Crooked River survey completed and online

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NORWAY — A volunteer watershed survey at Crooked River last summer has been completed, analyzed and compiled into a 45-page document, Lee Dassler, program coordinator of the Western Foothills Land Trust, said.

The primary purpose of the Crooked River watershed surveys were to identify, document, and prioritize non point source pollution sites in the watershed for eventual remediation, she said.

The survey, which was a joint project between the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Western Foothills Land Trust, was conducted by 29 volunteers who completed two parallel surveys of the entire Crooked River watershed last summer.

Dassler said volunteers documented erosion sites, degraded buffers, trash dumping, lack of stream shading, fish passage barriers, drainage issues and impervious surfaces draining directly into to the river and tributaries in their survey.

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Two hundred “sites of concern were identified by the land-based teams; 108 are actual erosion sites, 92 were noted as problem sites,” Dassler said in a statement about the work. “Most of the documented issues are associated with roads; town, state and private. In the northern stretches of the watershed, erosion along trails and at stream crossings due to off-road vehicles was documented.”

Dassler said volunteers from the Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Hidell’s Guide Service, and Sebago Lake Anglers Association also conducted an inventory on the water dividing it into nine sections from the river on Route 118 in Waterford and going south to Sebago Lake in Naples and Casco. Dassler said Google Earth and subsequent volunteer forays were done later in the summer to document the primarily forested upper reaches of the river.

“For the entire river corridor, a total of 20 problem sites were documented by volunteers. Issues along the riparian corridor included bank failures, land clearing, eroded stream crossings, lawns to the river, and blow downs,” she said.

The Crooked River Watershed Survey Report is intended to provide community members with specific strategies for helping to improve or sustain the water quality of this important local resource, she said.

The Crooked River Watershed is located in the towns of Bethel, Greenwood, Stoneham, Albany, Waterford, Norway, Harrison, Otisfield, Naples and Casco in Maine’s Oxford and Cumberland counties. The river is 50 miles long and the watershed has a drainage area of approximately 120 square miles.

The Crooked River flows in a southeasterly direction and receives numerous small tributary inputs along the way before joining with the Songo River just before flowing into Sebago Lake, which then flows into Casco Bay via the Presumpscot River.

Water quality monitoring has found that the Crooked River is exhibiting signs of stress that is likely the result of polluted runoff that flows into the river from its surrounding watershed, said officials. The rising development pressure throughout the watershed is an anticipated source of this stress.

Two hundred sites of concern along a 50 mile long river corridor is daunting,” Dassler said.

Most of the problems were found to be associated with municipal and private roads, about half of the problems may be causing significant impact to the river, and most issues can be fixed with minimal to moderate expense, she said. Results from the completed grant-funded survey will be used to apply for a subsequent grant for restoration and remediation funds.

Officials say the survey is a first step in a long-term program to work with the community to correct pollution problems in the Crooked River watershed.

The results are available on the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District (CCSWCD) website at http://cumberlandswcd.org/

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