of everything they said including that we did not have Milfoil, a weed that has been treated successfully biologically with weevils that eat the weeds and die. Other weeds don’t have these biological solutions, like weevils that eat Milfoil.

Our weeds included native Broadleaf and other invasive weeds (brought in by boats), but not Milfoil. The Milfoil was successfully treated by ACT in 2001 and has not returned. Dredging was discussed since that was the choice method 25 years ago for one of our coves. Today it’s too costly and not as effective as the chemical treatments available. ACT also provides dredging services, but not often on larger bodies of water now that safer chemicals are available. Sluice Pond is not a drinking water supply pond, so our estimate was much less than the hundreds of thousands of dollars in estimates for some communities that are trying to treat their water supply ponds.

All of the chemicals ACT proposed using have been EPA tested and approved with no detectable effect on fish or wildlife in proper doses. The application requires 1-3 days of no swimming, fishing or boating and no use of the lake water for irrigation for 90 days. Since Sluice Pond is not in an endangered species zone; all that was required was a permit from the state DEP and approval of the local Conservation Commission. The license is good for 3 years in this state. It helped that our local city councilor works for the state in environmental protection. We received the information we needed easily regarding the permitting process, the application and the timeline for hearings. He helped manage the timetable for local hearings with the Conservation Commission.

We have received city, state and perhaps federal funds for the Lynn Ponds Restoration Project and conducted successful private fund raising. We only knew that finding funds would be necessary after we had an evaluation and an estimate for treatment in hand. Based on 2001 when the weed treatment cost the Sluice Pond Association $3,500 we initially thought we could get the money together from our local fund raisers without grants. After the evaluation brought in an estimate closer to $20,000 only for immediate weed treatment without a long term maintenance plan, we knew we needed assistance.

We requested and received information from ACT about the treatment, wrote a plain English, non-scientific summary to notify pond property owners and abutters of our intentions. We held meetings to organize the Sluice Pond Association, elect a Board of Directors and organize a Weed committee. We created a web site at www.sluice.org to help us raise funds. Prior to submitting our application for treatments with the city and state, we took the information from the ACT evaluation of our weed problem and
(1) vetted the issue among property owners and abutters with the newsletter,
(2) hand carried notices to all abutters every other week for six week prior to the local public hearings,
(3) held several SPA meetings prior to the official meetings to hear concerns,
(4) asked our city councilor to attend eight monthly meetings and to plan the project with us so that we could get help to secure funds from the city and the state,
(5) set up a tax exempt organization, an organizational budget and a project budget,
(6) submitted an application for federal assistance from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to be used with other funding sources and the city/state,
(7) held a raffle and raised money for ACT to complete the initial permit applications for the state and city,
(8) attended the official hearings with ACT to make a presentation and an appeal,
(9) worked with our local state reps to access state funds in case the federal money did not emerge and
(10) worked with our local city councilors to get the Parks Commission, Water Commission and City to provide matching funds for grants and help with permits.

Whatever your situation, a publicly used recreational pond might qualify for weed treatment funding. If it is a private use pond with no public uses you might want to get an estimate from ACT (free) or a local water technology group and then determine if the abutters can handle financing the treatment or if there is some private support through local foundations with interest in preservation of land in your city or town.

We did the majority of the work to preserve a recreation area used by us, our neighbors and the public. But our motivation actually came from
(1) not wanting to see people drown in our backyards, tangled in weeds and
(2) the Supreme Court’s decision in Connecticut to take away personal property and give it to developers.

Long Term Maintenance
The Sluice Pond Association is still in the process of developing a long-term maintenance plan for weed control. We are busy sharing our fortunes at fund raising by first and foremost getting results for Sluice Pond, providing neighboring ponds with assistance in organizing or fiscal management and providing information for other citizen’s groups.

Sluice Pond is a 5-15 minute walk from a beautiful publicly maintained golf course and the nation’s 2nd largest urban park, Lynn Woods. Greater Lynn Senior Services is on the pond and we have many elder neighbors who have resided here their entire lives. However, we are just down the hill from private land developments behind the local Union Hospital.

Hopefully our state legislature will pass very stringent laws in Massachusetts regarding the taking of private property by imminent domain for “public good” that turns out to be “good” primarily for a tiny handful of developers. We are protecting ourselves and each other from economic predators by using the common issue of the pond weeds to create a strong, local citizen’s organizations that will not tolerate private property largess at town hall. We stay in close contact with the local ward councilor and city councilors-at-large. The new Board of Directors appointed a Government Liaison representative who attends every city hall meeting regardless of relevance to our pond. We are happy to supply any other groups of citizens who are trying to organize with information about our process.