7 Lakes Alliance Confronts Watershed Threats, Part II
by Laurie Raleigh
The challenges confronting the Belgrade Lakes watershed lakes deemed impaired or threatened, invasive plants, development that is not sustainable, climate change appear dire. But there is cause for hope.
7 Lakes Alliance is fully committed to conserving this special place. What happens on the land has a profound impact on the lakes’ water quality, so our conservation work must entail safeguarding both our lakes and our lands. The land and the lakes are inextricably linked. We cannot hope to conserve the lakes without addressing the lands that surround them.
As a nationally accredited land trust, 7 Lakes Alliance is uniquely positioned to steward the lands and lakes of the Belgrade Lakes region. We have a full-time staff of professionals focused on water quality and land conservation. Science drives our work, and an active partnership with Colby College enhances our research and problem-solving capabilities.
7 Lakes’ proactive initiatives include:
Water Quality Monitoring and Research
7 Lakes’ water-quality monitoring on all seven lakes occurs under the direction of Dr. Danielle Wain, our lake science director. Dr. Wain’s team measures water temperatures, oxygen levels and algal species composition to continually assess water quality. Additionally, chlorophyll, water and sediment samples are collected for analysis in Colby’s state-of-the-art labs. Management plans are developed with extensive scientific evidence and ongoing monitoring.
Youth Conservation Corps
YCC is a summertime program of students who work on projects for property owners around the seven lakes to stem soil erosion the most effective and cost-efficient way to prevent toxic algal blooms. The YCC plants vegetative buffers, installs infiltration steps, lays erosion- control mulch and builds driplines. Property owners provide the materials and the YCC provides the labor at a minimal cost.
319 Federal Grant Program
319 grants are issued under the EPA’s Clean Water Act. The grants fund infrastructure work that reduces watershed erosion and improves water quality. The funding is available for homeowners, road associations, businesses, and towns for erosion control projects. To date, 7 Lakes has received approximately $563,000 in 319 grant funding, matched by about $755,000 for a total of $1.318 million, which has funded the installation of 439 projects to control erosion throughout the Belgrade Lakes watershed.
This program helps lakefront property owners manage landscapes to better protect water quality. 7 Lakes coordinates site surveys in partnership with Maine Lakes, a statewide conservation organization, and local lake associations. The YCC often performs the follow-up work.
Invasive Aquatic Plant Prevention and Removal
7 Lakes Alliance leads a watershed-wide effort to remove invasive aquatic plants and prevent new infestations. These programs include:
Courtesy Boat Inspectors who monitor boats entering and leaving our lakes to ensure invasive plant fragments are not on those watercraft.
Milfoil removal teams that remove invasive plants by hand and with suction devices.
Adopt-A-Shoreline, which enlists volunteers to help identify new infestations and to manage existing infestations.
Invasive plant paddles that coordinate volunteers to keep watch on areas surrounding infestations to prevent further spread.
Land Conservation and Stewardship
7 Lakes Alliance has an exceptional land conservation and stewardship program, with nearly 12,000 acres (and growing) in permanent conservation. These lands, including the Kennebec Highlands, have high ecological, recreational and economic values. Accredited by the Land Trust Alliance and guided by its Land Trust Standards, the 7 Lakes Alliance works closely with landowners to secure permanent conservation of lands through donation, purchase and easements. Our stewardship professionals and volunteers protect conservation properties with continual monitoring, trail improvements and maintenance.
Laurie Raleigh is development director for the 7 Lakes Alliance. You can read the first part of this article in last week’s issue.