by Dale Finseth
A couple weeks ago, the Kennebec SWCD helped organize and coordinate a watershed survey in the Echo Lake watershed. We were contacted by the Echo Lake Association to do this work for them. In reality, they had already done much of the hard work and were an essential part of the entire effort.
We work in many different Kennebec County watersheds. Nearly all of them have some type of "watershed group." Some more formal than others. Some are more expansive and focus their efforts on entire watershed systems. What they have in common is that they are composed of people from all walks of life who share the one pervasive desire to do the right thing for their watershed.
The right thing is not always obvious. Folks want to do the right thing, but don't always know what that right thing is. This basic principle holds true with watershed conservation. Most people have good intentions and would not knowingly harm water resources, particularly if they happen to live near a lake or pond. We all know what the bottom line is that good water quality is good for the recreation value of our property and good for real estate values. Even if one's conservation motivations are a bit self-serving, conservation actions still benefit everybody. It's a typical win-win situation. By using good conservation practices on the land, one is doing what's right for the land, for water quality and in the long run, for real estate values.
Back to the watershed survey: The Echo Lake Association includes both year-round and seasonal property users. They all gain from good water quality in the watershed. Like any watershed group, they need to know their watershed before they can make good decisions about protecting and improving its water quality. Individuals tend to know their own neighborhood, but may know very little about other areas of the watershed. The Watershed Survey helps people get a much clearer picture of the entire area and its features.
The intent is to identify areas that may generate erosion and the resulting phosphorus which impacts on our water quality. The next step is to help address any problems that may be identified. In many cases, that watershed association will work to help individual landowners understand how to address a problem on their property. That may include an issue on the camp road or driveway which leads into their property.
The resulting knowledge about better management practices helps the association members learn how to fix problem sites and help their neighbors do "the right thing." Sometimes groups may purchase bulk materials like erosion-control mulch in order to make it easier for individual landowners to use it as needed on erosion sites. Some groups have worked to help road associations develop a road management plans in order to better spend their maintenance funds on more effective road issues.
By pooling resources, landowners can take action as a group or undertake tasks that require larger amounts of manpower or money. They also make it easier to take advantage of professional assistance in the form of expertise or financial help. By using the association, individuals are able to find answers to the question, "What is the right thing to do here?"
Lake associations are able to do important things for their watersheds. This is due in no small part to the fact that they are made up of people who care about the resource and want to see it taken care of properly. That feature alone can make all the difference between active conservation and environmental degradation.
As people in the area see good things happening, it generates more and more interest and a gradual upwelling of support. Volunteerism works and the spirit of community only stays alive when it is fed by new energy. We should thank those people who continually feed the community with new energy. So keep up the good work out there — you know who you are. We'll follow your lead.
Now, enjoy your clean, healthy water!
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