COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Where is SLA getting their information?

by Frank Richards
President, Webber Pond Assn.

Recently, representatives of the Sheepscot Lake Association have referred to Webber Pond in articles about alewives submitted to The Town Line. I am writing to respond. I am the president of the Webber Pond Association.

I think it’s important for the public to know that in the last 20 years, sea run alewives have been restored to Webber, Sebasticook, Three Mile, and Togus ponds. People living on those lakes are generally happy with the result.

Sea run alewives are anadromous. The adults live in the ocean and, like salmon, spawn in fresh water. They need passage to get to their spawning grounds.

Afterwards, the adults go back to the ocean, get eaten, or die. The juveniles live in the lake during the summer and then egress back to the ocean in the fall. It’s not unusual to see them leave Webber Pond in August. It’s not unusual to see them leave Webber Pond in November.

Again, they need passage to make the journey. It is possible (but rare) for them to become entrapped and die – if egress is obstructed or insufficient.

There is another species of alewife, the landlocked alewife, which is common in New York. However, sea run alewives do not become “landlocked” in the sense of ever adapting to living in a pond year round.

Sea run alewives are the way nature exchanges nutrients between the marine and inland ecosystems. They were substantially extirpated by the building of dams during the 1800s. Twenty years ago, the Maine Department of Marine Resources began to restore these useful fish.

Additional spawning areas mean that more adult alewives are in the ocean to support the marine fishery; by serving as forage for haddock, cod, stripers, and other ocean fish.

They are harvested during the spawning run and have already created a multi-million dollar lobster bait industry.

Alewives also benefit inland lakes. As the juveniles grow during the summer, they sequester phosphorus in their tissues. Because there are tons of little alewives, there is less phosphorus in the water to fuel algae blooms. They take it away in the fall when they leave.

Locally, Webber Pond, Sheepscot Lake, Three Mile, and Togus Pond all substantially cleared following the restoration of sea run alewives. However, the little fish are not magic. All those lakes still experience blooms from time to time.

Twenty years ago, alewife restoration was controversial. The Webber Pond Association assented to it somewhat reluctantly.

Because of successful restorations on a number of lakes, alewives are more positively received today – except in Palermo, where the Sheepscot Lake Association is engaged in a political campaign to block returning them to Sheepscot Lake.

I have been following a recent series of articles from representatives of SLA and 2 critical responses, by people I do not know. In my opinion, the objections to “slippery facts” are justified.

For example, [in the September 14, 2017], issue of The Town Line, an article by Roland Hallee is cited to promote the idea that alewives are adding to the nutrient load of Webber Pond. Roland is the editor of The Town Line and also a member of the Webber Pond Association.

This was not a science article. It was a summary of last year’s meeting of the Webber Pond Association, where a discussion occurred about a complex, mathematical, nutrient import/export model.

The officers and directors of the Webber Pond Association have questions about how many is too many. At a minimum, we believe we have way more than we need and support increasing the harvest.

Last year, our vice president made comments about the run increasing so much that we might be getting to the point where spawning adults were bringing in more nutrients than the juveniles were taking out. He spoke in good faith and used appropriate caveats.

It’s a fact that he raised the issue. It’s not a fact that a nutrient imbalance actually occurred. For that you would need measurements and an assessment by a qualified person.

Our vice president also attended the recent Sheepscot Lake Association meeting. He was the one who asked, “If you don’t mind my asking where did you hear something like that?’ when someone referred to mass die offs on Webber and problems with the fishery.

He advised that he’d lived on the pond for 30 years and there had been no mass die offs. Similarly fishing was good. Funny, nobody thanked him for setting the record straight.

It isn’t clear where the Sheepscot Lake Association is getting its information. They haven’t reached out to any of the nearby lake associations.

Similarly, it isn’t clear who they are using as their science advisor, or even if any specific person with appropriate credentials is working with them. I know that they have not consulted with the Department of Marine Resource, which with 20 years of restorations behind it now, is one of the leading agencies in the country with respect to alewife restoration.

I can confidently assert that it would be difficult to find an appropriately credentialed person who would back up many of the claims SLA is making in The Town Line. If there is one, maybe SLA can get them to step forward and write an article. I am all but certain that Roland will print it.

Community Commentary is a forum The Town Line makes available for citizens to express their opinions on subjects of interest to our readers. The Town Line welcomes, and encourages, differing opinions, counterpoints or opposing views. Keep the rebuttals positive, and informative, as submissions containing personal attacks will be rejected.

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Sheepscot Lake Association continues scientific monitoring of water quality

Alewives by John Burrows (source:

by Carolyn Viens
Sheepscot Lake Association

In response to a recent editorial by John Glowa I felt compelled to reinforce to our community the fact-based research and data that support the concern by the Sheepscot Lake Association as well as many local residents regarding the opening of Sheepscot Dam and the waterway. This discussion and the presence of alewives and other migratory fish is not new to Sheepscot Lake. As many will recall, alewives and sea lampreys were present in the past due to IF&W opening the dam. As a result of the detrimental effect of these anadromous visitors becoming land locked due to low water levels, similar to the levels still experienced, the fishway was later closed in an effort to restore sport fishing and eliminate the phosphorous loading from dying fish. The local residents’ concern is not over anadromous fish restoration but rather the implications when those fish become landlocked, as was the case in the 60’s until the dam was closed.

I reference an article in The Town Line from September 2017 regarding Webber Pond and the impact of alewives. It was stated the trapped alewife added to the nutrient load at Webber and the pond “reached a saturation point” for which the alewives were as much a deficit as a benefit. According to this article, “alewife presence in the lake may have exceeded the tipping point in the lake. Specifically, the alewife count in 2010 was 83,905, and 2016 was estimated at 353,470. Charles Backenstose, Webber Pond Association Vice President, questioned how many alewives were too many. “Over population could affect water quality,” he suggested. It is believed that with the number of alewives entering the pond, they may be bringing in more nutrients to contribute to algae blooms than they are taking out in the fall.”

Over several years in the ‘60s, as mentioned earlier, Sheepscot suffered the effects of anadromous fishes in the lake. The resulting reduction of sport fishing catch and health of the fish caught during those times was noted by residents. One of the reasons thought to be have caused this was the increased presence of Thiamonase, which destroys Vitamin B-1 in fishes such as lake trout and salmon. It has been shown in studies by the USGS to affect the health of the offspring of lake trout and salmon feeding on large numbers of land locked and anadromous alewives who carry this toxic enzyme. The result is the death of those offspring soon after hatching. This may have contributed to the reduced catches experienced before the fishway was closed, however definitive research simply has not been done. The remedial action of closing the fishway during the spawning migrations took decades to show results but did slowly reduce the incidence of sickly fish and lamprey wounding to today’s healthy level.

The Sheepscot Lake Association regularly monitors lake water quality with world class equipment and certified data collectors in cooperation with the Maine Lake Stewards organization. The purpose of this activity is to establish a database by which we can detect early fluctuations before any situation escalates. This will help ensure any necessary action is identified through direct observation and implemented on a timely basis to protect the lake. Sheepscot Lake has excellent water quality and good sport fishing, and we are all working hard to protect the health of Sheepscot and everything that lives in and around the lake for future generations.

Community Commentary is a forum The Town Line makes available for citizens to express their opinions on subjects of interest to our readers. The Town Line welcomes, and encourages, differing opinions, counterpoints or opposing views. Keep the rebuttals positive, and informative, as submissions containing personal attacks will be rejected.

Nelsons celebrate long family history with reunions

In the Spring of 1862 church bells rang out over the land, as President Lincoln called for volunteers. In Palermo, Maine, Erastus Foote Nelson was hoeing potatoes. He stuck his hoe in the row he was hoeing and walked to the Branch. When he returned home he told his wife, “Eliza, war has been declared. I have enlisted and am to go to Augusta tomorrow.”

Eliza was left with a farm and four children to care for. Wesley was seven years old, Prince was five, Oville was three, Harriet was two and a new baby on the way. As Eliza recounted to her granddaughter, “I put my wool on my shoulders and carried it to the Branch, had it carded and went to work spinning and knitting. We got along real good. The boys helped real good. When I wrote Erastus that I had a baby boy the day after Christmas, he wrote back on a piece of brown paper, “Name the boy Yeaton Dutton for my two tentmates who have been shot besides me.”

Erastus served with the 19th Maine Infantry from 1862 to 1865. He returned to Palermo and the farm on the hill that is currently the home of Keith Nelson and his sister Jacqueline. The family of Erastus and Eliza grew to include nine children, all of whom were born in Palermo. Erastus Nelson died of pneumonia in 1885. His wife Eliza died in 1921.

The first organized Nelson Family Reunion was held at the home of Erastus son, Frank, on the Western Ridge Rd., in Palermo. This reunion has been held every year since then. Some years it has been held in New Hampshire or Vermont where some of the family settled. This year, the 93rd annual Nelson reunion will be held on Saturday, August 11, at the home of Bob and Marion Foster, in Albion. Marion is the great-great-granddaughter of Erastus and Eliza.

The family of Erastus and Eliza Nelson, circa 1814.

Sheepscot Lake Association holds annual meeting

Members of the Sheepscot Lake Association listen to guest speaker Dennis Brown (below), of the Highland Lake Association, located outside Falmouth. (Contributed photos)

Dennis Brown, of the Highland Lake Association

The Sheepscot Lake Association held its annual meeting on Wednesday, July 25th to a packed audience at the Palermo Library. Our guest speaker was Dennis Brown of the Highland Lake Association, located outside Falmouth. He spoke of their efforts to protect the water quality of their lake and to research the cause for its recent decline, thought to be associated with excess landlocked alewives. He also provided guidance to the lake association in our efforts to protect our lake from fish that have become landlocked in the past, and their impact to the fishing and recreational benefits as well as general health of the lake.

The Association welcomed three new members to the board; Slater Claudel, Harry Webster, and Maria O’Rourke, as well as celebrated the contribution of three founding members who have retired; Eileen Kirby, Jean Ristaino, and Roger Blomquist.

If you were unable to attend, you can join or renew your membership to the Lake Association via mail. Dues are unchanged at $20/ individual, $30 per household and $50 to become a patron. Please mail your check to Sheepscot Lake Association, Inc., P.O. Box 300, Palermo, ME 04354.

Garbage Warrior tackles housing choices

Palermo Community Center (Photo by Connie Bellet)

What do beer cans, water bottles, and old tires have in common? Not much, unless you are renegade architect Michael Reynolds, in which case they are the materials of choice for producing thermal mass and energy-independent housing. For over 30 years, New Mexico-based Reynolds and his “green” disciples have devoted their time and energy to advancing the art of “earthship biotecture” by building self-sufficient, off-the-grid communities where design and function converge in eco-harmony. Shot over three years in four countries, “Garbage Warrior” is a timely portrait of a determined visionary, a hero of the 21st century.

This video will be shown at the Palermo Community Center on Turner Ridge Rd. on Friday, July 27, following a potluck dinner at 6 p.m. Bring a dish to share with thoughtful and creative neighbors. There is no charge, but donations to the Community Center and Food Pantry are highly appreciated. For more information and directions, call Connie at 993-2294 or e-mail

Last call for Jersey peaches!

Sweet, juicy freestone peaches from northern New Jersey will be on their way soon to the Palermo Community Center, so be sure to place your order now! Shipping costs have gone up, so this is the last time you’ll be able to get a 38 lb. box for only $37 or a half box for $23. These big, sweet, juicy beauties are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, so call Connie right away at 993-2294 to order yours, and please leave your phone number. Orders are also accepted online at . Please specify which date you want them. We now have more openings for August 10. Order deadline is Tuesday, July 31. If you can’t make that deadline, the deadline for the August 17 shipment is August 10.

Proceeds benefit the Palermo Food Pantry and the Palermo Community Center.

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: No evidence that anadromous fish restoration would have negative impact on Sheepscot Lake

by John Glowa, South China resident

In a recent submittal by the Sheepscot Lake Association (SLA), regarding restoring anadromous fish passage into and from the lake in the July 19, The Town Line, Carolyn Viens of the SLA stated, “…the residents of Palermo won a major battle in the opposition to LD 922, the legislative bill mandating the opening of the Sheepscot Dam to alewives and other migrating fishes which would have had a negative impact on the health of the lake.”

Ms. Viens provided no evidence of her claim that anadromous fish restoration “would have had a negative impact on the health of the lake.” Ms. Viens also failed to note that L.D. 922 would have also (1) required the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to cooperate with the Department of Marine Resources (the two agencies have had and continue to have a decades long turf war over anadromous fish restoration vs. maintaining artificial freshwater sport fish populations), and (2) require the Department of Marine Resources to develop a management plan for Sheepscot Pond for anadromous fish species and habitat. Opposition, including from shorefront property owners around Sheepscot Pond resulted in the bill being withdrawn.

I have fished Sheepscot River below the outlet dam and have never seen the fishway functioning. In my opinion, it serves no purpose and needs to be replaced. The bill in question would have required that the existing fishway be kept open and operational from April 15-June 30. Unfortunately, It did not address the functionality/suitability of the fishway or downstream fish passage for adult and juvenile alewives from Sheepscot Pond.

I believe that local opposition to anadromous fish restoration in Sheepscot Pond has more to with perceived negative impacts on property values than it has to do with “the health of the lake”. Concerns about water quality impacts are, in my opinion, a red herring. One lakefront property owner I spoke with who lives in Oakland, was mainly concerned about potential negative impacts to the value of her property and lampreys wrapping themselves around her daughter’s ankles. When I asked her to provide any credible scientific evidence of negative impacts to Sheepscot Pond, she did not.

Ms. Viens noted that a representative of the Highland Lake Association will be coming to talk to the SLA “…regarding their experience with alewives and the impact on their deteriorating water quality….” This statement makes the assumption that alewives have, in fact, caused water quality in Highland Lake to deteriorate. There is NO scientific evidence to support this assumption. Highland Lake has suffered from human caused excessive nutrient loading and deteriorating water quality for decades. While I strongly encourage efforts to assess and improve water quality in Maine’s lakes, those efforts should not be based on hearsay and unproven assumptions. They should be based on science.

If the SLA wants to hear from those familiar with waterbodies that have healthy anadromous fish populations, perhaps they should hear from someone representing Damariscotta Lake, where the alewife run into the lake exceeds one million fish annually.

Sheepscot Pond has been home to anadromous fish populations for milennia. If anyone or anything has caused harm, it is humans who dammed the lake and upset the natural ecosystem. Maine is finally working to right these wrongs by restoring anadromous fish runs up and down the coast. Despite red herrings, roadblocks, and other delaying tactics, it is only a matter of time before the natural ecosystem of Sheepscot Pond will be allowed to return, as well.

Update on Sheepscot Lake dam opening

Submitted by Carolyn Viens, Sheepscot Lake Association

Sheepscot dam

In March of this year, the residents of Palermo won a major battle in the opposition to LD922, the legislative bill mandating the opening of the Sheepscot Dam to Alewives, and other migrating fishes which would have had a negative impact on the health of the lake. Representative Jeffrey Pierce, of the Maine House of Representatives, and sponsor of LD922, withdrew the bill which is now tabled in the Maine House upon request of Governor LePage.

It was determined that several expensive steps would need to be taken before such legislation should be considered. These steps include the addition of appropriate biosecurity systems deemed necessary to adequately protect the Palermo rearing station, the securing of funding from private sources to assist in installation of a system meeting the DIFW criteria, and the determination of the appropriate timeframe to reopen the fish passage for sea run alewife once the necessary measures are in place at the Palermo rearing station. These steps would be extremely expensive and time consuming to complete, and as a result the legislation was pulled and the removal of the fish gate will not be permitted until needed infrastructure is in place.

The indefinite postponement was a direct result of the citizens of Palermo and the Sheepscot Lake Association (SLA) showing their concern repeatedly during town meetings, as well as through communication with government representatives. It would not have been successful without the ongoing involvement of Senate President Michael Thibodeau, who continually gave support throughout this process.

The Sheepscot Lake Association is continuing efforts to explore the impact of alewives and other species in Maine lakes. We have been working with representatives from other lakes, including Dennis Brown, of the Highland Lake Association (located outside Falmouth), regarding their experience with alewives and the impact on their deteriorating water quality, especially in seasons of low water levels associated with global climate change. Dennis will be discussing his experience at the SLA annual meeting on Wednesday, July 25, (7 p.m., Palermo Town Library).

Let’s all keep up our efforts to keep Sheepscot the beautiful, pristine, and healthy lake shared by so many each year! Thank you for your ongoing support and hope to see you on July 25th!

Palermo Scout earns Eagle status

Tucker Leonard

On June 16, Troop #479 honored an Eagle Scout at a Court of Honor held for Palermo resident Tucker Davis Leonard at the China Baptist Church. Family, friends and Scouts attended the ceremony marking the advancement of this young man to the highest rank in Boy Scouts.

Tucker joins a group of Eagle Scouts who have completed community service projects with the help of fellow Scouts and other volunteers. Each Eagle candidate must plan and supervise an Eagle service project to demonstrate his capacity and willingness to exert his leadership ability in activities that are constructive and worthwhile in his community.

Tucker’s project at the Palermo Grammar School was to select a space on the trails in back of the school to clear an area for an outdoor class. He selected the area after meeting with a teacher from the school and marked the trees that needed to be cut. Trees were cut and the firewood was carried out to donate while the brush was dragged into the woods. The location of the tables were selected and raked. The many pieces of the tables were carried into the selected location across the rough trail. The five tables were then built and placed on pads. Scouts, leaders and parents came early in the morning to work in a light rain under his leadership. Christian Hunter reflected on what it means to be an Eagle Scout. In terms of badges, he has earned the Scout badge and the ranks of Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and finally Eagle. Along the way, he earned 13 required merit badges and a minimum of 8 elective merit badges, served in troop leadership positions for a total of 16 months, and spent at least 13 hours on service projects, not including the many hours he spent on his Eagle Scout service project. In all, he has completed approximately 325 different requirements throughout his Scouting career.

Christian then introduced Scoutmaster Scott Adams of Troop #479 for the Eagle Presentation. Scoutmaster Scott Adams then asked Tucker to escort his parents to the front. The Eagle badge was presented to Tucker’s parents to pin on Tucker’s uniform. A miniature Eagle badge was given to Tucker to pin on his mother. An Eagle neckerchief was given to his father to place around the neck of his son.

Tucker was also presented a gift, a frame painting of an Eagle, by a friend Eagle Scout Derik Boutin who was presented this painting by his mother when he earned his Eagle rank.

Tucker recognized all those who helped him to reach the Eagle Rank. Tucker also thanks all the guests who took time to come to his Eagle ceremony and for all the Scouts who helped him with the ceremony. He presented the mentor pin to his father, Assistant Scoutmaster Doug Leonard, who helped him with the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Always given him a push when he needed someone to remind him what was due next for advancement.

Ride the bus with us to Bible school

Fair Haven Day Camps (photo:

Is there anything free anymore? Palermo Christian Church members, looking for an alternative to VBS and summer activities, touched upon the idea of partnering with Fair Haven Camps to provide free day camp to the youth in Palermo and adjacent communities.

PCC is inviting the neighborhood youth to a free Summer Adventure at Fair Haven Camps. Fair Haven Camps is sending their bus to the Palermo Christian Church from Monday, July 30 – Friday, August 3, to pick up children in our area to attend camp. Departure time is 8 a.m. with the young people returning at 5 p.m.

Fair Haven Camp is located on two sides Passagassawakeag, in Brooks. As a Maine camp, they are able to take advantage of the rugged beauty of their natural setting. Trained staff involve the boys and girls in programs that expose them to Maine’s environment and use the experiences as teaching opportunities. Campers will experience a full week of activities and make friends and memories that will last a lifetime. Fields for sports activities, wooded trails for hiking, the lake for swimming, boating and fishing, the stables with horses for riding, the lodge for large group activities and meals, and the cabins for lodging for boys and girls all encompass the realm of summer camp at Fair Haven. Check out their website for a full list of activities:

Palermo Christian Church is sponsoring this week of Day Camp “Summer Adventure” as an outreach to the community believing that children of all ages will benefit greatly from this experience. Registration forms can be found online at: FMI call the church office at 207-993-2636 or email: