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Friday, March 30, 2018

Public Form educates and engages lake area watershed residents by Lorraine Glowczak

Dr. Wilson Powerpoint showed 2018 summer plans
The Highland Lake Association hosted a Public Forum for Highland Lake residents and the Lake Region communities on Wednesday, March 21 at the Windham High School Auditorium from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The primary purpose was to discuss what is currently known about the lake, to address the issues faced regarding the lake and ways for area residents to be actively engaged in the health of the watershed. A question and answer session followed. Approximately 80 people attended the event.

The Forum was facilitated by Craig Freshley, founder of Good Group Decisions, Inc. and Makeshift
Coffeehouse. It included a panel of four area experts in the field of water quality who each presented up to date information. The presenters for the forum included Wendy Garland of the Maine Department of Environment (DEP), Dr. Karen Wilson of the University of Southern Maine (USM) as well as Gretchen Anderson from the Town of Windham and Heather True of Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District (CCSWCD).

http://betheinfluencewrw.org/index.htmlGarland was the first to present, providing background information of the lake. She shared that Highland Lake has experienced a gradual decline in water quality over the past four years as a result of an increase in algae; the cause due to the excess input of phosphorus. This growth is referred to as Pico cyanobacteria bloom (also referred to as picoplankton bloom.) 

The lake has a high phosphorus level due to camp road runoff, soil erosion, fertilizer use, pet waste, septic issues and development. The phosphorus in the atmosphere also plays a role. 

Dr. Wilson, who has worked with the Highland Lake watershed in her role as associate research
professor with USM’s Department of Environmental Science and Policy discussed the unknowns. She is an expert in the field of Limnology – the study of the biological, chemical, and physical features of lakes and other bodies of fresh water. 

Wilson stated that that Highland Lake has the most households in comparison to other Maine lakes. She discussed the importance of the food web and how the Pico cyanobacteria bloom can potentially harm that web. She explained that the bloom occurs at the same time every year, late July and most of August.

Wilson explained that scientists don’t fully understand or aren’t able to identify the source of the Pico cyanobacteria bloom. In an attempt to do so, surveys and studies will occur this summer, 2018. The focus will include, but is not limited to, the physical structure of the lake. 

Keeping soil out of the lake is imperative because soil easily binds to phosphorus. With that in mind, both Anderson and True identified ways for residences to protect the lake. This includes the goal of mimicking the natural shoreline by establishing a vegetative buffer, planting native trees and shrubs in the upland areas, explaining that root structures hold the water in place that prevents excessive runoff. 

Installing a dripline trench to absorb roof runoff, installing rain barrels, planting a rain garden and repairing roads and driveways were other suggestions.

Most residents who attended the event gained a deeper understanding of what is occurring and are ready to act to help rectify the problem. 

“Having just moved into the community this summer, the Forum provided my fiancĂ© and I with a lot of background information and context for what has been happening with the health of the lake in the past, and plans going forward,” stated Richard Qualey. “Between the information presented, and the information available at the door, there was a good amount of material available as to what sources contribute to the pollution of the lake, and what we can do as homeowners and community members to reduce our impact.”

The Public Forum inspired some residents to engage and act immediately. “I learned that dog feces (not picked up) runs into the lake and the phosphorus from their feces hurts the lake,” stated Barbara Jessen “The next morning after the meeting I explained to three dog owners on my road about their dogs’ feces. Even kicking the poop into the woods does not stop the feces from entering the lake rain storm, etc. On Sunday I went on a mission: to find dog pick-up bags. After some research, I found that Dollar Tree sells 80 bags for $1.  I bought seven packages, brought them home and gave one to each of the dog owners on my road.”
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Resident, Tonya Heskett stated that she plans to participate in the volunteer efforts as well as do their part to protect the shoreline. “Our goal is to take advantage of the information provided about the buffer zone to protect the shoreline and runoff into the lake at our property,” Heskett stated.
Qualey and his fiancĂ© have plenty of landscaping plans also. “Our plans should help reduce the impact on the lake our property, and hopefully help with some of the runoff from surrounding properties as well.”

Mike Fasulo, a former Highland Lake Association board member, was most impressed with the involvement of the towns of Windham and Falmouth. He stated he was very happy to see the municipalities’ dedication to the issue. Fasulo highly recommends all lake residents to become members of the association and to get involved.

What can you do to create a healthy watershed?
There are many ways an individual can become engaged. One way is by volunteering, with many options to choose from. They include the following:

Watershed Survey – Forty people are needed to complete a survey on Saturday, May 19 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. No experience necessary. Contact Chantal Scott at 207- 899-7641 or chantal.altavista@gmail.com

Water quality sampling transportation volunteers – Drivers are needed to drive samples to University of New Hampshire. The roundtrip to UNH is about 140 miles. Contact Chantal Scott for more information.


Buffer Protection Volunteers – This includes planning shrubs, bushes, perennials, cleaning out ditches and helping with the road improvements. Again, contact Chantal Scott for more information


Alewives counting volunteers – From May to June, Alewives that come up the fish ladder into the lake need to be counted. Contact Rosie Hartzler at 207-415-3727 or at rosie@rosieworks.com.

Lake Depth Calculation Volunteers – Volunteers with boats are needed to re-calculate the depths of the lake. Equipment and training provided by Lakes Environmental Association. Contact Rosie Hartzler for more information.

The health of Highland Lake is not only a concern to its residents and the towns that are part of the lake but is an overall concern for maintaining the health of all lakes in the Lakes Region. Whether or not one is a resident of Highland Lake, the information that was offered at the Public Forum can be used by all area watershed residents.

For more information, contact Highland Lake Association President, Rosie Hartzler at 207-415-3727 or at rosie@rosieworks.com.


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