Province Lake holds workshop on watershed plan

by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News

ORGANIZERS of the Province Lake Association workshop last Saturday pose during a break (l-r): Forrest Bell and Jen Jespersen of FB Environmental, PLA Director Carl Davis, AWWA Executive Director Linda Schier, PLA President Jon Samuelson, Sally Soule of NH DES, and UNH Professor James Haney. (Thomas Beeler photo) (click for larger version)
January 23, 2014
WAKEFIELD — The Province Lake Association held a morning workshop on its watershed management plan for Province Lake at the Greater Wakefield Resource Center in Union this past Saturday, Jan. 18.

Despite a snowstorm, the workshop attracted 58 participants, all of whom were interested in identifying ways to improve the water quality and condition of this 1,008-acre lake shared by Effingham, Wakefield and Parsonfield, Maine. The event was sponsored by the Effingham-based Province Lake Association (PLA) in conjunction with the Acton Wakefield Watersheds Alliance (AWWA), FB Environmental Associates and New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NH DES).

While the lake has so far escaped infestation by milfoil, it has had multiple "blooms" of toxin-producing cyanobacteria over the past few years, the latest six occurring in July and August 2013. With each bloom the N.H. Department of Environmental Services posts warnings to avoid swimming or other recreational activities in the water.

Current President Jon Samuelson gave the welcome and reviewed the structure of the meeting. Past President and Current PLA Director Carl Davis gave a history of the current watershed management plan aimed at improving water quality in the lake and eliminating the blooms. The process began two years ago when the PLA was encouraged by AWWA to create a planning team and apply for grants to fund a watershed study and action plan. In all three grants were secured that funded a stormwater survey, septic survey and watershed plan. The group met with Maine and N.H. DOT, which are responsible for Route 153 alongside the lake, and with the Province Lake Golf Course, contracted with FB Environmental of Portland to help with the analysis and planning, and invited UNH Professor Jim Haney and his students take core samples and analyze the lake sediment. Now is time to complete an action plan for the watershed.

Forrest Bell and Jen Jespersen of FB Environmental gave a presentation on the findings of the surveys done and a draft of the action plan. The lake is located in two states and three towns and is shallow, with an average depth of nine feet and the deepest point at 16 feet. It is not only relatively shallow but "low flushing," with the water being replaced only 1.1 times over a year. The watershed is also relatively small at 7.3 square miles.

The lake is classified as an impaired water body, as demonstrated by the cyanobacteria blooms. The blooms are fed by high levels of phosphorus, an element found naturally in lakes in small amounts. Province Lake has phosphorus levels of 14.3 parts per billion (ppb). The goal of the action plan is to get the level down to 10.8 ppb. That is a reduction of 25 percent, which Bell said, based on an analysis of the sources of phosphorous, is a "reasonable and do-able goal."

The total phosphorus load going into the lake is 469 kilograms (kg) per year vs. a natural baseline of 207 kg. More than 60 percent of that comes from runoff and 23 percent from septic systems.

By focusing on 20 erosion sites, 50-75 kg can be cut. Upgrading or replacing older septic systems and cesspools can cut 23 kg. Other targets for reduction include enhancing vegetative buffers, dealing with agricultural runoff, and regulating boat traffic. In all 100-145 kg per year can be cut, Bell said, vs. the 25 percent reduction goal of 113 kg per year.

Questions following the presentation revealed that 46 percent of the 430 residences are seasonal and 33 percent are multi-seasonal. Only 13 percent are year-round. Also 50 HP outboard motors can stir sediment up to 16 feet below the surface – the deepest spot in the lake – and even at 10 HP motor can stir things up nine feet down..

Group recommendations

Participants were then asked to join one of six breakout groups to identify threats and propose priority actions in six areas: roads, septic systems, shoreland, municipal ordinances/zoning, water quality and boating and recreational uses.

The roads group identified three threats: erosion from road washouts, the deteriorating Bonnyman Road private boat launch, and parking problems. Recommended priority actions were, in order: establish guard rails on the Maine section of Route 153 and improve drainage; upgrade the boat launch; identify other areas where erosion exists and can be stopped; and keep cars from parking in areas where they can cause erosion.

The septic system group saw the major threat as systems older than 20 years that are leaking and outhouses. Action items include: get information out on addressing problems with septic systems, perhaps in tax bill mailings; educate people to use non-phosphorus detergent; convince people of the need to pump septic tanks every two years and try to get group discounts from septic tank services like Lakes Region Septic Service; and explore ways to help people get funding to replace failing septic systems and help them do dye testing to see if systems are failing.

The shoreline group came up with the following action item, focused on education: go door-to-door to make owners aware of the issues and what they can do; send a round on letters on key issues; and create a guide to homeowners about erosion issues, picking up pet waste and creating rain garden to prevent erosion. Perhaps plant sales of rain garden plants could be done.

The municipal ordinances/zoning group focused on the fact that the three towns have zoning ordinances related to the lake that do not match up, and an effort should be made to make their planning boards aware of the differences. The potential major impact of a complete buildout of the lake area suggests that major landowners be contacted to stress the value of conservation, to minimize buildout.

The water quality group recommended: extending water quality monitoring and take samples once a week; look at the dam on South River and consider flushing the lake more frequently than once a year; continue the weed watch problem to prevent invasive plants from becoming established; and implement a cyanobacteria monitoring program with UNH,

The boating and recreational uses group identified boating churn and the lack of portapotties at the beach as threats. Action items proposed were: eliminating parking on the private beach along Route 153 and add guardrails; install portapotties (look for discounts and perhaps business sponsors and get landowner permission to anchor them so they could not be tipped); and stabilize the Bonnyman boat launch and ask users for voluntary contributions to pay for maintenance.

Next steps

The analysis and recommendations will be placed on the PLA website ( and participants and other encouraged to add suggestions to the action plan over the next two weeks. The final report will be given at the PLA Annual Meeting on July 19.

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