Battling the spread of aquatic weeds
Invasive aquatic plants spread rapidly and ruin lakes for boating, swimming, and fishing. Infestations lead to reduced property values along the lake and higher property taxes elsewhere. Early detection of these plants is the best defense, since once they are established; eradication and management are extremely costly. York County SWCD has numerous lakes, ponds, and streams infested with 4 species of non native invasive aquatic plants. The District coordinates efforts to share information, success stories, requests for assistance and training. A grant from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund (MOHF) in 2012 enabled the District to form a strong coalition of invasive plant patrollers. The District has offered on-the-water training sessions to help lake folks monitor & survey for invasive aquatic plants on new sections of the Saco, Ossipee & Little Ossipee Rivers; a heavy infestation of variable leaf milfoil in the Little Ossipee River affects prime salmon spawning grounds. Hancock County SWCD conducts an annual Lakes Survey Week where over 75 volunteers conduct surveys for invasive aquatic plants—a model for other Districts’ aquatic programs.
Building “LakeSmart” communities
Kennebec County SWCD and Franklin County SWCD are working with the Maine Lakes Society on a revamped LakeSmart program to help individual lakeshore property owners protect lake water quality. Other Districts are participating to inspect lakefront properties and advise volunteer LakeSmart screeners on this popular program which promotes good lakeshore land use practices.
Kennebec County SWCD specializes in providing technical assistance to landowners, gravel road associations and larger watershed organizations to better maintain and manage their gravel roadways. Gravel roads, particularly those closest to Maine’s waterways, are a substantial source of erosion runoff and phosphorus. Conservation Districts statewide have assisted with preparation and adoption with dozens of gravel road maintenance plans. Properly maintained gravel roads can help keep pounds of phosphorus and tons of sediment from their neighboring lake, pond or stream.
Promoting native plants, gardens, and buffer strips
Knox-Lincoln SWCD has developed and presented an ongoing series of how-to workshops: Lush Lawns Without Chemicals; Native Plants for Water Quality, Wildlife, and WOW! and Beef Up Your Buffer – More IS Better. Designed for landowners and landscape professionals, Invasive Plants of Midcoast Maine details the ecological impacts, identification, and management of terrestrial invasive plant species. he District has re-structured its Spring Plant Sale as a two-day event which includes only native and non-invasive species and features displays by local conservation organizations, handouts, talks, and demonstrations on such topics as Planting for Pollinators and How to Take a Soil Sample. The District worked with Lincoln Academy Climate Action Club (LACAC) and Pemaquid Watershed Association (PWA) to install a vegetated buffer on a degraded section of the Biscay Pond beach in Damariscotta. With a DEP “319” grant, LACAC purchased site-appropriate native plant stock from the District’s Spring Plant Sale and planted the buffer in early with help from PWA volunteers and hands-on instruction from the District.
Restoring polluted lakes and streams
Most DEP “319” water quality projects involve Conservation Districts. Central Aroostook SWCD has used a DEP “319” grant to improve the water quality in Christina Reservoir and Prestile Stream by reducing inputs and sediment loads from agricultural land in the Christina Reservoir watershed. The District worked with three local agricultural landowners to construct 3 grassed waterways, one grassed diversion ditch, a rock-lined waterway/diversion, 2 detention basins, grading and shaping of field headland, relocation of a farm road, and a riparian planting of black spruce and conservation mix adjacent to Christina Reservoir. The installation of the BMPs have reduced sediment loads by 136.58 tons/yr, nitrogen loads by 273.3 lbs/yr, and phosphorus loads by 98.15 lbs/yr. Hancock County SWCD is administering four “319” projects identify and fix erosion issues that impact water quality on Beech Hill Pond, Phillips Lake, and Toddy Pond. Successful District projects in Cumberland and Kennebec Counties have removed Highland and Cobbossee Lakes from the EPA impaired water body list.
Increasing urban stormwater awareness
Cumberland County SWCD’s Urban Runoff 5K race is a highly visible event which raises money for clean water education programs in the greater Portland and Saco areas and promotes awareness of polluted runoff in urban communities. Over 500 runners and walkers participate, with active participation by local businesses that provide sponsorships, in-kind donations, and employee participation as racers and volunteers. The Green Neighbor Family Fest is held after the race at Deering High School as the kickoff event for the City of Portland’s Greener Neighborhoods Cleaner Streams Program. The day-long festival is attended by over 1,000 people. And features environmentally and child-focused live performances involving music, theater, and storytelling, and exhibits by local nonprofit and governmental organizations, universities, and businesses to provide hands-on educational activities for children such as water quality testing, a marine touch tank, and a “poo bag” toss (about proper disposal of pet waste). Children also took part in face painting and a “Pollution Solution” obstacle course.
Penobscot County SWCD works closely with the Bangor Area Storm Water Group to help spread the word to residents, that in the Bangor Area, “Most of your neighbors don’t use lawn chemicals, such as fertilizers and pesticides, on their lawns. Join your neighbors in helping to protect our families and community by reducing your use of lawn chemicals.” Volunteers visit neighborhoods spreading that message by stenciling pavement near storm drains to remind residents that stormwater flows unfiltered to streams and the Penobscot River.