Friday, April 29, 2022

Raymond Waterways Protective Association prepares for busy summer season

A Raymond Waterways Protective Association diver hands
up a 'bug bag,' a hand-held net bag used for milfoil mitigation
in areas of local lakes where conditions are not suitable for
using a suction hose for removal. SUBMITTED PHOTO
By Andrew Wing

It goes without saying how important clean water is. Our cherished way of life depends on clean water as healthy ecosystems provide wildlife habitat, and places to fish, paddle, surf and swim. Not only does our cherished way of life depend on clean water, but our economy depends on it as well. From manufacturing, farming, tourism, recreation, energy production, to other economic sectors, we need clean water to function and flourish and when it comes to the community of Raymond, the Raymond Waterways Protective Association has kept our water clean for about 50 years.

The Raymond Waterways Protective Association started in the early 1970s by Ernest Bickford and Ernest Knight, to monitor and preserve the lake water quality of all Raymond lakes. Since the beginning of RWPA’s testing, all of Raymond’s lakes have been placed in the above average quality in the entire state of Maine.

Those bodies of water include Crescent Lake, Notched Pond, Panther Pond, Raymond Pond, Sebago Lake and Thomas Pond.

The waterways association has continued to grow slowly, and with the specter of invasive species looming over our lakes, it has expanded their obligations even further by including voluntary boat inspections and plant surveys. 

But no matter what exactly they’re doing, association members say that they’re always focused on their mission, and that is to protect and improve the water quality of Raymond’s lakes, ponds, rivers and streams and to foster watershed stewardship.

At the end of the day, everyone benefits from keeping our waters inviting to residents and visitors alike, and this summer, Peggy Jensen, President of the RWPA, plans to continue doing that even better.

“We at RWPA will continue to be working all our usual programs from Courtesy Boat Inspections, Diver Assisted Suction Harvesting (DASH), and continuing to support the individual lake associations with quality monitoring and educational programming,” said Jensen. “Since our DASH crew has nearly cleaned out all of the invasive variable milfoil, this summer will reassess this program and possibly move to a different approach in the future.”

One of the main things RWPA combats on a yearly basis is milfoil. Raymond waters specifically are home to a variety of milfoil and there’s no denying that they’re a huge threat to our waters.

They have no natural controls here, they grow rampantly, and the invasive plants crowd out the native plants that support healthy waters. However, Peggy Jensen and her RWPA team have a multi-step attack on invasive aquatic species as invasive milfoil is not the only threat.

“All the smaller lakes and ponds have volunteers who are trained to identify the 11, soon to be 12, invasive aquatic plants that threaten our waters,” said Jensen. “We have spent about 14 years finding and removing invasive variable milfoil in Raymond’s waters, with most of it being done by a dive crew as all our divers are trained and certified for SCUBA work and for the specialized work of removing invasive plants.”

Another problem they face annually in the warmer months deals with the inspection of boats. The RWPA do not do safety checks on boats, but rather they employ Courtesy Boat Inspectors who inspect boats entering and leaving the launch ramps in Raymond, and these CBIs do two very important tasks.

“They educate boaters about the dangers of invasive species including organisms we can’t always see, and they remove all plant material that they find on a boat, a trailer, and all fishing gear,” said Jensen. “There is a large group of highly trained volunteers who provide emergency survey services to any lake that has a new infestation or a suspected one. Raymond is lucky to have some of these super surveyors right here in town.”

The RWPA noticed a huge increase in boating activity last summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet at the end of 2021, they found they had a very successful season and they are up to the task of repeating their success this summer.

“At the end of the 2021 season, the final survey showed that we had ‘cleaned’ numerous waterways,” said Jensen. “However, so long as there is any invasive variable milfoil in the Sebago Lakes, we will have to remain vigilant and continue surveying.” <

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