In late summer of 2015, it was the PLIA’s Weed Watchers who spotted the first growth of the invasive aquatic plant known as Variable Milfoil, in the lake near the boat ramp on Horse Island in the State Park.  The Lake Host Committee of the PLIA and NHDES were alerted to the problem, and removal action was immediately taken.  Volunteers regularly search the sensitive area, marking new growths to be pulled and encouraging boaters to avoid infested waters.  Only certified divers are specially trained to remove any invasive milfoil in the lake.  Whether the infestation has been successfully eradicated, only time and the diligent efforts of both Lake Hosts and Weed Watchers will tell.

Volunteer Neil Santos assembled a milfoil snorkel team in 2016 in response to the variable milfoil infestation on Pawtuckaway Lake. Since then, for his work he has received the Cox Conserves Hero Award and his team has grown to include several certified milfoil SCUBA divers, all volunteers. Because the work of this team has developed a very specific purpose and its focus remains on milfoil, Neil’s mission has expanded beyond weed watching.

 For that reason, the PLIA decided to create a separate program, emerging from our Weed Watcher Program, called the Milfoil Team. Neil, naturally, is its Chair and will conduct operations. From time to time he will provide updates on the progress of his program’s search, mark, and destroy objectives. Because of the spread of this pest in recent years, the Team has expanded its search from primarily in the South Channel to other infected areas of the lake. Neil has prepared an extensive procedures manual for his team that lays out the challenges and protocols for addressing this widespread threat. Read it and see how thorough it is:   Milfoil Procedures 2023

When a team of snorkeling or SCUBA divers is busy underwater, they are accompanied by another team on the lake’s surface, in kayaks, canoes, or other small water craft. These volunteers provide support for the divers to assist them in their work and to keep them safe from boat traffic. Diver Down flags, high visibility vests, and other equipment are important tools for effective and safe search and remove efforts.

From his extensive experience with milfoil infestations on Pawtuckaway and his training in invasive aquatic species, Neil has developed a guide to Variable Milfoil in Pawtuckaway Lake. In it he provides valuable information about this invasive plant, what the PLIA is doing to control it, and what members of the public can do to help him and his team in their efforts to eradicate this pest from Pawtuckaway. We encourage you to read this highly informative and helpful guide here.

Memberships and volunteer hours are the way the PLIA supports this campaign to keep the lake free of noxious weeds.  Neil is always on the lookout for volunteers to help with the Milfoil Team. To join those efforts, please consider becoming a volunteer, and help the PLIA preserve Pawtuckaway Lake for future generations to enjoy.  If you are SCUBA Open Water certified, and would like to become trained as a Weed Control Diver to volunteer your time diving on milfoil sites in the lake, please let us know!  You are invited to send an email to: with your contact information along with how you would like to help.  You can also send any questions you may have.  Please spread the word, not the milfoil!