June 3 – 16, 2016Vol. 18, No. 1

Keep Your Soil Where it Belongs, Not in the Water!

by Catherine Perham

Rule # 1 of lakeside living is to never, ever put anything into the water that you wouldn’t want to drink, swim in, or find in the fish you catch and eat. If you wish your water to remain clear, not green, and free from algae and aquatic plants, remember to keep your property’s soil out of the water.

Erosion carries harmful pesticides and fertilizers into the lake and associated waterways. With soil erosion comes murky water, reduced oxygen levels for aquatic life, loss of aquatic habitat, sedimentation and loss of valuable waterfront property. And that’s not good! Here’s what you can do:

  1. Consider a natural shoreline. Natural shorelines are buffers that generally include erosion-control fabrics, native vegetation, and rocks at the water’s edge that protect the property from waves and erosion while improving ecological features and the shoreline’s integrity.
  2. Minimize exposure of the soil to lake water. At the waterfront, leave as many aquatic plants in place as possible to hold bottom sediments and to protect your shoreline from wind and ice action, as well as waves. Follow posted boating speed limits and obey no-wake zones.
  3. Cover bare soil. Plant bare soil as quickly as possible with an appropriate vegetative cover, such as sod or seed. Mulch the area with straw to prevent erosion until the seeds germinate, then leave the living root in the soil.
  4. Make use of woody debris. Incorporate large woody debris, such as stumps, logs and tree trunks to provide essential aquatic habitat and stabilize shorelines.
  5. Add some aquatic and wetland plants. If you have an existing structural seawall and are not ready to try a completely natural shoreline, supplement the area on the waterfront side with native aquatic vegetation to help restore lost habitat and on the upland side incorporate a plant buffer. Contact the KCSWCD or your local USDA-NRCS for suggested plants. Many local nurseries are also beginning to carry such plants. They are becoming familiar with LakeSmart principles and can help you apply those.
  6. Control invasive aquatic plants on your property. With the help of the KCSWCD and the USDA-NRCS, you can learn how to identify and remove aquatic invasive plant species without spreading their growth. Contact the Maine DEP or visit their website. You can also contact your local watershed association for good reference material, or visit the Maine Lakes Resource Center in Belgrade Lakes Village.
  7. You can also begin to identify and manage terrestrial invasives. These are the plants that grow around your property and compete with native species. Check the Maine Natural Areas Program website for good reference material.

Now, enjoy your clean, healthy water!

Guest columnist Catherine Perham works for the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Conservation Too columns are usually 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.