AREA — One way to keep a lake healthy is to prevent contamination from reaching it. On Tuesday, May 21, the Lakes Association of Norway (LAON) will begin conducting a field survey of Lake Pennesseewassee’s watershed to look for sources of erosion caused by storm water runoff that could harm water quality. The survey will continue June 1 and June 6.

Trees and shrubs on undeveloped land do a great job of filtering runoff. Unfortunately, natural filtering often decreases with development, decreasing water quality. Construction, road building, land clearing and areas with sparse vegetation can release sediment into the watershed, essentially fertilizing the pond. Excessive runoff carries nutrients such as phosphorus, which feeds algae blooms. This can hurt the recreational value of our lakes by limiting swimming, reducing fishing, and making them less attractive to wildlife such as loons, eagles, and osprey.

In addition, if the lakes suffer, everyone in our area will suffer, since Norway’s economic vitality is closely linked to the health of our lakes. Once these problems occur, they recur and are very expensive to fix. Soil erosion is the single largest pollutant (by volume) of Maine’s surface waters.

Compounding the problem, algae also thrive as our climate warms. There is not much we can do about our lakes becoming warmer, but we can – and must – reduce the impact of excessive runoff. Fortunately, with a little attention, filtration on developed land can be restored to the same level as undeveloped land.

Because activities that take place a long distance from the pond can have as much impact on water quality as those that occur in the shoreline area, the survey will include shoreline properties and other areas within the watershed. (A watershed is the surrounding land from which all rain and snowmelt drains to the pond.) Lake Pennesseewassee’s watershed covers about 18 square miles.

The survey will be conducted by volunteers guided by watershed experts that LAON will hire, and from experts from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. This will be our second complete survey, having surveyed North Pond in 2016. We received a grant to help address problems, and have resolved our most impactful sites, keeping many tons of sediment out of the pond each year. We plan to survey our other two lakes, Hobbs Pond and Sand Pond, over the next several years.

Locally led watershed surveys have been used successfully on many lakes and rivers throughout Maine as part of preventative best management practices. Our sole purpose is to find where unfiltered runoff could be causing harm to Lake Pennesseewassee and suggest potential solutions to the property owner.

The survey will also provide the information needed to apply for grant funds that can be used to fix priority problems. In no way will the information gathered be used for any regulatory or enforcement purposes.  In mid-April, LAON sent a letter describing the planned survey to all landowners within the watershed, giving them an opportunity to exclude their property from the survey.

Hopefully, the survey will be completed on the days scheduled, although it is possible that some additional time will be needed to complete the field work. If you would like to help conduct the survey, or have any questions, please contact LAON. You can reach us by email at [email protected], or call 860-912-7393.

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