OTISFIELD — Landowners and a watershed association have started planning for a two-year effort to reduce erosion into Thompson Lake.

Volunteers will seek to stem erosion into the lake from 96 sites in Otisfield. Partners in the project include the Thompson Lake Environmental Association, town of Otisfield, and private road associations and individuals.

“Obviously, it’s midwinter. We can’t do construction out there,” said Jeff Stern, project coordinator and watershed specialist with Fiddlehead Environmental Consulting. “What we can do is a lot of planning.”

Stern said he is working with the project partners to determine what areas can be addressed once the snow melts. He said the largest problems in Otisfield stem from roads that need to be repaired to divert water more effectively. Erosion can wash phosphorus into the water, feeding algal blooms that inhibit recreational uses and lower property values.

Thompson Lake has a 35-square mile watershed and is surrounded by four communities: Oxford, Otisfield, Poland and Casco. The erosion sites in Otisfield were identified by a watershed survey in 2008.

Through this survey, the TLEA was successful in applying for a two-year federal grant. A total of $61,189 available through the U.S. Clean Water Act was passed through the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to help fund the project. The partners will contribute a matching $40,976 in cash, supplies or volunteer labor.

Chris Pottle, treasurer of TLEA, said people living in the lake’s watershed are involved in water quality testing, milfoil eradication and erosion control. High school students attack smaller erosion sites as part of the Youth Conservation Corps, but Pottle said the grant will allow work on roads and other larger problems.

“It’s going to allow us to be able to accomplish some things that we haven’t been able to do with the Youth Conservation Corps,” Pottle said.

The TLEA also plans to meet with landowners for free “Thompson Lake Tune-Ups” to discuss erosion control methods. Landowners who contribute $300 of labor or equipment may qualify for individual $300 grants for the work. The organization will also offer workshops on planting vegetative barriers and maintaining gravel roads.

Stern said a survey in Casco and Poland in 2009 identified mostly residential sites of erosion, so the organization hopes that such consultation will be able to fix most of those sites. A survey is planned for Oxford this year.

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