SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The South Kingstown Conservation hopes to curb the spread of invasive species this summer by posting informative signs at the boat ramps near several bodies of water.

Although the signs warn against a handful of invasive species, like carp, zebra mussels and water chestnut, the commission’s primary concern is preventing the further spread of milfoil – a weed most people have never heard of. 

“There’s a lot of education that has to be done,” said community member Bill McCusker, who’s been working with the conservation commission to help get these signs posted in time for the summer season. 

In Rhode Island, where the weed has no natural predators to keep its population in check, milfoil can grow rapidly and becomes very difficult to control once it’s fully established.  

“Thick growth of milfoil may degrade water quality and displace beneficial native plants,” according to a fact sheet put out by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. “Dense stands can impede recreation such as swimming, fishing and boating, it can devalue waterfront property, and slow water flow to provide breeding areas for mosquitoes. Milfoil spreads easily by fragmentation and is the most common, wide-spread, aquatic invasive in Rhode Island.”

Ideally, the signs warning against the spread of invasive species will go in right by the boat ramp and not up on a message board where people are much less likely to see it, McCusker said. 

“The concern is how milfoil is being transferred from pond to pond by boats, and also birds and things of that nature,” McCusker said. “We’re trying to control that. The majority of ponds in South Kingstown don’t have it.”

The signs, which note eight invasive species in all, instruct boaters to remove all weeds and plant fragments from their boats and trailers before and after use, and to drain their boat and motor far from the water, allowing them to dry before the next use. It also asks people to clean off all waders, boots and gear after use in any body of water, and to not release bait, aquarium fish, shellfish or plants into the water. 

“If we can educate people about how to wash off their boats, to keep the milfoil contained, we’re going to keep them out of the other ponds,” he said. 

Already, the Saugatucket River, Yawgoo Pond and Worden Pond have been infested with the invasive weed. 

“I just got this out of the Saugatucket River, as beautiful as it is,” McCusker said, holding up a plastic Ziploc bag filled with milfoil at the conservation commission’s meeting on Tuesday night. 

He and all members of the commission expressed an eagerness to beginning putting these signs up in locations like California Jim’s Pond or Main Street near a small boats access for the Saugatucket River. Their main concern is not being held up by bureaucracy or red tape. 

If it’s a matter of purchasing a few wooden posts, McCusker and Conservation Commission Chair David Flanders said they would be willing to purchase them themselves. 

“The less we put on other departments to do, the faster we can put these up,” McCusker said. “And the boating season is beginning now.”

Another information campaign the commission hopes to get out to the public is Canada Goose egg oiling, which is seen as a humane effort to help control the bird’s population. In South Kingstown and several other towns throughout Rhode Island during the month of March, people take part searching for nests and oiling eggs that have not yet begun to develop. 

The eggs that sink, when placed in a bucket of water, have not yet begun to develop and may be coated in corn oil, according to the Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District. Those that float will be put as is, allowing them to continue developing. 

“Increasing concentrations of geese and their droppings contribute to beach and shellfishing closures due to high bacteria counts, nutrient enrichment and depletion of oxygen in water bodies, erosion caused by removal of ground cover leads to loss of soil and sedimentation of water bodies, and potential for water-borne disease transmission,” according to the Eastern Rhode Island Conservation Commission.

The bird is also harmful to agricultural land and crops, and are considered a general nuisance because of their aggression, noise and droppings on athletic fields, golf courses, walkways and other areas used by people.

In other business, the commission also discussed possible amendments to the town’s tree ordinance with respect to the incoming arborist position, possible changes to the town’s open space acquisition policy and advisory opinion procedures with regards to zoning applications. 

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