For The Sake of Maine’s Lakes
Fall 2020 Volume 49
Table of Contents
Just this last month, Maine Lakes turned 50. While it wasn’t the anniversary year we wanted it to be (really, was it the year anyone wanted it to be?) and our plans to celebrate at our Maine Lakes Conference in June were scuttled by COVID, we hope to manage some kind of in-person celebration of our “50+1” anniversary in 2021. As part of our celebration, we present here a brief (and incomplete) history of Maine lake conservation, how far we’ve come, and a little bit about Maine Lakes’ role in moving key lake protection issues and actions forward. Look for Part II in our next issue.
The Original Lake Stewards
Imagine Maine’s landscape 15,000 years ago, covered in a sheet of ice more than two miles thick. As it melted, this slow-moving glacial ice changed the landscape, scraping over our renowned mountains and further shaping many of the more than 6,000 lakes across the state. The earliest stewards of this landscape and these lakes were the people of the Maliseet, Micmac, Penobscot, and Passamaquoddy tribes. They depended upon fish, plants, and wildlife from both coastal and inland waters for their physical, cultural, and spiritual survival. We owe a huge gratitude of debt and thanks for their role in actively protecting these resources from earliest times through today and into the future.
The Role of Sportsmen (and Women)
In the first part of the last century, the unique and world-class fisheries found in Maine’s clear, clean lakes helped build an angling industry that still thrives today. The Maine legislature long ago recognized the need to foster the stewardship of game species by passing a bill in 1897 requiring fishing and hunting guides to register with the state. They registered more than 1,300 guides that first year, with the first one being a woman, Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby, a skilled fly fisherman from Rangeley. Today, there are more than 6,300 registered Maine Guides still fostering stewardship of fish and wildlife resources with their clients across the state. Guides and anglers have long recognized the value of conserving and protecting lake waters and lake habitat in order to sustain fisheries for future generations. The passage of the Sport Fish Restoration Act (also known as the Dingell-Johnson Act) in 1950 created a system that generates revenue by adding excise taxes on sport fishing equipment. Funds are used to support conservation and restoration, boating safety programs, and fish and habitat restoration projects. Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife typically receives around $3 million annually from this fund. And Maine’s lakes and fisheries have reaped great benefits.
Some Dark Decades
In the 50s and 60s, degradation of lake and river resources was rampant across the county. In a booming post-World War II era, industrial expansion and new-found affluence changed the landscape of Maine’s lakes. The market for summer camps boomed, and a building frenzy created many of the camps we all know and love today. Unfortunately, little or no regulation guided their construction, and we lacked knowledge about the future risks that even these usually small buildings located close to the water’s edge would pose to water quality. Effluent into Maine’s freshwater bodies and rivers was widespread, and polluted rivers and fishkill events became much too commonplace. Maine’s tradition of massive log drives had degraded fish habitat in many of our largest rivers for more than a century, with repercussions for fishery health and sustainability in lakes connected to these historic drives. It was time for a change.
Maine Lakes Today
It’s not just our name that has changed - from Maine COLA to Maine Lakes Society to Maine Lakes – our mission has also expanded. Merging with the Maine Lakes Conservancy Institute in 2013 brought us Lakes Alive! and our on-boat education programming, currently under review and hopefully emerging in 2021 as a program with a greater geographic and more equitable reach. Changes at DEP helped us take on the LakeSmart program, which perfectly aligned with our focus on lake associations and the reduction of phosphorus and other pollutants. LakeSmart has reached more than 1,200 landowners to date, and is poised to grow by leaps and bounds in the coming decade as more regional partners come on board and more trained LakeSmart evaluators amplify and spread the message of LakeSmart living. The new edition of our Lake Book is due out in January, and will include more information in a new format that will help get the word out about lake conservation. Our Advocacy efforts continue to make a big difference in Augusta, with compelling testimony from our members helping drive lake-friendly legislation year after year. This coming session will be no exception. We look forward to another 50 years of working to protect Maine’s lakes and ponds, to partnering with our many collaborators, and to supporting more lake associations across the state as we work to protect these gems for all future generations.
Is That All?
Not by a long shot! Tune in to the Spring issue of For the Sake of Maine’s Lakes to learn more about the history of the fight against invasive species as well as more on the history of the DEP and its critical role in lake protection since its inception in 1972. And there will be more on Maine Lakes’ history of action on behalf of Maine’s lakes.
“Our planet is beset with a cancer which threatens our very existence and which will not respond to the kind of treatment that has been prescribed in the past. The cancer of water pollution was engendered by our abuse of our lakes, streams, rivers, and oceans; it has thrived on our half-hearted attempts to control it; and like any other disease, it can kill us.” -Senator Edmund Muskie, 1972
The Clean Water Act of 1972 has deep Maine roots. As Governor from 1955 to 1959, Edmund Muskie recognized the connection between our economy and our natural resources. He identified water quality improvements as a component of an economic development plan, since improved environmental conditions would attract new businesses to the state. Muskie created a Water Improvement Commission to work on classification standards for Maine’s freshwater rivers and lakes, but industries’ undue influence on water quality legislation stalled their work.
Muskie became a U.S. Senator in 1959, serving on the Public Works Committee and as chair of the subcommittee on Air and Water Pollution. Senator Muskie worked tirelessly throughout the 1960s, submitting multiple unsuccessful bills as he refined what would eventually become The Clean Water Act. He focused on compliance rather than enforcement, and one of his primary goals was the creation of federal water quality standards for interstate waters. After more than 10 years, Muskie introduced the Clean Water Act on October 28, 1971. The bill then spent 10 months in conference, with a final vote of 366 to 11 in the House and unanimous passage in the Senate. Despite his own administration urging him to sign the bill, Nixon vetoed the bill. Just two hours later that veto was overridden overwhelmingly (and with bipartisan support) in both the house and senate. While the Clean Water Act remains a vital tool for lake and river protection, constant vigilance is needed. Maine Lakes helped mobilize grassroots advocacy during the 2019 “Dirty Water Rule”, which unfortunately passed despite overwhelming opposition from the public and from scientists and water quality experts. There will always be more work to be done to keep landmark legislation like the Clean Water Act strong, and Maine Lakes and our grassroots activists will be here to act. FMI, see Take Action on p. 15. (Edited from DEP/ARC GIS story map: Maine: 50 Years of Water Quality Restoration and Protection. See link at www.lakes.me.)
Maine’s Mandatory Shoreland Zoning Law was first enacted in 1971 in response to increasing development pressure along lakes and rivers. The legislature concluded that strict regulation of land-use activities was necessary in the shoreland zone to protect water resources, including among other things pollution prevention, wildlife habitat, fish spawning grounds, aesthetic value, open space, and shore cover. Through the years, the law has been strengthened and amended in response to environmental and citizen concerns. Citizen planning boards, local officials, and legislators have all shaped and honed the law over the last 40 years.
And we know the law has worked. A 2013 study1 by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (in cooperation with the Maine DEP) compared water quality in Maine, where strong long-term shoreland zoning standards have been in place, to Vermont, where initial shoreland zoning laws were repealed in 1975. The study compared water quality data from lakeshore sites in the two states, and showed that the kind of development allowed on Vermont lakes was degrading aquatic habitat and biota, while the kind of development allowed on Maine lakes was protective of both. Maine’s residents and visitors benefit enormously from clean, clear lakes and streams; a healthy fishery; tree-lined shores; and an economy fueled by healthy water resources. Today, Maine’s shoreland zoning law is recognized as a national model of responsible environmental regulation. Clearly, shoreland zoning makes sense to Mainers. While it will no doubt continue to be fine-tuned, the original intent of the law is just as valid today as it was four decades ago.
Edited from the Introduction to “Maine Shoreland Zoning: A Handbook for Shoreland Owners” published by the Maine DEP.
1 Determining if Maine’s Mandatory Shoreland Zoning Act Standards are Effective at Protecting Aquatic Habitat. 2013. Kellie Merrell, Jeremy Deeds and Mark Mitchell (Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation) and Roy Bouchard (Maine Department of Environmental Protection). https://dec.vermont.gov/sites/dec/files/wsm/lakes/Lakewise/docs/_mainezoning.pdf.
By Steven Mogul, Committee Chair
The Maine Lakes Statement on Racism and Equality was adopted in July. In it, we acknowledge and condemn racism in any form, and pledge to do what we can to eliminate the impacts of systemic racism. As advocates for healthy watersheds for ALL residents of Maine, our work is tied directly to the environmental justice movement, which supports and embraces racial justice. Please read the full statement at www.lakes.me.
Rather than merely state our concern, offer our support, and declare our beliefs, we felt it was important to commit to concrete action, so the conclusion of the statement creates an Environmental Justice Committee as standing committee of the board. For being outspoken at the meeting in which the Statement was adopted, I was appointed to chair the new Environmental Justice Committee.
Although Environmental Justice may seem to be an offshoot of the Black Lives Matter movement, which was brought back to the forefront of our attention after the murder of George Floyd, it is a subject that predated that catalytic event. It includes issues of siting locations of toxic waste depositories and industrial development in poorer communities, limited access to recreational opportunities, disproportionate impact of pollution on indigenous communities and communities of color, as well as issues relating to the sovereignty and interests of indigenous people.
The Environmental Justice Committee was formed not only to fulfill the promise in our racism and equity statement, but to explore ways in which Maine Lakes can marshal its substantial resources and collective knowledge at the crossroads of lake conservation and justice for historically under-served populations. At its first meeting, the Environmental Justice Committee considered a number of objectives, including:
- Improving access to water-based recreational opportunities for under-served populations, including access to swimming instruction
- Collaborating with indigenous communities and communities of color on outreach regarding the value of clean Maine lakes
- Utilizing our expertise in watershed protection to support other organizations that are promoting racial justice
- Providing opportunities to educate our own members and board on racial and environmental justice issues.
The Committee is not interested in becoming a think tank. We want to be a committee of action. We don’t want to simply talk the talk. We intend to walk the walk. Look for more updates on the committee’s work in future issues.
What a year this has been!
As we celebrate 50 years of supporting Lake Associations and lake conservation, we have seen incredible changes to our lives resulting from COVID - which continues to drive how we communicate and advocate for lakes.
Our annual meeting was held virtually in June with a series of online webinars over several weeks with outstanding speakers. Many of our members and others interested in lake stewardship – 878 viewers – participated in these webinars , many more than at any of our in-person conference in our 50-year history. We missed the social aspect to an annual meeting, but the technical sharing was superb.
There has been an unprecedented turnover in lake property ownership over the past several months. The volunteerism and engagement of lake stewardship over the past 50 years (in our organization and in our peer organizations) has created an attractive and healthy environment that has increased the demand for lake front properties. COVID concerns and the “new normal” of remote workstations has driven a robust market and appreciation for what we have in our daily lives here in Maine. The turnover in ownership is both an opportunity to welcome new owners and a challenge in the battle to ensure healthy lake environments continue for our children and grandchildren.
The Maine Lakes Board of Directors is strong and diverse, both geographically and by background/experience. This year, the Board has committed to inculcating environmental justice, ensuring that all voices are respected and encouraged in our education, advocacy, and action agendas.
There will be numerous challenges for Maine Lakes over the next year, as funding from foundations and grant makers is reduced due to COVID and state budget shortfalls put our LakeSmart funding at risk. It is a challenge we need to embrace and plan for, so we can continue the strong and committed dedication to environmental lake stewardship that has been the hallmark of Maine Lakes for the last 50 years. Now more than ever, we need to leverage the passion of our members, both as volunteers and as financial supporters. We thank you in advance for your support!
Dick Tinsman, President
Who doesn’t want to be done with the year 2020? It’s easy to be discouraged, especially when the holidays are coming, when we are missing grandbabies and parents and siblings, and when the 18-pound turkey in our fridge looks like it’s going to feed us from now until the New Year. But as I said in our recent appeal letter (which hopefully all of you received), I am trying to remember all the opportunities that this unprecedented COVID time has brought.
For me personally, it gave me unexpected time with my teenagers, whose usual busy social and work lives spent mostly out of the house came to a grinding halt in March. It was a pleasure to have their company and they kept me entertained, centered, and sane.
For my work life at Maine Lakes, the opportunities came in the form of expanding our horizons with new tools and technologies. Our conference, in a virtual format of “Wednesday Webinars” reached hundreds of viewers from across the country. New collaborative software has helped our small staff feel connected and productive from our remote offices. Our switch to virtual trainings for LakeSmart helped keep the program going, after initially thinking that we’d have to abandon our LakeSmart programming altogether in 2020. Our lake education program had to be on hiatus, giving us the opportunity to work with partners and explore ways to re-envision Lakes Alive! as a program that reaches more students in more places across the state.
We are planning for many more opportunities in 2021. There are new audiences to reach — new camp owners, new camp renters, new boat owners — who will play an important role in protecting our lakes and ponds in the future. Connecting with new audiences, working on Environmental Justice issues, and building our programs will give us more than enough work in the year ahead. We hope to count on your continued support. Happy Holidays, and best wishes for a happy, healthy 2021!
Susan Gallo, Executive Director
Resilience is the ability to withstand or quickly recover from disturbances: more resilient systems are able to absorb larger shocks without changing in fundamental ways, while less resilient systems are much more vulnerable to collapse. Imagine a forest that thrives after a windstorm knocks down larger trees, giving the smaller ones room to grow. Like a forest, the Lake-Smart program is a highly complex system. Lake association volunteers are its center, and many other organizations help keep it functioning at a high level. How resilient would this system be in the face of unprecedented change?
Turns out, VERY. Thanks to accessible, reliable technology (hooray for Zoom!) and passionate, adaptable volunteers, we were able to keep the LakeSmart program alive and thriving. One of the highlights of 2020 was the development of our online training program. Maine Lakes collaborated with Lakes Environmental Association (LEA) to train new Evaluators in an entirely new way. With the help of a dedicated and experienced Coordinator, and an enthusiastic team of volunteers, we were able to successfully create a LakeSmart team for Keoka Lake! Here’s are some things they had to say about the experience:
Ginger Eaton, Keoka Lake Volunteer: For me, and probably you…there were lots of much-anticipated events and family traditions that had to be outright cancelled! We were, of course, deeply grateful to all be healthy and still able to spend our summer months in Maine on our beloved Keoka Lake. As a second-generation board member of Keoka Lake Association (KLA), I would normally be running our annual summer educational event. COVID put a stop to that, so instead I trained to become a Lake Smart Evaluator!
I was part of the first-ever fully remote group that, under the leadership of Roy Lambert (working from Oregon), gained access to the tremendously researched curriculum on watershed lake sustainability. I was thrilled to be part of a team of three representing KLA that included myself, Doss Hasson and Priscilla Treadwell. The experience truly changed us and informed our knowledge far more than anticipated. Our Team went on to assist three Keoka Lake landowners to each earn a Lake Smart Award by the end of August 2020.
I genuinely ask to any of us who consider ourselves to be “stewards of our beautiful lakes” to please learn more about Maine Lakes and Lake Smart!
Roy Lambert, Lakes Environmental Association/LakeSmart Volunteer: What’s a LakeSmart coordinator to do when he can’t travel safely to Maine? I’d never contemplated that possibility until COVID kept me in Oregon this summer season. I am LEA’s LakeSmart coordinator and I also chair the LakeSmart Committee for Maine Lakes - the program sponsor - and teach new evaluators. How much could I do from Oregon?
It turns out, a lot. With the wonders of Zoom and screen-sharing, teaching new evaluators the lake-friendly practices that reduce storm water runoff into the lake (with its phosphorus load) is almost as easy as being there. The challenge is coupling that “book” knowledge with the practical experience that comes from walking a myriad shorefront properties. But even this challenge can be addressed with modern communications and willing evaluators. Copious photos of problematic property features facilitated feedback and discussion. The discussion resulted in deeper understanding of where LakeSmart lines are drawn.
Keoka Lake, Trickey Pond, LEA, and Maine Lakes are lucky to have new LakeSmart evaluators this year. LEA is lucky because the evaluators who originally thought of themselves as benefitting their “home” lakes have proved to be a potent force for LakeSmart even on other area lakes. Now that’s what regional coordination looks like!
Reprinted with permission from a recent UMaine blog by Marcus Wolf.
Toxic blooms of blue-green algae have infested lakes across Maine and the U.S. at greater frequency over the years. The associate director of the Climate Change Institute seeks to understand the role global warming plays in their incidence.
Dr. Jasmine Saros will lead a team of researchers from UMaine and other institutions in studying how warmer winters affect the presence of these summertime toxic algae accumulations, known as cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (cyanoHABs), in Maine lakes over the past 125 years. Michael Kinnison, Maine Center for Genetics in the Environment, Peter Countway from the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Denise Bruesewitz from Colby College, and Charlie Culbertson from the USGS New England Water Science Center will work with Saros on the project.
The study, funded by a $249,432 grant from USGS, will focus on how rising temperatures in the winter months have influenced the prevalence of Gloeotrichia. The toxin producing, bloom-forming species serves as the primary cyanoHAB of concern in lakes with low or medium levels of nutrients. It also produces microcystin-LR, the most prevalent and harmful cyanobacterial toxin in Maine and the Northeast.
Information from Saros and her colleagues’ research could enhance warning systems for summer cyanoHABs and help government officials and nonprofit lake management agencies prepare for them based on conditions from prior winters.
“The ecological factors that promote formation of cyanoHABs are poorly understood, and large uncertainty remains about how climate interacts with other drivers to shape cyanoHABs,” says Saros, also a professor of paleolimnology and lake ecology in the UMaine School of Biology and Ecology. “The long-term perspective provided by the fossil record in lake sediments will help us to understand the role of climate in driving these blooms.”
Winter has become the fastest changing season in Maine, with the warming rate twice that of summer. With past studies finding a link between cyanobacterial summer blooms and winter conditions, and the presence of Gloeotrichia increasing in low-nutrient lakes in the Northeast, the question of how warming winters influence the frequency of these blooms has come to the forefront.
Saros and her team will confirm the forces that drive the uptick in cyanoHABs over the past century by harvesting, dating and analyzing sediment cores from 12 lakes varying in nutrient concentrations and climate zones. They will inspect the cores for algal pigments, sedimentary DNA (sedDNA) and sediment chemistry. By conducting multiple analyses on the sediment cores and using climate data and land use records, the group will ascertain how the interaction between nutrient composition and temperature affect the frequency of cyanoHABs, and how increasing temperatures during winters have influenced their presence. Researchers also hope to learn how the effects of warming winters relate to cyanobacterial diversity and cyanoHAB dominance overtime.
The study will support ongoing research conducted through the Maine-eDNA program facilitated by Maine EPSCoR (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research). The team will recruit a UMaine Ph.D. student to conduct pigment and metabarcoding analyses of sediment cores, and two undergraduate students from Colby College to help perform sediment coring and chemical analyses and present team findings at conferences.
The USGS allocated the funding for the project as part of the national Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) Grant Program. The Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions houses Maine’s congressionally authorized water institute and receives the base funding from the national- and state-level WRRI grant funding programs.
“We’re excited about this project because it will advance understanding of this important issue by using new tools developed through Maine-eDNA and by continuing strong partnerships with Maine DEP (Department of Environmental Protection), the Portland Water District and Lakes Environmental Association with help from USGS funding,” Saros says.
By Dr. Danielle Wain, 7 Lakes Alliance
A wake boat study was initiated this past summer in response to concern from the East Pond Association that wake boats might impact the longevity of the 2018 alum treatment. There are two possible ways this may occur: direct disturbance of the treated sediment beneath the boat and disturbance of shallower untreated sediments followed by lateral sediment transport leading to burial of treated sediments. In August 2019, with the assistance of Camp Manitou, an experiment was designed to test the depth of penetration of the wakes to determine the likelihood of these mechanisms.
To measure the boat wakes, a 1-MHz pulse-coherent acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) was placed by divers on the bottom of the lake at the deepest point. Additionally, two sediment traps were deployed for two months, one at the deep hole and another at 16’ depth, to measure the deposition of sediments in the lake to get an estimate of how much sediment is resuspended and/or transported over the summer.
Camp Manitou ran the same boat configured in three ways over the ADCP: surfing (10 mph, full ballast, wake plate), extreme wakeboarding (20 mph, full ballast, no wake plate), and water skiing (30 mph, no ballast, no wake plate). Three passes in each configuration were made, each separated by 10 minutes. We observed that when the boat is configured for surfing, the wake penetrates approximately 7’. When the boat is configured for extreme wakeboarding, the wake penetrates approximately 3’. Not surprisingly, the use of the wake plate seems to be the key difference in how deep the wake penetrates.
So what does this mean for water quality? In summer 2019, we saw continued improvement in water clarity and phosphorus concentrations compared with conditions pre-alum treatment. But there was a moderate increase in both in late July and early August (although still much better than pre-alum treatment!)
We did not observe anoxia in the lake until early August, indicating that the increase in phosphorus (and subsequent decrease in Secchi depth) was not likely to be due to internal loading from the sediments. Even if anoxia were present, the alum in the sediment would prevent such release. Analysis of other elements present in the water column confirms this. Aluminum does not dissolve from sediments under anoxic conditions (which is why it is used as a phosphorus binder). Thus, an increase in aluminum in the water column (as observed) must be due to a different mechanism, likely sediment transport from other regions of the lake. While sediment transport can be due to wind and wave action, the increase in aluminum coincides with peak boating activity in the lake of all types.
In summary, regular boat wakes penetrate down to about 3’ and wake boats are about twice that (7’), which is not deep enough to directly disturb the alum treatment. That doesn’t preclude disturbing shallower untreated sediments (if boats go in water less than 7’), which can be suspended and redeposited on top of treated sediments. To avoid disturbing sediments underneath the boat, wake boats should be operated in water that is >10’, much of the lake in East Pond.
We would like to thank Steve Henderson at Washington State University for loaning of the ADCP, Sharon Mann for deploying the instrument frame, and Pete Hansen from Camp Manitou for coordinating the wake boat. Originally printed in the East Pond Association Newsletter.
Maine Lakes got an interesting message this summer from a woman looking to connect with us about her goal to swim every lake in Maine. That caught our attention and we were excited to learn more about this unique adventure.
Ali Simons has always been a swimmer. Growing up in Winslow, she competed for Winslow High School, specializing in long-distance and butterfly. Her dad Phil, the fire captain in Waterville for 29 years, was her biggest fan and would tell anyone who would listen how proud he was to watch her compete. As an adult, Ali grew restless of the confines of the pool. Open-water ocean swimming didn’t have great appeal and that appeal has diminished significantly with reported great white shark sightings (and a deadly attack) this past summer. She spent lots of time with friends as a kid on East Pond, where her love of lakes, and lake swimming, was realized at an early age and seemed a perfect fit for her long-term swimming goals.
She thought about an ambitious plan to swim every lake in Maine starting in 2019, and shared her plan with her dad who of course supported her 110 percent. That was all she needed to move ahead, and last year she clocked swims in 21 different Maine lakes. Unfortunately, Ali’s dad Phil passed away this past year on Christmas Eve. While feeling the loss acutely, it made her even more committed to carrying out the plan that her dad was, as always, so proud of and excited for her to complete.
Ali swims at least a mile in each lake to make it count, which takes her about 15-20 minutes to complete. There are open water swimming rules that prohibit a wetsuit, so her season can’t be extended much past September or start much earlier than June. She does wear swim socks that help a little. This past year she added 31 lakes to her list, and she will most likely be found swimming in western and northern Maine in 2021. She’s chipping away at her list, which if you take off the smallest and shallowest lakes, numbers around 1,500 lakes. Clearly, this is a long-term project.
Ali’s favorite lake so far is Mountain View Pond west of Greenville, where – you guessed it – there is a gorgeous view of Big Moose Mountain. Ali is passionate about clean water in Maine’s lakes because she’s already had to bypass potential swimming opportunities in lakes experiencing algal blooms. Ali was kind enough to support Maine Lakes this past summer with a birthday fundraiser on FaceBook that raised almost $500, for which we are incredibly grateful. We’ll keep in touch with Ali to hear more about her adventures, and may be reaching out to you, our members, in the years to come when she is looking for access at lakes without public launches or town beaches. We are hopeful you may be able to offer her a parking space and a dock from which to launch herself on another mile in another beautiful Maine lake.
Don’t forget that the CARES Act, passed earlier this year, has an incentive for charitable giving in the form of an “above-the-line” deduction for charitable gifts made in cash of up to $300. If you are not itemizing on your 2020 taxes, you can claim this new deduction. Maine Lakes would be happy to be the recipients of your year-end giving, and will, as always, provide you with a thank you and acknowledgement letter to be used for tax reporting purposes. Visit www.lakes.me and click the blue “Donate” button for easy online giving, or mail donations to us at the address on page two. Thank you!
It was the week of March 8th when I first saw my schedule dramatically shift. First, a speaking engagement was cancelled. Then an after school education program. Then a conference. Then another speaking engagement. By the time April rolled around and we made the decision to cancel our in-person LakeSmart training workshops, I knew the summer would look very different than how I had imagined.
When I joined Maine Lakes as LakeSmart Program Manager back in January, I was already anticipating a year with many challenges. Not only was I stepping into a role previously filled by the wonderful Maggie Shannon, I also knew that the program was in the process of developing some BIG changes. That said, nothing could have prepared me (or any of us!) for what 2020 had in store. There was time this spring when I wondered if all of the wonderful services that Maine Lakes has to offer – LakeSmart, Lakes Alive!, the Maine Lakes Conference – would actually come to a complete stop.
Instead, 2020 turned into a very busy and productive year! Temporarily pausing provided space for everyone at Maine Lakes to reflect on the LakeSmart program and thoughtfully plan and prepare for the future. It also gave us an opportunity to explore new ways to connect Maine lake lovers to the LakeSmart program and other conservation messages.
Without a doubt, our biggest project this year was the development of new standards for our LakeSmart property evaluation. This project, dubbed “LakeSmart 2.0” began before I came to Maine Lakes and is actually still underway. It has involved literature reviews, interviews, online surveys, focus groups, and meetings (many of you were probably involved) and hours and hours of discussion. It’s been a lot of work, but we are very happy with the process and are very excited to share the improvements with you in 2021!
We also moved a little outside of our comfort zone this year and tested new virtual training methods. With a terrific team attitude and a healthy dose of support from a LakeSmart Hub, we were able to successfully train a new team on Keoka Lake (FMI see page 7).
One of my favorite activities this year was my participation in our Wednesday Webinar series, held in lieu of our annual, in-person Maine Lakes Conference. It was fun to share information – especially about loons! – with a big, broad audience and connect with folks from all over the country.
Of course, the absolute highlight of my summer came any time I was able to connect with our LakeSmart volunteers! While I was disappointed to not have the opportunity to meet most of you in person, I was always excited to connect over email or through a phone call. Best of all were the few chances I had to visit you on your lakes and see all of your excellent work firsthand. Thank you for all that you do.
It might have been tempting to slow down or give up during these stressful, tumultuous times but you all continued to charge ahead and make progress. Our work is more important than perhaps ever before! Thank you for your inspiration!
Wynn Muller left the Maine Lakes board this year after 12 years of service. Wynn served in many capacities, bringing his unique brand of financial expertise and creative problem solving to his time as at-large member of the Executive Committee, Treasurer, Chair of Development and contributor to the Conference Committee. Wynn was also the first Chair of the Council of Lake Associations, a fitting post for a lake association president who made the most of every opportunity to build community for Wilson Lake. In true “Wynner” fashion, he took a lake use threat and turned it into a model ordinance that built the capacity of Friends of Wilson Lake (FOWL), launched his retirement career as a Maine lake activist, and made FOWL a household name in Wilton. A dedicated planner, he crafted development forecasts to help sustain and grow Maine Lakes as an organization. As a passionate lake conservationist, LakeSmart evaluator, water quality monitor, President of FOWL, and active community member in both Wilton, ME and Wilton, CT, we know he’ll find good use for his extra time. Thank you, Wynn, for your many years of service to all Maine lakes, from Maine Lakes!
Legislators in Augusta need to hear from you! The upcoming session will no doubt be a challenging one as the legislature figures out how to manage virtual public testimony. The good news is that virtual options will make it easier and less time consuming to deliver testimony. Lakes need your voice in Augusta for strong regulations and protections! We would love to keep you up to date as the session unfolds. Please sign up for our Activist Alerts at www.lakes.me or send an email to email@example.com.
Thank you for speaking up for Maine’s lakes!
For our spring newsletter, we are looking for articles from our lake association members. Whether you want to write something new or send us an article from your newsletter, we welcome your input!
Please reach out if you’d like to contribute by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks in advance, we look forward to hearing from you!
The Maine Climate Council voted just days ago to finalize draft recommendations for the state’s next Climate Action Plan (CAP), a document that will guide Maine’s efforts to meet ambitious climate goals set by Governor Mills. The Climate Council is a nonpartisan collection of scientists, industry leaders, lawmakers, and municipal officials convened by the governor in 2019 to develop a four-year plan to prepare for the impacts of climate change and provide a path to reduce emissions of 45 percent by 2030, and at least 80 percent by 2050.
Maine’s lakes are already impacted by climate change, and are poised to suffer further declines in water quality and impact property values and municipal income if greenhouse gases are not reduced in the future (see box to right FMI).
The CAP provides policy recommendations in eight strategy areas, including the transportation sector, natural and working lands, and community resiliency. Specific policies identified in the CAP will need to be implemented via administrative actions or passed through the Legislature. Though much work remains, Maine Lakes and other environmental organizations around the state are optimistic that the CAP sets us in the right direction to protect our environment and spur our economy.
The final CAP aims to increase the total acreage of conserved lands in the state to 30% by 2030; ensure that new renewable energy development is sited properly to protect natural resources and watershed values; and develop new incentives to increase carbon storage on priority lands, among other recommendations.
The CAP also provides a number of strategies to spur the renewable energy economy, especially in promoting technologies like electric vehicles and heat pumps seen as key to meeting emission reduction goals.
“The final Climate Action Plan succeeds in promoting an appropriately diverse set of policy solutions to our climate crisis, including recognizing the critical role our natural and working lands play in controlling carbon,” says Eliza Donoghue, Director of Advocacy & Staff Attorney at Maine Audubon.
“Investment in the environment is investment in the economy,” says Vaughan Woodruff, the CEO and Founder of Insource Renewables, based in Pittsfield, which specializes in the installation of solar panels and heat pumps. “With many clean energy technologies now proving to be cheaper than fossil fuels, Maine can take the good work of the Maine Climate Council and utilize successful state entities, such as Efficiency Maine, to ensure the benefits of these technologies are accessible to people across Maine.”
The final Climate Action Plan is due to be released December 1 and its recommendations will need to be either administered through state agencies or passed through the state legislature. Look for calls to action in the legislative session ahead. To sign up for alerts, email email@example.com or visit www.lakes.me/take-action.
~Adapted from Maine Audubon press release, 12 November 2020, Nick Lund, Outreach Coordinator
- Much like Maine’s air temperatures, the temperatures of rivers, streams and lakes have been increasing over the last several decades. Winter ice thickness and duration have correspondingly decreased. Warming waters affect which species thrive and eliminate those adapted to cold water.
- Surface temperatures of lakes in northern New England increased 1.4°F per decade from 1984-2014 – faster than the worldwide average – with smaller lakes warming more rapidly than larger lakes. Maine lake surface temperatures have warmed on average by nearly 5.5°F.
- Increases in precipitation and runoff over the last century, combined with a reduction in acidic deposition and longer growing seasons, have resulted in a rise of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in our rivers, streams and lakes, and thus export of DOC to the Gulf of Maine. This can alter aquatic species and influence temperature and stratification patterns, thus altering plankton dynamics in aquatic systems.
- The water quality of a significant number of rivers, streams and lakes has improved as a result of the laws and regulations put in place to mitigate the effects of development, agriculture, and forestry practices on water quality. However, recent increases in the volume of stormwater runoff have resulted in transport of tons of soil and pollutants into our waters, thus laws and regulations may need adjusting.
- If Maine continues to receive more intense rainfall, stormwater transport of nutrients and other pollutants to our fresh waters will increase. Increasing nutrients will shift biota to less-desirable species, including nutrient-loving invasive species, cyanobacteria and possibly toxin-producing harmful algal bloom species. Waters will then be less likely to meet their classification standards and be designated as impaired. The restoration of these waters will be expensive; in one example, restoration of East Pond in the Belgrade Lakes region cost more than $1 million.
- Multiple studies on Maine lakes have shown that shoreline property values decrease when water clarity is reduced. This causes a domino effect with respect to property taxes by shifting the tax burden from shoreland to upland properties. These studies estimate that our lakes generate annual revenue of approximately $4 billion.
These highlights are summarized from a recent scientific assessment published by the Maine Climate Council.
For the complete report, see the Scientific Assessment of Climate Change and Its Effects in Maine. A Report by the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the Maine Climate Council. 2020 Augusta, Maine. 370 pp.
Are you curious about how water quality is affected by runoff and erosion? Are you dreading the long winter ahead and looking for something to occupy your time? Consider enrolling in an engaging online lake class taught by professionals at Michigan State University Extension. While this course is based in Michigan, the similarities between Michigan and Maine make it applicable to anyone wanting to know more about Maine’s lakes.
Introduction to Lakes is a six-week online course specially designed for lake users, lakefront property owners, and lake managers. From the comfort of your home or office, participants have 24/7 access to six online units complete with closed captioned video lectures, interactive activities, additional resources, discussion forums, quizzes and live chat sessions with classmates and MSU Extension experts.
Topics include lake ecology, lakes and their watersheds, shorelines, water laws, aquatic plant management, and community involvement in lake stewardship. The course is taught on a week-by-week basis, allowing for online communication between classmates and instructors through topical discussion forums. The course also includes three Ask-an-Expert webinar sessions with instructors and outside experts.
Maine Lakes is pleased to offer $20 off the registration fee to the first 25 students. To register, click HERE.
FMI about the class, visit www.canr.msu.edu/introduction_to_lakes_online/
One of Maine’s most majestic birds (after the Common Loon, of course!) has to be the Great Blue Heron. You’ll know the bird in flight by its S-shaped neck and long trailing legs. If you’ve ever watched one hunt, you know they can stand stock-still in shallow water for what seems like hours, waiting until the perfect fish swims by and then, at the just the right time, jabbing at lightning speed to grab their prey. If you haven’t stopped to wonder at these amazing birds, I highly suggest you do. They are a bird worth watching!
You can find Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) all over the state, from freshwater wetlands to shallow lake edges to saltmarshes along the coast. Along with fish, they are good at catching crayfish, insects, frogs, small ducks, and snakes. They also hunt on land, often in agricultural fields, where they can be very successful catching small mammals including mice, voles, chipmunks, rats and even rabbits. A quick Google search of “heron hunting mice” will bring you dozens of fascinating clips of these talented predators in action.
Another interesting aspect of Great Blue Heron natural history is their breeding habitat. Surprisingly, these herons typically build their nests in the tops of large old trees, usually bordering a wetland. While most herons nests in groups, or colonies, in Maine there are quite a few lone nesters. These birds might have tried to join an existing colony and been rejected, or they may be pioneers starting a new colony in a new location. Colonies can number up to 500 individuals, but in Maine typical colonies are around 9-12 breeding pairs. The largest colony recorded in the state was 120 pairs, though that colony has been abandoned since 2015. The largest colony active today is home to about 80 pairs.
Males collect much of the material for nest building, presenting sticks to the female who weaves them into a large saucer-shaped nest cup. She will line the nest with pine needles and moss, taking up to two weeks to perfect it. The pair typically return to the same nest site year after year, adding on to their nests over time until they may reach a width of four feet across and three and a half feet deep. These large nests often kill the trees over time, though they can continue nesting for many decades after the trees die. Some colonies first noted in the 1970s are still active today! An older heron colony can look quite eerie with these long-legged dinosaur-like birds perched in skeletal dead trees.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIFW) lists the Great Blue Heron as a Special Concern species due to population declines over the last several decades. It is also listed as Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the state’s Wildlife Action Plan. Causes for declines are likely linked to Bald Eagle predation though nocturnal predators like racoons are suspected as the cause for some entire colonies being abandoned during the nesting season in recent years. While human disturbance might be a problem for some colonies, others are located very close to human activity without apparent issues or abandonment.
As a result of concerns over declining populations, Danielle D’Auria, the wildlife biologist who manages wading birds as well as loons for DIFW, began a Citizen Science project in 2009 using volunteers to find and monitor colonies in spring and summer. The project, aptly named HERON (for Heron Nesting Observation Network) has been active for the last 12 years and has done an amazing job tracking nest locations and nesting success. The results have shown that declines are especially apparent in the coastal colonies, while inland colonies have fluctuated with a slight overall decline.
Starting in 2016, Danielle put satellite trackers on nine herons to monitor their movements during migration. We know that most herons are short-distance migrants, heading down to the southern U.S. or West Indies for the winter. Yet there are always herons in Maine on the coast over the winter. Danielle speculates these are mostly young, inexperienced birds who do not know that they should have migrated. She suspects they don’t do well and may or may not survive the harsh winter. Like any snowbird will tell you, it is much easier to spend your winter in a warmer clime.
In fact, all nine birds that have had satellite trackers on them have headed south for the winter. One of the most interesting birds, named Harper, was trapped and tagged with a satellite tracker while feeding in Harpswell in May of 2019. A few days later, she headed north to New Brunswick where she spent the rest of the summer wandering around before migrating to Cuba for the winter. When she returned for the summer of 2020, she passed Maine by, and went back to spend the summer wandering around the north end of Fox Island in New Brunswick. She settled for a time in a colony she had perhaps prospected the year prior, but no one knows if she bred or was just checking out the site. In October, Harper made an epic journey of 2,030 miles over the Atlantic. She left Pointe-à-la-Croix, Quebec at 6pm on October 8, and flew 68 hours nonstop, arriving at Cumberland Island National Seashore in southern Georgia at 3:15pm on October 11. Her flight path swung well east out into the Atlantic, almost to Bermuda before turning west again towards the U.S. From Georgia she headed south to the Everglades, and from there we’ll have to see where she ends up for the winter (See map for information on how to track Harper’s movements online).
For more information on HERON or to participate, visit the Citizen Science Portal.
To track Harper’s flight path, go to www.movebank.org. Click on Data/Map and type “Brzorad” in the search menu. Click on the “+” next to Egrets & Herons then scroll down and check Harper (Harpswell Heron), or one of the other herons tagged in Maine: Cornelia, Nokomis, Mellow, Sedgey, Snark, Snipe, Warrior, or Easton’s Baby Blue.
Wednesday Webinar Series
Our 2021 Maine Lakes Conference will once again kick off with a series of informative online webinars focused on lake science and conservation. Join us the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month at 4 p.m. starting February 3rd through June 16th. Check our website, www.lakes.me, after the new year or email firstname.lastname@example.org to be notified when registration is open.
Regional Round Tables
If COVID risks decrease and regulations allow, we hope to host three regional roundtables (Lakes Region, Belgrade Lakes, and Bangor) in June for our members and member lake associations to come together in person to interact, network, and learn from one another. If you have ideas for topics to discuss, please email email@example.com with your ideas! Look for updates to plans on our website and in the next newsletter!