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Final Watershed Plan for Province Lake presented

by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News

LINDA SCHIER, executive director of the Acton Wakefield Watersheds Alliance (left), and Sally Soule of the N.H. Department of Environmental Services commented on the Action Plan for Province Lake last Saturday, July 19, at the Province Lake Watershed Management Plan presentation. (Thomas Beeler photo) (click for larger version)
July 24, 2014
PARSONSFIELD, Maine — Province Lake Association members were presented with the final Watershed Management Plan for the lake at their annual meeting, held last Saturday morning, July 19, at the Province Lake Golf Course meeting room.

Eighty-two people signed in for the meeting, which began with the annual business meeting of the association.

Outgoing President Jon Samuelson gave the financial report that showed the association ended 2013 with a $5,582 surplus. Michelle Schank gave a positive audit report. Membership Chair Peter Dinger reported 2013 membership of 140, up from 103 in 2011; in 2014 to date membership stood at 124.

The Lake Host program checked 360 boats (in and out) and found no milfoil. Samuelson said that expanding the Lake Host program from Friday through Sunday plus holidays would be good but was not affordable. He stressed that the second line of defense, the Weed Watch program, was therefore critical. Training was available to all members.

A vegetative buffer was being installed on July 22 near Butler Field on the other side of the guardrail, Samuelson reported, and a beach cleanup was scheduled for Aug. 23, starting on the Maine side of the lake.

Past President Dennis Derby, Bob Deemer and Steve Craig, who are stepping off the board of directors, were honored for their service. Elections of new officers and directors were held with Peter Dinger elected president, Mindy Schuman-Vye vice president, Tom Townsend treasurer, and Donna Luce secretary. Donna Davis and Tucker Vye were elected directors, joining Carol Davis, Mary McLoughlin and Jon Samuelson.

Watershed Management Plan

Forrest Bell and Jen Jespersen of FB Environmental gave the presentation on the final Watershed Management Plan for Province Lake.

Province Lake is located in two states and three towns, is 967 acres in size 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 relatively small at 7.3 square miles.

The lake is classified as an impaired water body, as demonstrated by multiple "blooms" of toxin-producing cyanobacteria over the past few years, the latest six occurring in July and August 2013. 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). A clear or ogliotrophic lake has phosphorus levels of 8 ppb or less.

The goal of the action plan is to get the phosphorus 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 doable goal." At 10.8 ppb the lake would no longer be classified as euthropic or impaired.

The total phosphorus load going into the lake is 469 kilograms (kg) per year vs. a natural baseline of 207 kg. Bell said about 420 tons of sediment flow into the lake each year, equivalent to 42 truckloads of material. That sediment adds 220 pounds of phosphorus to the lake annually.

More than 60 percent of the phosphorus comes from runoff and 23 percent from septic systems. There are 6.3 miles of roads in the watershed the principal source of runoff and much of that road network is close to the lake.

The watershed survey identified 20 priority sites around the lake for monitoring and reducing inflow of phosphorus through Best Management Practices.

Bell cautioned the audience that "restoring a lake is not a quick process. It could take 10 years."

Jespersen began her part of the presentation stating that Province Lake is on the state list of impaired lakes because of its high levels of phosphorus and chlorophyll-a, low pH values (more acidic), and cyanobacteria blooms. There are 2,000 cyanobacteria species but only 40 produce toxins and eight of those are native to New Hampshire. The two key bacteria in the lake are microcystis and anabaena. They thrive in high levels of phosphorus and because Province Lake is shallow, sunlight penetrates to the bottom on most parts of the lake, stimulating growth. Wind is also able to mix the water in the shallow lake, bringing the bacteria up from the bottom.

To prevent future blooms of cyanobateria, the key goal is to reduce the level of phosphorus in the lake, with a target 25 percent reduction over 10-15 years. This will be a challenge, Jespersen stressed, because it means not only dealing with current flows of phosphorus into the lake but also future development within the watershed at a current and projected rate of 3 percent a year. Seventy-five percent of the watershed land in Wakefield is available for development and the percentage in Effingham is 66 percent. There are now 430 developed properties. That could grow to 736 properties by 2036 and 1,316 by 2060. The 469 kg of phosphorus entering the lake could soar 62 percent to 761 kg by 2060.

The Action Plan breaks down its goal of a 25 percent phosphorus reduction by assigning reduction goals in six areas: 1) septic systems; 2) shoreline projects; 3) roads; 4) modifying ordinances and land conservation; 5) boating; and 6) water quality monitoring.

Septic Systems. It was found through a septic survey that up to half of the houses within the watershed do not have septic systems but rely instead on cesspools and outhouses. Many of the septic systems are 25 years or older. Efforts to address wastewater phosphorus include getting discounts for group septic tank pumping and helping secure financial assistance in upgrading or replacing septic systems and cesspools.

Shoreline Projects. Improvements are being made to the boat launch to reduce runoff and, with the help of the Acton Wakefield Watersheds Alliance (AWWA), a grant application has been started that targets two other areas on Bonnyman Road in Wakefield of high runoff. Province Lake Golf Course uses no phosphorus in its fertilizers but buffer areas along the lake need to be increased. Up to 76 percent of the total reduction goal can be met with improvements such as these.

Roads. The target effort will focus on one mile of Route 153 as it runs alongside the lake.

Limiting Future Development. People don't like regulations but they are needed to protect the lake. Persuading landowners to place some of their land into conservation will also help.

Boating. Emphasis here is on educating to avoid stirring up sediment in shallow areas.

Monitoring. The number of sites monitored needs to be increased.

The plan provides a breakdown of costs for all six areas. The 10-year total is estimated at $693,000, or $69,300 a year, with the bulk of funding directed to education and outreach ($220,000) and shoreline and road improvements ($340,000).

Linda Schier, executive director of AWWA, and Sally Soule of the N.H. Department of Environmental Services both participated in developing the plan. They cited grants that were available to help fund the Action Plan which AWWA is helping the Province Lake Association apply for but both urged association members and other residents of the watershed area who are not yet members to get involved and find out what they can do to help reduce phosphorus levels in the lake.

As of press time the Watershed Management Plan was not yet posted on the Province Lake Association website (provincelake.org) but should be available shortly for downloading.

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