Unprecedented opposition delays Iroquois herbicide treatment

Association presses forward with application for 2018

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

The Lake Iroquois Association will continue to press for lake-wide treatment of non-native milfoil overgrowth with an herbicide called sonar in 2018, despite strong opposition from some lake community members.

Misha Cetner of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation said the department has never received such an outcry against the potential harmful health effects of the chemical in five previous applications in Vermont, including at Lake Morey in Fairlee and Lake Dunmore in Addison County.

But the proposal at Lake Iroquois is the first the state has considered that seeks to treat an entire body of water, rather than just one concentrated area. As a result, a permit application that typically takes six months to process has taken more than a year, with a decision not expected until this spring.

“Everything was going smoothly, then, during the public notice period, a significant number of public comments came in that were very technical that derailed the draft permit from being issued,” Cetner said. “It’s a new pushback to this type of program. It’s just taking a lot of time to go through it.

“In other areas where (sonar) has been used, typically the applicants have public backing.”

The Lake Iroquois treatment is scheduled to be a lower dose than has been administered at other Vermont lakes, but over a longer period of time — the entire summer of 2018. The active ingredient in the herbicide is fluridone.

Lake Iroquois Association President Chris Conant acknowledged that not every member of the association is on board with the application. But, during his annual association report to the Williston Selectboard earlier this month, he said the treatment is the best way to deal with the problem.

He noted that the infestation seemed to abate in 2017 compared to the summer of 2016. The association added a boat washing station on weekends to prevent new invasives from entering the lake this summer as well as barriers to contain the milfoil.

Lake Iroquios touches the borders of Williston, Richmond and Hinesburg.

“I think it is the most precious resource we have in our community,” Conant said. “We are concerned if we don’t do something, we are going to be in trouble … We’ve got to deal with it.”

The herbicide treatment will cost an estimated $100,000. A annual fee of $500 on association homeowners has yielded $30,000 for the treatment, Conant said. The Town of Williston contributed $20,000 last year, and the associated has requested $5,000 in the coming year’s budget. The association hopes state grants will cover the remaining cost.

The herbicide would control the milfoil problem for about five years, Conant said.