Sheepscot Lake Association completes another year

by Slater Claudel
President, Sheepscot Lake Association

I hope this finds you and your family safe and well! 2020 has already proven to be a year like no other. By the time you receive this, it would be great if we were on a path to something more normal! The COVID-19 outbreak and related social distancing orders have caused many unexpected changes for us all, however, the Sheepscot Lake Association was still very active.

Although we were unable to have our annual meeting in person we were able to connect with one another by letter, emails, Facebook, and the ever so popular Zoom program that allowed us to have interactive meetings in a virtual setting. We had several people interested in serving on the board of directors for the SLA and were able to hold our elections thanks to your responses over social media and mail. We were also able to continue with our courtesy boat inspection team at the boat landing, and had an amazing boat parade on the Sheepscot over the 4th of July. There were also many great days to enjoy some fishing, swimming, campfires and breathtaking sunsets.

Our Loon Count program, headed up by Joe Burke, was a huge success this year as well. It started out as a heavy fog that morning but the persistence of the team of volunteers paid off as they identified a number of loons on the pond.

With Fall now quickly settling in over the lake, we see many are preparing for the change of the seasons. Docks are being pulled out and boats put away for the winter but if you are like me… I just had to keep my boat in a little longer to enjoy the water and take in all the beautiful colors of the trees around the lakes and on the distant hills. Just can’t get enough of what our lake offers us and yes, I, too, will be looking forward to old man winter and the fun of ice fishing, snowshoeing, skating, and the many fires we will cozy up to and keep warm.

The annual dues from our membership help to fund the critical programs summarized above. We also rely on and appreciate the contribution from the town of Palermo each year supported by the taxpayers of Palermo. If you would like to become a member of the Sheepscot Lake Association, or to renew your membership this year, you can send a check payable to Sheepscot Lake Association to:

Sheepscot Lake Association
P.O. Box 300
Palermo, ME 04354

or via PayPal at our website: https://sheepscotlakeassociation.webs.com. The dues are $20/person, $30/household, or $50/patron. Please share this email with any neighbors or friends who would like to join and support the lake. We need to grow our membership! You can also follow us on Facebook.

Thank you everyone for your continued support and if I do not see you on the lake this winter, I look forward to seeing you upon your return to Sheepscot.

PHOTO: Sunset over Sheepscot Lake

Ashley Wills, of Palermo, took this spectacular sunset over Sheepscot Lake on September 25. The sunsets in recent weeks have been remarkable.

Over two dozen boats in Sheepscot parade

The Sheepscot Lake Association hosted the second annual Independence Day boat parade, on Sheepscot Lake, on July 4, 2020. Over 25 decorated boats participated, with many others enjoying the festivities from the shore. (contributed photos)

The Sheepscot Lake Association 2020 boat parade. (contributed photo)

The Sheepscot Lake Association 2020 boat parade. (contributed photo)

The Sheepscot Lake Association 2020 boat parade. (contributed photo)

An open letter to Sheepscot Lake Association members and potential new members

Karen Spehler, a summer resident on Sheepscot Lake, found this loon posing for her in August.

by Slater Claudel, President
Sheepscot Lake Association

In lieu of our normal annual meeting and get together we will be updating you all via this letter.  Hopefully next year we’ll all be together again and enjoy another great potluck dinner!  There are several items we’re focusing on this year:

  •  The Courtesy Boat Inspection (CBI) program will be operating again this year. We  have two trained inspectors who will be working at the launch every Saturday morning through Sunday late afternoon to inspect boats prior to launch. Please be sure to support their critical efforts and let them know how much you appreciate what they’re doing. This is our best tool for controlling introduction of invasive species to the watershed.
  •  LakeSmart on-site inspections this year have been curtailed due to Covid-19. Please watch for updates on the Sheepscot Lake Association Facebook page or the LakeSmart website, mainelakessociety.org.
  •  The Audubon Annual Loon Count will be held July 18th, organized by Joe Burke. We will share the results on the Facebook page. Please continue to be respectful of our loons and give them a wide berth when you see them on the lake or near a nesting site. This is a courtesy and also the law. Visit the Audubon website: www.maineaudubon.org.
  •  There are new signs as a reminder that the river is a no wake zone. Please drive slowly whenever in the river to prevent erosion and promote safety. Maine law requires a no wake zone within 200 feet of any shoreline.
  •  The second annual boat parade will be held July 4th at noon. Please meet in the boat launch cove or join as we pass by your camp. Feel free to decorate your boat. This annual event is an opportunity to show our appreciation of our lake and to build community support.
  •  Water Testing results over past years have been excellent. We will continue our testing this year and will post results on our Facebook page. Many thanks to Ursula & Joe Burke for their continued efforts over many years. However, SLA is looking for someone to continue the water testing program next year. If you are interested, feel free to join them this year. Contact Ursula at upburke@yahoo.com.
  •  A HUGE thanks to Gary Miller, co-founder of SLA in 2012, president for many years, and an active board member for 8 years. The Lake Association Board will miss his dedication and hard work. The Sheepscot Lake Association currently has three openings on the board. If you are interested in being a member of our board please contact our president, Slater Claudel, at Sheepscot_Lake@yahoo.com.  Nominations need to be submitted by July 3rd. A slate of nominees will be sent out to our membership via email along with details as to how to vote in July.

We will miss our opportunities to gather this year at our annual meeting and the Palermo Day Parade. We will also miss the beautiful raffle basket Lynda Pound creates each year. The funds from your membership and the proceeds from this important raffle help to fund the critical programs summarized above. We also rely on and appreciate the contribution from the town of Palermo each year supported by the taxpayers of Palermo. The lake needs your continued support.  You can renew your membership this year by sending a check payable to Sheepscot Lake Association to:

Sheepscot Lake Association
P.O. Box 300
Palermo, ME 04354 

Or via PayPal at our website: https://sheepscotlakeassociation.webs.com. The dues are $20/person, $30/household, or $50/patron. Please share this article with any neighbors or friends who would like to join and support the lake. We need to grow our membership!

Thank you all for your continued support, we look forward to another beautiful summer on our spectacular Sheepscot Lake!

Sheepscot chorus to perform in Boothbay Harbor

Sheepscot Valley Chorus celebrates its 39th season with a “Christmas Pops!” concert on Sunday, December 8, at 3 p.m., at the Boothbay Harbor Congregational Church. Led by artistic director Linda Blanchard and accompanist Sean Fleming, the concert will feature Felix Mendelssohn’s brilliant Magnificat setting, the Magnificat in D. The concert will also include several jazzy arrangements of hit tunes such as “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and more! The vocal talents of soprano Mary Sullivan, alto Jazmin DeRice, tenors Jesse Wakeman and David Myers, Jr., and bass John David Adams will be featured in solos, duets, and trios, and a jazz combo will accompany the chorus on several numbers.

In the spirit of Christmas giving, Sheepscot Chorus asks concert attendees to bring a canned or boxed food item and/or a monetary donation for the Boothbay Region Food Pantry.

Counting loons on Sheepscot Lake

(Photo courtesy of Carolyn Viens)

Sheepscot Lake Association members were on the water early on July 20 to participate in the Maine Audubon Society 36th annual loon count. This year, six loons were counted on Sheepscot Lake, including a chick with parents. The annual event is one of many programs sponsored by the lake association to safeguard the beautiful lake and gauge its health.

Sheepscot Lake Association’s first boat parade

The Miller family from Bald Head Island, Eric, Anna, Kyndra and Jenny participated in the Sheepscot Lake Association’s first boat parade on July 4. There was a great turnout as 18 boats took part, all decorated in red, white and blue. (contributed photo)

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Sheepscot Lake annual water quality update

teens sailing on Sheepscot Lake

David Tyndall, of Kittery, photographed these teens sailing on Sheepscot Lake, in Palermo.

by Carolyn Viens
Sheepscot Lake Association

Water quality testing on Sheepscot Lake has been done since 1977, initially by the Maine State DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) and for the past eight years by the Sheepscot Lake Association (SLA). Again this year, as with previous years, the testing has demonstrated the outstanding health of the lake we all enjoy throughout the year.

Approximately every two weeks from June through September the SLA tests for water clarity, dissolved oxygen from the surface down to the deepest part of the lake, and for phosphorous. The testing is done by a Lake Steward of Maine Certified Lake Monitor from the SLA Board of Directors. The water clarity is tested using a Secchi disk and scope. The Secchi disk is a plain black and white circular disk 30 cm (12 inches) in diameter used to measure water transpar­ency or turbidity in bodies of water. The disc is mounted on a tape measure, and lowered slowly down in the water. The depth at which the disk is no longer visible is taken as a measure of the transparency of the water. This measure is known as the Secchi depth, and is considered the standard methodology for measuring water clarity.

The SLA Monitor also tests for dissolved oxygen using a YSI Pro 20 dissolved oxygen meter, and collects standardized samples for phosphorus which are analyzed in state labs to determine the amount present. The measure of total phosphorus in Sheepscot averages 7 ppb (parts per billion). The state average for tested lakes is 12 ppb. This is good news as phosphorus is a nutrient that feeds algae and other aquatic plants, all of which can become a nuisance; even to the point of requiring physical cutting and removal to allow recreational and sport activities. Fortunately, this has not been a problem in Sheepscot Lake. When this natural element lands in the water algae thrives on it. Phosphorus comes from soil that is washed into the lake from rain and snow melt as well as from fertilizer and leaking septic systems. Human development along lake shores results in five to 10 times more phosphorous than from undeveloped land. There is also a threat of additional phosphorous from fish die-offs, such as when alewives, should they be in a lake, spawn and, during low water years, cannot leave the lake at the end of their cycle.

Meanwhile, the LakeSmart program is available to any lakefront homeowner who is interested in learning how their property impacts the lake. The program provides education on how to minimize runoff from lakefront properties as well as recommendations and certification for lakefront properties. If you are interested in having your property evaluated at no cost or obligation, please email the lake association at sheepscotlakeassoc@gmail.com. Some general guidelines for minimizing impact to the lake is to leave trees in place as they slow down rain water, create a shorefront buffer of natural leaves, pine needles, ground cover and native shrubs. Mow grass to a three-inch height minimum and leave the clippings on the ground. Or, better yet, eliminate grass and encourage native vegetation to hold the soil back from entering the lake. Make paths meander so water won’t rush straight down into the lake. Maintain camp roads to slow down erosion.

In addition to the lake quality testing regularly performed and the LakeSmart program, SLA also manages an invasive plant patrol. This courtesy boat inspection (CBI) program is funded mostly by grants from the town of Palermo, Maine DEP and SLA member dues. The CBI program regularly inspects boats entering and exiting Sheepscot via the boat launch. The goals are to identify any invasive species plant parts hitchhiking into the lake by accident prior to a boat being launched and to emphasize boat self-inspection. Fortunately, Sheepscot Lake does not have any known invasive plants at this time. Lakes with this problem often spend thousands of dollars each year to control their infestation. The Sheepscot Lake Association can help you understand the threats and the solutions. You do not need to be an association member to receive these benefits.

Sheepscot Lake continues to be a wonderful resource for all Palermo residents and visitors to enjoy. With the continued attention on the health of the lake by us all, we will help it thrive for many, many years to come. To learn more about how you can help protect Sheepscot, please contact the lake association at sheepscotlakeassoc@gmail.com.

Enjoy the remainder of the summer!

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.

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.