TURNER – Bear Pond’s water quality should get a great boost in the years ahead.

According to surveys and tests, the water quality has been in steady decline for more than a decade due to development pressure, but that should change with the implementation of the Bear Pond Water Quality Improvement Project.

According to Jeff Stern of the Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District, the project will be possible because of a $59,716 grant that will allow 173 erosion sites around the Turner/Hartford lake to be addressed.

The grant was announced this month and is the result of several years of work by Stern’s organization and members of the Bear Pond Improvement Association.

“This grant would not have been possible without the hard work put in by the Bear Pond Improvement Association over the years.”

Under the federal Clean Water Act a grant of $35,758 was given with a required local match of $23,958. The local match, according to Stern, can be in the form of donations of money, labor, supplies and equipment.

In 2001, the Bear Pond Improvement Association along with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District organized a survey around both Big and Little Bear ponds and identified 173 sites that are currently impacting or have the potential to impact water quality. Residential sites including driveways and shorefront accounted for 45 percent of the problem sites while private roads accounted for an additional 19 percent. All of these sites have some kind of erosion problem. Also identified as problems were both town and state roads, commercial properties, beaches and boat launches.

Phase 1 of the Bear Pond Water Quality Improvement Project will abate erosion and runoff sources at many of the problem sites by providing technical assistance and funds as well as labor to correct the problems.

“It may be as simple as planting some shrubs along a shorefront to stop erosion but can be much more complicated when it comes to erosion problems from roads and culverts,” Stern said.

Twenty years of water testing results from Big Bear Pond show a decline in clarity and a rise in both phosphorus and chlorophyll. These trends, based on evidence from other Maine lakes, forecast a future decline in water quality if the source of the erosion is not corrected.

The grant will also allow for more than erosion control at problem sites, Stern said. It will allow technical assistance to be given free of charge to anyone living in the Bear Pond watershed. Any landowner will be able to request technical assistance with erosion problems and will not be required to implement any recommendations, “although we hope they do,” he said.

Money from the grant will also be used to sponsor workshops.

The project is expected to be completed in October 2005.

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