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WEST HARBOR POND NEWS

Statement on the Pond Grass in West Harbor Pond (July 21, 2023, edited August 20, 2023)

Many of you have noted with concern the abundant pond grass at the north end of the Pond and in patches elsewhere.  We have contacted scientists at Bigelow who visited the Pond and indicated that although there is an excess of aquatic vegetation at the north end, this growth is actually helping to maintain a healthy balance in the Pond.  They also indicated that it would be
ill-advised to remove the aquatic vegetation at this point because that could compromise the health of the lake.  Native aquatic vegetation is essential for the health of the Pond.  The pond grass is serving as a filter for excess nutrients entering the Pond in this unusually rainy summer, thus preventing more harmful species from taking over. It is also is providing shelter, food, and
nurseries for fish and other beneficial species.  


Although the pond grass may be unattractive and may interfere with some recreational activities in some parts of the Pond, that does not mean that it is bad for the environment. In fact, in this case it appears to be preventing harm by taking up nutrients that otherwise could promote the growth of more harmful vegetation, including algae, particularly cyanobacteria which is
blooming in other lakes in the area, including Damariscotta Lake.

While this year’s growth of pond grass is unusual, this is not the first time that it has occurred. There may come a point when the pond grass grows to an unhealthy level, but we are nowhere near that in the Pond. It is patchy and generally limited to the shallow north end of the pond that receives the nutrient load from Campbell Creek and Knickerbocker Lake.

If the pond grass dies off suddenly and prematurely (that is, before fall), it may
 deoxygenate those parts of the pond where it decays.  Signs to watch for are dead fish with swollen gills and scum forming on the surface of the pond.  If the grass dies off in the fall, normal fall turnover will reoxygenate the water. 

On August 20, 2023, the Pond Association took oxygen readings at two locations at the northernmost end of the pond and a third reading at the north end of Heron Cove.  There was no sign that the dramatic disappearance of the pond grass in these three locations had resulted in deoxygenation of the affected areas.  To the contrary, the oxygen saturation on the bottom of the Pond (about 3 meters/10 feet) was 82%, 79%, and 100.1% respectively at the three sampling locations.

Thanks to all of you who have inquired. We hope this satisfies your concerns and that you will be guided by the advice above. 
Please contact WHPWA BOD President Merritt Blakeslee (mrb@blakeslee-law.com) with any questions

The Board of Directors, West Harbor Pond Watershed Association

CMP Lakeside Drive (Watershed) Clean-up

On Monday, July 24th, Merritt Blakeslee met with Greg Thompson, a senior member of Central Maine Power’s Community Relations Department, to survey the damage along Lakeside Drive caused by CMP’s trimming operations in April and May and to discuss the concerns raised in Merritt’s letter of July 16th.  Mr. Thompson spent 18 years in field operations at CMP and has a thorough understanding of the on-the-ground issues associated with trimming.

Merritt and Mr. Thompson visited six of the sites along Lakeside Drive where the damage was heaviest.  Merritt explained that much damage (ruts and uncollected slash) is presently hidden by the exuberant roadside vegetation produced by our rainy summer but would reappear in the fall.

After the site visit, Merritt and Mr. Thompson sat down to discuss what they had seen, and what could be done about it. Mr. Thompson made it clear that he is sympathetic to complaints like ours that CMP’s trimming operations are unnecessarily destructive and unsightly.  He acknowledged that “industry standards” should not be the default when it comes to care of the environment.

He promised that the large gouge in the right-of-way at the top of the pond would be repaired on July 26th.  He acknowledged that previous statements by CMP’s field supervisor that the slash had all been collected were untrue.

Use of destructive machinery:  He explained that personally he dislikes the use of the destructive mowers and aerial trimmers and would prefer that trimming be done by hand from bucket trucks.  However, cost makes this impractical. He promised to see if future trimming operations can be carried out in January and February, when the ground is frozen and the equipment will not leave deep ruts in the right-of-way. 

Collecting slash:  Mr. Thompson agreed that it should not have taken until July for the slash cut in April and May along Lakeside Drive to be collected.  He stated that he was offended by the large amount of slash still uncollected on Tavenner Road.  He promised to ensure that the slash will in the future be collected sooner so that it will be an eyesore for a shorter period of time. 

Piles of wood chips:  He explained that it is not practical to truck away the chipped slash for disposal elsewhere. However, he will insist that it not be left by the roadside in unsightly piles but that it be broadcast spread into the vegetation where it will not be seen.

Fixed-fee trimming contracts:  He acknowledged that contracting with third parties on a fixed-fee basis to carry out roadside trimming incentivizes the contractors to do less rather than more to protect the environment.  He agreed that the contracts should be written to provide better performance standards.  And he conceded that other CMP trimming contractors elsewhere in the state do a better job than Asplundh.

He promised to keep Merritt updated as CMP addresses these issues and to remain available should these issues remain unresolved or should new issues arise.

The CMP Osprey Box

Recently Central Maine Power (CMP), at the suggestion of the WHPWA leadership, installed an Osprey box on a power pole on the Route 27 Causeway.  For more information and photos, see: CMP installs osprey perch near West Harbor Pond | Boothbay Register.

Loons on the Pond

The summer of 2022 brought a loon couple to West Harbor Pond.  They mated and produced a chick that spent the summer cruising the Pond with "mom and dad".  They might be spotted in any area of the Pond, and often could be heard making themselves known at any hour of day--or night.  By late summer the chick had grown to a teenager.  We look forward to seeing how the family leaves the Pond in the fall, and to see if they return next year!

WHPWA member Lois Glaser took a number of wonderful photos of the family escorting the chick around the Pond.  These can be viewed in gallery form on the page "Loon Family 2022".   As many people know, most loons avoid the proximity of humans, and tend to keep their distance. These close up photos were possible for several reasons: Because WHP is small and boating activity is quiet (mostly kayaks and canoes) the loons seemed to gradually habituate to human presence. As a result, respectful paddlers could sometimes get a bit closer than expected, or the loons would show up nearby, to the surprise of the kayaker or canoeist! The photographer has a good DSLR camera with a 400mm telephoto lens, enabling her to zoom in on the loons from afar. Many images were also cropped, making the loons appear much closer than they were in reality. 

 

In giving the loons the space they need, we are hopeful that the breeding pair will return again in 2023. We hope that all loons spotted on any body of water will be given this same respect.

For more information about loons, you might also want to look at the website About Loons – Loon Preservation Committee

loon.1 wk old-7269.jpg

Loon Photo by Lois Glaser

© 2023 by West Harbor Pond Watershed Association.

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