August 26 – September 30, 2016 Vol. 18, No. 12


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The LakeSmart Story: A Buffer Drama

by Dale Finseth

Over the years I have often referred to the LakeSmart program. It is a voluntary program where shoreline landowners on some lakes have their property evaluated to review its impact on the lake water quality.

The intent is to identify properties on the shore that exhibit the "LakeSmart gold standard" practices to control erosion and phosphorus runoff, also called "stormwater runoff control." It is also the case that LakeSmart practices also do an excellent job of protecting shoreline habitat.

It is a demanding evaluation that sets a very high standard. Everyone who has a LakeSmart review, learns about what they can do to minimize their impact on their lake or pond. It's all about cleaner more healthy water conditions and minimizing how your use of the property might adversely effect the water quality.

Landowners who meet the LakeSmart standard receive a "LakeSmart Award" sign which they can place on their property. People cruising by in their boat can see which properties meet those standards. It is hoped that these examples will be copied by others around the shoreline with the goal of improving water quality.

This does NOT mean that only LakeSmart practices will protect the lake's water quality. It is entirely possible that a properly engineered stormwater control system may also minimize stormwater runoff into the lake and intercept runoff. Many of you may have seen an industrial park with manicured lawns, armored sediment ponds, and even underground stormwater runoff holding tanks. These may be very effective. They are usually inconsistent with LakeSmart standards. There remains the question of whether these methods also protect shoreline habitat. But that is another issue. . . .

So . . . during recent weeks I did a few evaluations in the Belgrades. The properties have been very different. All have effectively protected water quality given the way owners use their property. But not all have been LakeSmart.

The LakeSmart designation is based upon a set of standards that are heavily reliant upon vegetative buffers. Those vegetative buffers need to be between the lake and the areas of human activity such as recreation areas and the structures. For LakeSmart those vegetative buffers are determined as the more effective means to intercept and filter stormwater runoff.

As I've said earlier, LakeSmart methods are not the only effective methods, but they are the methods prioritized by the LakeSmart program. On my return to the office I've come to realize that the most important reason why a property protects water quality is the landowner's attitude. How focused are they on ways to minimize the impact of their land-use on the lake?

If the property is referred to me for an evaluation, it nearly always means that the landowner is very interested in behaving in a manner to protect the lake. It is just a question of whether they have chosen methods that meet the LakeSmart criteria.

If you are interested in signing up for the LakeSmart program, contact Dave Gay, the Belgrade Lakes Association Coordinator at info@BLAMaine.org or call him at 512-5150. If you are in another watershed, contact Logan at the Maine Lakes Resource Center in Belgrade. He can provide a local contact for you. Remember . . . it's all about protecting water quality.

Conservation Too columns are written by staff at by the Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District in Augusta. For more information about the district and its projects, call Dale Finseth at 622-7847, X 3 or visit www.kcswd.org.

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