Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories
Maine: The Taylor Pond Watershed Project - Increasing Public Awareness about Nonpoint Source Pollution
The Taylor Pond Watershed Project -
Increasing Public Awareness about Nonpoint Source Pollution
From past to present
Taylor Pond is a 644 acre pond encompassed by a 15-square-mile watershed located in Auburn, Maine, about 25 mi southwest of Maine's capital city of Augusta. Land use in the watershed is predominantly residential. Other land uses include two active commercial farms and several small logging operations. Although slopes throughout the watershed are highly variable, the eastern shore of Taylor Pond is moderate to steeply sloping and creates problems for the two- and three-tiered developments existing in the area.
Water quay data have been collected for Taylor Pond since 1941, and during the past decade the lake has been monitored regularly by the Taylor Pond Lake Association and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Local residences generally dispose of waste- water through septic systems or connection with the Auburn Sewer District. Many lakefront homes are occupied year-round, camp roads are traveled throughout the year, and road and shoreline erosion problems are common. Present water quay is not suitable to sustain a coldwater fishery, exhibiting documented signs of below- average water clarity, severe dissolved oxygen depletion, habitat loss, and increasing total phosphorus levels.
The cumulative effects of annual phosphorus loadings from various sources and the conversion of forest land to developed land are primary causes of Taylor Pond's water quay decline.
A community protects its lake
Over the years, most Taylor Pond residents were unaware of the exact nature of nonpoint source pollution and even s able to manage it. More important, few recognized that they were part of the problem. This condition changed in 1992, when the Androscoggin Valley Soil and Water Conservation District and the Taylor Pond Lake Association began the Taylor Pond Watershed Project with the cooperation of landowners, the nearby towns of Auburn and Minot, and local, state, and federal government agencies. Partial funding for the project was provided by a section 319 grant. The objectives of this 319 grant project were primarily water quay-related: to stabilize or improve the lake's water quay, and to reduce phosphorus and sediment inputs to the lake through widespread use of best management practices (BMPs).
From the beginning, the project faced a substantial challenge. It was accomplished, however, in two phases that continued from 1992 through 1995. A project steering committee including an aquatic biologist, several engineers, conservationists, municipal representatives, and local residents, delineated focus areas. Issues needing the greatest attention included education about nonpoint sources, creation of BMP demonstration sites, direct technical assistance to landowners, and implementation of a phosphorus ordinance.
When volunteers, contractors, town and government officials, students, teachers, planners, homeowners, and even some admitted skeptics of the operation eventually pitched in, the project became a community effort to reduce nonpoint source pollution sources in Taylor Pond. Many residents received one-on-one assistance with erosion problems that seemed of little consequence to individuals, but which when added together contributed significantly to lake pollution. Problems and solutions ranged widely, from repairing and maintaining eroding camp and forestry roads, ditches, and driveways to preventing washwater discharges and excessive use of lawn and garden fertilizers.
Technical assistance helped landowners know why and how to use BMPs effectively, and road crews learned how to perform roadway and ditch maintenance activities to reduce sedimentation and avoid future maintenance costs. Inspections and technical assistance encouraged town planning boards and developers to incorporate BMPs into local development projects.
Even with technical help and a solid plan of action, success would be difficult without local notice of ongoing project activities. Newsletter arctic were distributed to teachers and municipal officials. Brochures and other resource materials illustrating the effects of erosion and phosphorus were developed and distributed at presentations and workshops for schools, associations, construction engineers, and town officials. A watershed ecology curriculum series with expert guest speakers was presented to local grade school teachers, who incorporated the information into daily instruction.
According to methodology developed by the Maine Department of Natural Resources and applied by the Department of Environmental Protection, Taylor Pond's yearly transparency data and long-term average means for water transparency do not indicate a statistically valid rise in water quay over the past 16 seasons of data collection, because a 90 percent confidence level was not attained. Yet, the information does indicate a positive increasing trend in water transparency at the 84 percent confidence level, suggesting that statistically proven and "quantifiably measurable" water quay improvement may be just around the corner for Taylor Pond.
The centerpiece accomplishment of this project is its design and implementation of BMPs that successfully reduce phosphorus and sediment loading to the lake. Each BMP demonstration site was carefully chosen to model effective low-cost erosion and sedimentation controls and stormwater runoff management. The project team worked extensively with individual landowners and towns to construct these sites. Local residents and those of other nearby watersheds (Sabattus Lake, Range Pond, Crystal Pond, Mud Pond) toured the sites, and local public works departments donated signs and other displays to inform people about the project.
Thus, the project increased the public's awareness of the variety of nonpoint pollution sources to Taylor Pond and their effects on water quay. It showed landowners that each of them has a personal stake and responsibility in protecting water resources, and emphasized the difference each of them can make acting individually and as a community. Their sustained energy and enthusiasm will be the deciding factor in whether this effort continues to be successful in the years to come.
CONTACTS: Tony St. Peter
Maine Department of Environmental Protection
Bond Brook Responds to Progress -
Fish Habitats Improve
Maine's 20-square-mile Bond Brook watershed has long been a victim to the wheels of progress in Augusta, Maine. A tributary to the venerable Kennebec River and a popular fishing attraction for residents of Maine's state capital, this once vibrant trout and salmon fishery had declined significantly over the years, as a result of rapid development. The brook was still a source of recreation for many but compared to earlier times, it was clearly in trouble.
Local ordinances were insufficient to protect Bond Brook from the effects of uncontrolled development, poorly constructed or maintained roads and ditches, agricultural and mining activities, and unstabilized, naturally eroding streambanks. With so many forces pressing the brook to the brink of col- lapse, local residents began to consider Bond Brook as a resource that could not be saved.
Then the Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District came up with an idea. Active in watershed protection efforts throughout Kennebec County, the district saw Bond Brook as an opportunity to augment its ongoing water quay improvement efforts and to address major problems within the brook watershed. With help and funding from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) nonpoint source program, the Conservation District sought a 319 grant to begin the work. In 1991, the district contacted the City of Augusta and the Maine DEP, proposing to restore the worst portions of the brook's eroding shoreline and reduce recurrent discharges of sediment into the brook.
Project design invites approval
The district's overall approach was simple: repair significant erosion sites immediately adjacent to the brook and attack the problem at its root by teaching the public about nonpoint source pollution.
The district presented a work plan to the DEP that called for stabilizing eroding banks, implementing and demonstrating best management practices (BMPs) on multiple sites within the watershed, and establishing a basic information flow about erosion and BMPs. Led by Water Quay Specialist Mitch Michaud, the Conservation District undertook the Bond Brook Watershed Project in cooperation with other city, state, and local agencies and partners. Significant accomplishments followed, including:
- construction and demonstration of an innovative livestock exclusion and watering site;
- training for local residents in the use and importance of forestry BMPs (erosion controls, buffer strips, runoff control, and road construction techniques);
- production of newspaper arctic and presentations featuring the restoration of Bond Brook;
- presentation of the project's goals and efforts at the 1993 Northeast Fish and Wildlife Conference; and
- erosion control BMP demonstrations at seven sites within the watershed.
The BMP demonstrations included riprap installations, vegetative planting and mulching, and slope preparation. Other satellite projects were generated from these project activities. Technical assistance was provided to these additional projects but no 319 funds were spent on them. These projects included instruction in fill placement and soil stabilization techniques, stormwater runoff control, revegetation plan reviews, ditch construction and maintenance, and assistance in fish ladder permitting and construction at the Governor Hill State Fish Hatchery.
Teamwork and commitment
Teamwork was a key ingredient to the success of the Bond Brook grant project, as shown in the following examples of project activities:
- Several eroding streambanks were revegetated using mostly volunteer help from local groups (e.g., Trout Unlimited) and neighboring residents.
- A large section of streambank was riprapped to prevent the landowner's septic system and 20 feet of severely slumping shoreline from washing into the brook. This repair required contractor expertise but also received ample roll-up-your-sleeve volunteer help from Maine DEP staff, Natural Resources Conservation Service staff, and the landowner himself.
- Still another heavily eroded bank, located within 100 feet of Bond Brook, was repaired with help from the City of Augusta, who agreed to purchase and remove some of the eroding clay material for use as landfill cover, facilitating sloping and ditching of the site for final hydroseeding.
From armoring an all-terrain vehicle crossing to planting trees in an eroding playground, the variety of repairs conducted by a similar variety of people during the fieldwork segment of this project created a team atmosphere that carried on through the entire project.
Higher fish survival rate
The Bond Brook project was completed in 1996, and preliminary results point to at least some water quay improvements. According to recent observations by Maine's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, higher salmonid survival rates (brown trout) are evident within Stone Brook (a major Bond Brook tributary). Further observation shows that brook trout are doing well in the upper reaches of Bond Brook, and sites repaired during the project are contributing significantly s sediment to the brook than sites that were not repaired.
More needs to be done to fully restore Bond Brook, and additional work is being planned to restore riparian buffer habitat in the upper watershed in 1998. Without water quay monitoring having been performed over many years, it is virtually impossible to gauge the success of project activities or determine the long-term effects on water quay in the watershed. But one thing is certain. The cooperation and commitment of the participants in this project offer new hope that Bond Brook can become the exceptional clean-water recreational and fisheries resource that it was in its earlier days.
CONTACTS: Tony St. Peter
Maine Department of Environmental Protection
Building a Local Watershed Alliance -
A Common Sense Approach
Lake, Webber Pond, and Threemile Pond are culturally eutrophic lakes in central Maine in the towns of China, Vassalboro, and Windsor. Combined, these lakes drain an area of approximately 52 square mi. Because they are primarily used for recreation, the improvement and maintenance of their water quay directly affects the economic base for the communities in this region.
During the 1980s, in-lake treatment, funded in part by section 319, was employed on Webber and Threemile Ponds to help address declining water quay. Threemile was treated with aluminum salts to achieve a reduction in internal nutrient cycling, and a new outlet structure was constructed on Webber to facilitate annual drawdowns. In both lakes, restoration efforts focused primarily on these measures rather than on the continual influx of phosphorus from the combined watersheds. Eventually, coordinating efforts between the towns began to make sense as residents recognized the value of pooling resources and providing landowners with technical assistance for repairing nonpoint source problems with landowners contributing to the cost of repair materials.
The idea gained additional support when local volunteers suggested that a regional alliance be created to share knowledge, experience, and human and financial resources to establish a coordinated and long-term total watershed management system over the three- town area. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and EPA Region 1, also saw this innovative approach to lake restoration as a unique opportunity to establish, with partial funding support from section 319, a permanent and self-sustaining lake protection presence in the region.
In 1994, the China Region Lakes Alliance was formed between the three towns as a regional nonprofit corporation, with a board of directors representing the lake associations, the towns, and the Kennebec Water District (a local utility). Core program funding from section 319 allowed the Alliance to establish itself and obtain local public and private funding, along with grant funding from various sources. Since its inception, the China Region Lakes Alliance has been creative in finding effective solutions to nonpoint source problems within its jurisdiction.
The Maine DEP section 319 Nonpoint Source Program has become a vital player in this ongoing regionally integrated watershed management effort. EPA Region 1 and the state have worked with the Alliance to fund and implement the first and second phases of the Webber and Threemile Ponds Watershed Project; a third phase is currently under review for possible implementation in 1998-1999.
These efforts are bringing the Threemile and Webber Pond watershed programs up to the level of China Lake's program. A full-time resource specialist and summer Youth Conservation Corps workers receive watershed survey results from trained local volunteers, facilitate design and implementation of erosion controls around the ponds, help educate the public about nonpoint source pollution, and assist landowners install best management practices.
Results of the China Region Lakes Alliance program are impressive. Working cooperatively with state, federal, and local agencies and landowners is producing tangible results, among them:
- a highly successful local public and private nonpoint source remediation program;
- education and employment opportunities for local high school students involved in helping the China Region Lakes Alliance install scores of cooperative erosion control projects;
- a locally-enacted Phosphorus Control Ordinance currently serving as a statewide model;
- employment of prison inmate volunteers on large projects;
- a strong financial and human resources commitment from the Federal Highway Administration and the Maine Department of Transportation; and the
- implementation of ongoing projects aimed at restoring and protecting the three- lake area and its tributaries.
Among the latter projects, two were outstanding:
The Jones Brook Restoration Project. This also is a 1995 319 grant project that used the labors of 20 Erskine Academy students (who would be considered "at risk" in a traditional school setting) to repair eroding banks on a heavily silted section of Jones Brook, a major tributary to the south basin of China Lake. These energetic students learned about erosion control techniques and water quay protection while also learning the basic ingredients for teamwork and cooperation. Since this work was completed, gravel has reappeared on the stream bottom and brown trout are again occupying this traditional salmonid spawning area.
- The Erosion Control Demonstrations China Lake Watershed. This 319 project focuses on 10 stream and lakeshore sites where various structural and vegetative techniques new to central Maine are employed to stabilize existing erosion problems. Some sites were more successful than others, but all were educational and will continue to be employed as regional training sites.
Through this comprehensive grassroots process, the local public are becoming aware, informed, and involved with resource protection in the China Lake/Threemile Pond/Webber Pond watershed. As the water quay of the resources is improved and protected, the local economy and property values will also increase. Public safety will be enhanced as a result of local road improvements. Over time, the result will be a locally funded, perpetual watershed management program that produces continuing and comprehensive environmental and economic benefits for this valuable lakes region
CONTACTS: Tony St. Peter
Maine Department of Environmental Protection