ROXBURY — The Ellis Pond Watershed Protection Project is a locally led effort, initiated by the Ellis Pond Watershed Committee as a follow-up to the Ellis Pond Watershed Survey, done in 2014.
Its goal is to address Non-Point Source types of pollution, such as soil erosion, and prevent it from degrading the water quality of Ellis Pond, which is also known as Roxbury Pond and Silver Lake.
Soil erosion is one of the chief threats to water quality in Maine lakes. Too much soil washing into a lake introduces phosphorous, which fertilizes algae growth and can lead to a “bloom” of algae, turning a formerly clear, blue lake, green. Algae blooms ruin recreation and reduce shoreline property values. Ellis Pond suffered a brief, but intense, algae bloom in the fall of 2013.
The Ellis Pond Watershed Protection Project is a two-year project that began in the spring of 2016. It is made possible by a grant from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The grant of $96,826 is matched by local contributions of $67,345 from the Town of Roxbury, Ellis Pond Watershed Committee, Silver Lake Camp Owners Association, and Roxbury ATV Club. The project is co-managed by the Oxford County Soil & Water Conservation District, which oversees the project and grant funds, and the Androscoggin River Watershed Council, which provides technical assistance and coordination of NPS project site work.
There are several components to the Watershed Protection Project:
• NPS abatement for addressing large scale erosion problems, such as road ditches and culverts;
• Technical assistance and residential “matching grants” for homeowners; and
• Outreach and education.
As the Ellis Pond Watershed Protection Project enters its second and final year, technical assistance and residential grants are still available to property owners in the Ellis Pond Watershed to help fix erosion problems.
This summer, education programs are also being offered to help address NPS pollution issues. The project’s Steering Committee will kick off the season with a meeting at 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 10, at the Roxbury Town Office to discuss new plans for the 2017 summer/fall season. The meeting is open to all who are interested in the project and Ellis Pond.
The 2014 Ellis Pond Watershed Survey found that residential erosion sites represented the single largest land use that contributed to NPS pollution. While each site is typically small in scale, the cumulative impact of many residential sites can be significant.
The Watershed Protection Project offers direct help to landowners in the Ellis Pond Watershed to help address erosion. At the landowners’ request, a technical expert from the OCSWCD or the Androscoggin River Watershed Council will walk the property with the owner and provide free technical assistance.
Recommendations are summarized in a report provided to the landowner, which, if applied, qualify the landowner for the “residential matching grants.” Follow-up by landowners with the recommendations, as well as participation in any of the project activities, is strictly voluntary; no enforcement is involved.
OCSWCD, through a “residential matching grant,” can offer landowners up to $350 to fix their erosion issues. The landowner must match OCSWCD’s contribution with up to $350 in “match.” Their match can consist of any combination of cash, donated supplies, labor, or equipment that adds up to $350. Residential matching grants might be used to plant a buffer, install a rain garden, resurface and install water bars on an eroding driveway, or build a dripline trench to absorb roof runoff.
Additional project plans for the 2017 season include building and installing an informational kiosk to help residents and visitors better understand NPS pollution threats to Ellis Pond and what can be done to protect it. There will also be an ATV Trail Maintenance and Best Management Practices workshop on June 17, offered in cooperation with the Roxbury ATV Club, to demonstrate how proper trail improvements and maintenance can help protect water quality.
Later in the summer, an informal “house meeting” presentation will be provided by Oxford County SWCD to discuss various property management techniques and practices to help reduce stormwater runoff into the pond. A Buffer Planting workshop is also being planned.
All workshops and meetings are open to the public and free of charge. Dates and locations will be announced on the Town of Roxbury and OCSWCD website.
The free technical assistance and residential matching grants are offered on a first come-first served basis, so those interested should sign up as soon as possible.