PARIS — The beautiful lakes and ponds in Oxford County are truly special. Their clean cool waters are where we swim, fish, boat and gather around on hot summer days to enjoy.  Some of us are even lucky enough to own seasonal camps or year-round property on them. Oxford County Soil & Water Conservation District (OCSWCD) wants to help our lakes and ponds stay clean and clear by helping property owners on shorelines understand the role that vegetation “buffers” play on our lake and pond water quality, protecting them from stormwater runoff which can carry pollutants into our clean waters.

Healthy shoreline buffers are key to several programs and projects that the Conservation District is currently involved in: The LakeSmart Program and the North Pond Watershed Protection Project. Both of them center around efforts to reduce non-point source (NPS) pollution entering our lakes. NPS pollution is another name for stormwater runoff that carries sediment, nutrients and pollutants from the land into bodies of water. Preventing NPS pollution is extremely important to protecting water quality.

The goal of the LakeSmart program is to help property owners manage their property in ways that protect the lake from stormwater runoff. This runoff carries eroded soil sediments and the nutrient phosphorous, which feeds algae growth once it enters lakes. If there is too much phosphorous entering a lake it can resulting an “algae bloom” rendering the water green, slimy and unswimmable. Retaining the natural vegetation, or creating a buffer where one is lacking, goes a long way in filtering phosphorous out of runoff and holding soil in place so that sediment can’t run into the lake. The LakeSmart Program is run by the Maine Lakes Society and is both an education program and an incentive program. It provides educational information about ways to deal with runoff and awards to those who improve their properties and manage it to protect the lake.

The Watershed Protection Project on North Pond in Norway is a project funded by Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. It is coordinated by the OCSWCD in partnership with the Lakes Association of Norway, the Androscoggin River Watershed Council, and the Town of Norway, and is overseen by Maine DEP. The North Pond project began in the late fall of 2017 and has been a 2-year effort to address erosion issues that were documented during a watershed survey in 2016. The project provides 50/50 mini grants of up to $350 to residents to reduce erosion and runoff on their properties. Planting vegetative buffers is one of the most effective ways to accomplish that.

In support of LakeSmart and The North Pond Watershed Protection Projects, OCSWCD will be running 2 workshop presentations called “All About Buffers: Planting Greenery for Cleaner Water” in two locations in Oxford County on August 17 and 18th.

On Saturday, August 17 at 10:00 am the District will have a presentation at Howard Pond in Hanover, sponsored by the Howard Pond Association, a LakeSmart program participating lake, and on Sunday, August 18 at 1:00 pm there will be a presentation at North Pond in Norway, sponsored by the Lakes Association of Norway. The presentations will provide information about the function and importance of buffers, retaining natural vegetation, and enhancing or creating an effective buffer. Plant selection for various site conditions and exposures as well as sources of planting material will be covered as well.

The presentations are free and open to anyone who is interested in learning more about how to protect their lake. The Conservation District requests that people planning to attend either workshop please register by calling Michele Windsor at: (207) 744-3111. Details on the meeting locations can be found on their website: www.oxfordcountyswcd.org

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