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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Maine (Section 319I - 1994)

Maine's overall NPS control program goal is to develop local support and capabilities for planning and implementing actions to prevent or abate water pollution caused by nonpoint sources. Section 319 funds are used to support State Water Quality Agency NPS program staff and Maine's NPS Implementation Grants Program. Statewide programs include a technical assistance program that provides clear guidance and technical support to state and regional agencies, local governments, business and individuals; and an information and education programs - targeted to groups, the general public, and school children. The implementation grant program provides financial and technical assistance for comprehensive watershed protection projects. The watershed projects are typically carried out by resource specialists under contract with soil and water conservation districts. Activities usually include technical assistance to landowners and towns, information and education delivery to targeted groups, - installation of BMP demonstration projects, and support of local government inspection/enforcement. The Sebago Lake Project is an example of one of Maine's watershed projects.

Saving Sebago Lake Watershed

Over the last 20 years, the beautiful, high quality lakes of the Sebago Lake watershed have attracted significant - residential and commercial growth. But with this growth has come subtle declines in lake water quality and - increasing concern about how to protect these waters.

Sebago Lake is the largest public drinking water supply in the state and furnishes Portland, the state's largest metropolitan area, with drinking water. The lake drains to the Casco Bay estuary, designated as a National Estuary Project. Since 1908, the Portland Water District (PWD) has been responsible for protecting and preserving Sebago Lake's water quality. In an effort to broaden the watershed protection program, PWD joined with the local soil and water conservation district to publicize and promote the use of nonpoint source water pollution control measures in the 440- square-mile watershed. From 1990 through 1993, PWD used two section 319 grants totaling $75,000. The local soil and water conservation district hired a resource specialist to work with PWD staff to provide direct technical assistance, information, education, and training to the many individuals, targeted groups, and general publics in the watershed's 16 towns. Technical assistance came in many forms. Individuals received help in solving chronic erosion problems, implementing phosphorus control measures, and repairing and maintaining private roads and driveways. Program staff helped developers and contractors install required phosphorus controls and prepared development site plan review comments. The program staff also helped towns establish local phosphorus control ordinances.

Throughout the program, PWD staff developed and implemented a shorefront lot audit program, identified solutions for priority shoreline erosion problems, and assisted in demonstration projects. In addition, staff evaluated and prioritized road and ditch maintenance problems and helped towns design and implement repair and maintenance. The program also supported a menu of information and education activities. The program sponsored BMP and road ditch seminars for local contractors and seminars and direct education for local code enforcement officers. Public information included speaking engagements, preparation and distribution of NPS brochures, press - releases, contributions to the Sebago Lake Watershed Newsletter, and materials for a display booth at a local shopping mall. The program also promoted a low-cost planting project and sponsored a conservation tour, activities in local schools, and mailings to local hunting and fishing organizations.

The watershed program produced many lasting achievements. Public education significantly raised the public's interest and understanding of watershed protection and lake water quality and sparked a new lake association to foster protection activities. Six towns have adopted local phosphorus control ordinances.

Where PWD formerly offered its public education program to local schools, it can no longer satisfy school requests and has sought assistance from the Gulf of Maine Aquarium to meet the demand. Shorefront owners have shown interest in planting on their properties, and brochures and other literature are widely circulated inside and outside the watershed. The program has increased the awareness of local code enforcement officers about watershed and lake protection concerns, and road maintenance crews more frequently use BMPs in road ditch improvements and maintenance. Only continued nurturing will ensure that these successes protect future local water resources. The primary demonstration of the project's success is that, since the 319 funding ended, the PWD now supports a full-time soil scientist/educator to continue to promote and improve PWD's watershed protection program.

Ditch of the Year Contest Tenders Technology Transfer

Municipal road crews constructed prize-winning ditches and learned erosion control techniques at the same time by competing in Maine's 1992 Ditch of the Year contest. Road crews used BMPs in daily ditching activities while vying for locally donated prizes.

Most towns in the Sebago Lake and Casco Bay estuary watersheds sponsored teams. Participating towns sent team representatives to a training session to learn about Sebago Lake and Casco Bay, erosion control BMPs, the cost of erosion compared to erosion control, ditching and culvert installation, and basic grading. Field sessions allowed participants to watch grading techniques and practice stabilizing new ditches. To enter a ditch in the contest, road crews merely notified the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conserva- tion District (CCSWCD) when they began work. CCSWCD took pictures of the work and offered advice as requested. Judging was based on the shape of ditch, successful erosion control measures used (such as seeding), reaction to rainfall conditions, and project planning. Crews received special awards for the best "bang for the buck" ditch and for innovative ideas. The Ditch of the Year contest was sponsored by Maine's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) section 319 program and Department of Transportation, Portland Water District, Casco Bay Estuary Project, and CCSWCD. Section 319 funds included $10,000 for the CCSWCD to provide technical assistance. In addition, 319 partially supported a DEP staff position that provided technical support. In general, sponsors worked together to provide technical assistance--for example, the CCSWCD district engineer coached the road crews on using BMPs. Road crews competed both individually and on behalf of their towns. Municipal prizes included hosting the local roads center grading seminar--which translated into free grading services valued at some $30,000-one-day use of a hydroseeder, and various erosion control materials. Individual donated prizes included ski passes, a rafting trip, free bowling, a Casco Bay Islands boat trip, a Sebago Lake fishing trip, and a one-hour plane ride for two.

The favorable publicity generated by the contest further highlighted the importance of erosion control to avoid sedimentation of streams and minimize cost of ditch repairs. It also gave municipalities a new and more helpful image of the environmental resource agencies and developed new working relationships with land use groups. Most importantly, road crews and town managers saw that using good design and stabilizing road ditches need not take much additional time or money and that a little planning and simple erosion control will save both. Since the contest, public works crews have installed many more erosion control measures. Occasional direct contact and technical assistance will do much to ensure that road crews continue using BMPs.

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