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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Maine: Madawaska Lake

Improved Forestry Practices Help Restore Lake

Waterbody | Problem | Project Highlights | Results | Partners & Funding

Waterbody Improved

me_circleLocated in northern Maine's vast forest, Madawaska Lake experienced declining water quality beginning in the 1980s when increased timber harvesting and shoreland development in the watershed contributed excess phosphorus and sediment to the lake. As a result, Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP) added Madawaska Lake to the state's 1988 Clean Water Act section 303(d) list of impaired waters. The lake's water quality began improving in the mid-1990s, due to changes in statewide forestry standards, improved regulatory oversight of development and the implementation of forestry best management practices (BMPs). MDEP removed Madawaska Lake from its section 303(d) impaired waters list in 2006.

MDEP worked with the new owners of the timberlands to install BMPs on new roads and harvested areas. In addition, a 1990 EPA-funded section 319 project was undertaken to identify problem sites in the watershed and provide technical assistance for forestry and shoreland development practices. The Maine Forest Service produced statewide guidelines for forestry BMPs with financial assistance from MDEP and a section 319 grant. In 1999 the Maine Legislature passed the Forest Practices Act, which improved regulation of timber harvesting.

The Maine Land Use Regulatory Commission (LURC) opened an office in Presque Isle in 1989 to improve land use regulation services in the region. LURC staff services helped control new development to meet standards. In 1990 LURC staff used section 319 funds to inspect and evaluate the use of timber harvesting BMPs in the Madawaska Lake watershed.

The town of Westmanland and the Aroostook County government used MDEP's Small Community Grant Program to help replace failing septic systems at homes in lake shore areas. In addition, MDEP successfully encouraged residents to adopt practices that reduce erosion and sedimentation. Residents conducted a section 319-funded watershed survey in 2003 with the help of an Americorps Volunteer working for MDEP.

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Phosphorus loads to the lake have been steadily declining due to watershed improvements such as the gradual reforestation of timber harvest sites; reduced timber harvest and road building activity, use of timber harvest BMPs and better erosion control in developed shoreland areas. Madawaska Lake now meets water quality standards—it has a stable or improving trophic state and has been free of culturally induced algae blooms for more than 5 of the past 10 years (Figure 2). Therefore, MDEP removed Madawaska Lake from the state's 2006 303(d) list of impaired waters.

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Partners and Funding

MDEP, Maine Forest Service, and LURC provided services to help the large forestland owner and homeowners understand and comply with state land use laws and BMPs. EPA provided funds under the Clean Lakes ($88,830) and section 319 programs for lake diagnostic studies and MDEP and LURC staff services. Westmanland and the Aroostook County government worked with landowners to replace failing septic systems. Central Aroostook County Soil and Water Conservation District completed land use surveys and provided technical assistance to landowners. In addition, the Maine Volunteer Lakes Monitoring Program has assisted MDEP in assessing the lake's water quality since the mid-1970s.

Figure 2. Big Madawaska Lake Minimum Secchi Disk Transparencies (SDT) 1974 to 2007.


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