During 2013, based on both observation and property owner feedback, it appears every aspect of the remediation effort has functioned either as expected or better. The remedial work lead by David Bradbury and completed by Emery Brothers corrected the poor drainage from the ponding area near the Parker property. Also, an adjustment to the stone work done at the shoreline of the Oddy property seemed to work satisfactorily. As we go into to 2014, the WLA will continue to work with the Town of Standish and property owners to ensure the ongoing success of this project.
During the summer of 2011, major work was completed which addressed a long-standing and significant problem for Watchic Lake. Much of the Watchic watershed is on the Route 113 side of the lake, where the land descends steeply from Oak Hill. The Paine Historic Neighborhood is located in this area. A storm water runoff problem existed in the Paine Neighborhood for many years. The problem was that storm water off of Oak Hill accumulated quickly and ran across active pastureland, over both State and dirt roads, and through several neighborhood septic systems, depositing nutrient-laden runoff into the north end of the lake. The result was frequent flooding of Route 113 in the Paine Neighborhood, flooding of Neighborhood properties, and most disturbingly, deterioration in Watchic Lake water quality, as evidenced by the increasing growth of metaphyton algae (a green cotton-candy like growth that spreads fast in warm weather and is an indicator of nutrient overload), indeed, even during the winter months. The volume of active runoff also resulted in unusual open water on the north-eastern shore during the winter.
The cause of the uncontrolled runoff was multifaceted – residential development, clear-cut timber harvesting, agricultural development, failure of historic control accommodations, etc. While individual Paine Neighborhood property owners each attempted to remedy the situation on their own land, such efforts tended to create new damage on their own or abutting properties. Given the number of parties involved and the apparent costs of various remedies, it was impossible to focus on creating a unified solution. Although all agreed something had to be done to stop this runoff for the sake of the lake.
The Watchic Lake Association (WLA) began to investigate options for addressing the problem in 2008, after association members began to notice indicators of water quality decline, including the growth of metaphyton. WLA made progress during 2009, including bringing in Maine DEP, Cumberland County Soils and Water (CCSW) and the Town of Standish. The water quality experts told us that this source of heavy phosphorus loading posed a significant long-term risk to the lake – the whole lake. Over time, the metaphyton would spread, and water quality would diminish, if the source pollution could not be contained. We did not want to return to the poor water quality present during the 1970s.
In fall 2010, after talks with the Town of Standish, WLA committed to leading a unique private/public partnership to address the issue. There were three parties to the partnership: WLA, the Paine Neighbors, and the Town of Standish. An aerial survey was commissioned, engineering work begun, and fundraising commenced. The eventual solution involved a series of water control structures: retention berms, new ditching and swales, a retention pond, and filter beds. The DEP, CCSW and Town of Standish were critical and integral contributors to the proposed solution. Indeed, our relationships with these three entities are stronger now than ever before.
Several Paine Neighbors contributed their land for the control and containment structures. Also, a neighborhood horse farm (a nutrient contributor) joined the partnership creating the solution, and, further, began work with CCSW toward a federal nutrient management program grant.
WLA set an ambitious fundraising goal to fund the Paine Neighborhood work. We raised money from 1) landowners in the Paine Neighborhood, 2) other WLA members who do not own property in the Paine neighborhood, but who understood the long-term threat to the lake, 3) the Town of Standish, and 4) WLA itself. Raising money while in a poor economic climate was extremely difficult and the result was a tremendous success. As engineering work proceeded during the spring of 2011, it became clear that the budget for this project would exceed the fundraising goals. To remedy this issue, the WLA Board secured a line of credit which was partially offset by a Davis Conservation Foundation grant. Fund raising is ongoing in order to pay off the line of credit. All of this work, fundraising included, took an enormous effort to compete.
The implemented solution functioned superbly, passing its first big test during Hurricane Irene in August of 2011. Several septic systems which, prior to the fix, were being inundated with runoff heading directly into the lake, are now functioning properly. Horse manure, which previously ran off the active pastures and into the lake, has been contained, with runoff moving through a filter bed at the edge of the pasture. Metaphyton has been reduced and is expected to decline further over time now that the nutrient loading has been stopped.
Gordy Billington, Town Manager for the Town of Standish, has praised the project, and especially the private/public partnership, as a model for dealing with problems of this sort. John Blake, from the CCSW Board of Supervisors praised the project and recommended it for a Davis grant, as did Wendy Garland, with the DEP Division of Watershed Management. Both have also lent their support to WLA’s 2012 nomination for a Maine Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award.
Watchic Lake Association played a leadership role in pulling together the unique private/public partnership behind this effort, raising funds in a very challenging economic environment, and promoting/managing the engineering/sitework which ultimately solved a major environmental problem for Watchic Lake – a problem which, until this point, appeared to lack a feasible solution. WLA promised transparency throughout the process with regular meetings and written communications to those impacted/ interested. It was clearly expressed that this would be a journey and not an event and that the only way this could ever be brought to an effective conclusion, with results that would be lasting, was that everyone must be a participant throughout the entire process.
The Board of WLA concurs with Town Manager Billington that we have developed a model solution which can be replicated by other organizations trying to solve complex, multi-party issues in their area. The Board thanks all involved for their support. And indeed, the project exemplifies WLA’s long-term commitment to leadership in preserving and protecting Watchic Lake.