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Winnipesaukee communities discuss solutions to water quality concerns


January 13, 2010
MEREDITH — Communities and state officials are taking steps toward improving water quality on Lake Winnipesaukee with the release of unfavorable data on the condition of various areas of the lake.

Representatives from the Department of Environmental Services, North Country Resource, Conservation, and Development, the Lakes Region Planning Commission, the University of New Hampshire, representatives from Moultonboro, Laconia, Gilford, and Holderness, and other interested parties came out for a meeting in Meredith last Tuesday to address water quality on local subwatersheds.

Conservation officials discussed looking at a subwatershed approach to addressing water quality on Winnipesaukee, working on a smaller scale for a possible greater chance of success, as it would be more manageable. This approach could identify pollution sources and identify clear regulatory authority and greater coordination of efforts.

The presentation was part of a watershed planning an implementation process that started in 2006.

Erica Anderson of the LRPC and Pat Tarpey from North Country RC and D presented a series of charts for recent water quality studies done on Meredith Bay in Meredith, Paugus Bay in Laconia, and Sanders Bay in Gilford as well as Lake Waukewan, which washes into Winnipesaukee. The main focus was on phosphorous levels, higher numbers of which can lead to lake health issues.

According to state standards, a lake with 7.2 parts per billion of phosphorous is considered impaired and the state will become involved in the lake. A lake at over eight parts per billion is considered mesotrophic, the next stage of degradation from healthier oligotrophic.

Lake Winnipesaukee as a whole is considered oligotrophic with a summer median of 6 ppb of phosphorous over the past 10 years and a historical median of 4.9 ppb.

A study of Meredith, Paugus, and Sanders Bays and Lake Waukewan showed estimated 2009 phosphorous levels with and without Best Management Practices (BMP's), which are measures to mitigate the amount of phosphorous going into the lake. Without BMP's, Lake Waukewan is at 17.9 ppb, Meredith Bay at 10.1, Paugus Bay at 7, and Sanders Bay at 8.3. With Best Management Practices, Waukewan would be at 18.9, Meredith Bay at 8.6, Paugus at 6.6, and Sanders at 7.2.

The more area of land you have for a watershed, the higher the phosphorous levels," Anderson said, noting that this accounts for the high levels of phosphorous in Lake Waukewan as it has more land base to a smaller lake area.

Tarpey said the state looks at Lake Winnipesaukee as one whole assessment as it is a large volume of water handling pollution levels.

Urban activity accounts for the vast majority of phosphorous loading on all four subwatersheds, accounting for a total of 6,059 pounds in 2009.

Failing septic systems account for a large amount of lake phosphorous as many landowners go from seasonal residents to year-round residents. Anderson said many do not know the signs of a failing septic system and do not know the general state of their septic systems.

Lawn care is another major factor as many landowners are having large amounts of fertilizer put on their lawns to keep them green.

Meredith Town Planner Angela LeBreque said the town has a lawn care subcommittee as part of the Waukewan Watershed Committee that has been working with Public Works and local business owners on "green" lawn care. A campaign is also in the works to raise awareness about the issue. Information is also available on more environmentally friendly ways to care for lawns.

The subwatershed areas are surrounded by 53 percent forestland, which accounts for 2,212 pounds of phosphorous. Crops and pasture account three percent of the area with 25 pounds from crops and 543 pounds from pasture.

Richard DeMark, USDA Coordinator for North Country RC and D, told those in attendance to discuss options and put forth their own acceptable phosphorous level for the subwatersheds.

Meredith Community Development Director John Edgar said the better option would be to discuss Best Management Practices, especially for small-scale areas that tend to fall through the cracks. Edgar said they would be looking to those with knowledge on the water bodies to help them with solutions.

Laconia Planning and Zoning Director Shanna Saunders said the communities are looking to the scientists and experts.

"Really a road map where all the communities are on the same page as the technical experts," Saunders said. "I think that's what Laconia needs before it comes up with a number. We really need that road map document."

Another issue is funding, as any improvements will require much money.

Anderson said there are grants available through the DES and there is a grant worth around $76,040 from the EPA with a deadline if Dec. 31 of this year to apply.

"In order to have some public support for the process, it's got to have some positive outcomes," said Meredith Selectmen Chair Peter Brothers.

Measures of public involvement include a website giving information on the status of the lake and bays, including areas of data, monitoring, and possible involvement by umbrella organizations.

"We're hoping to get all the data and have it on one Web site," Tarpey said

Recent sampling has been done on Paugus and Sanders Bays, where chlorophyll levels were analyzed. Organizers said they are hoping for more volunteers to do water tests at different locations in the bays.

Bob Craycraft of the UNH Cooperative Extension said testing kits are available for volunteers and UNH will provide training on how to collect samples and use the kits.

Tarpey said several local organizations, including the Gilford Rotary and the Winnipesaukee Yacht Club, have expressed interest in doing lake testing.

Much of the testing does require access to a boat; shallower areas can be done with a kayak or canoe, while tributary testing can be done from the shoreline.

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