VASSALBORO: WPA officials explain work planned for Webber Pond

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro select board members’ March 21 meeting featured a discussion with John Reuthe and Rebecca Lamey, from the Webber Pond Association (WPA), about the health of Webber Pond and associated water bodies.

The water level in the Vassalboro pond is controlled by an outlet dam. Water quality is influenced by run-off from surrounding land and, Reuthe explained, by inflows from Three Mile Pond, Three Cornered Pond and Mud Pond.

A history of water quality problems led to a management program developed by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection that includes an annual fall drawdown intended to flush excess nutrients down Seven Mile Stream into the Kennebec River.

Reuthe, WPA president, said warmer water has encouraged the growth of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, which can sicken people and pets.

WPA officers are working with Maine Rivers (the organization that led the opening of local streams to alewife migration) to develop a new watershed management plan encompassing the four connected ponds, Reuthe said. A plan written about 20 years ago, with help from the Kennebec Valley Soil and Water Conservation District, was not implemented and is outdated.

Because Three Mile Pond is partly in China and Windsor, Mud Pond is in Windsor and Three Cornered Pond is in Augusta, the effort will involve multiple municipalities. Reuthe and Vassalboro Town Manager Aaron Miller have already begun discussions with Windsor’s town manager.

Lamey said WPA will apply for a federal 604(b) grant, referring to a program that is part of the Clean Water Act, to begin the new watershed study. Vassalboro has several residents whose expertise will be helpful, including a grant-writer, she said.

Future plans include more dam improvements, Reuthe said, in cooperation with Maine Rivers. Although the projects he and Lamey outlined will be expensive, he assured select board members WPA is not –yet – asking for substantial town funds, only for expressions of support from the select board.

Reuthe told select board members the $5,000 voters allocated to the WPA at the 2023 town meeting was spent as intended, to make the dam gates easier to control and add equipment storage at the dam and to buy water quality testing equipment.

The public hearing on amendments to Vassalboro’s Marijuana Business Ordinance with which the March 21 meeting was scheduled to begin drew no audience. Board members and planning board member Douglas Phillips briefly discussed the changes, which include renaming the ordinance Cannabis Business Ordinance. The topic will be continued at the April 4 select board meeting.

Board members also postponed a decision on repaving the parking lot at the former East Vassalboro school, now the Vassalboro Historical Society headquarters. After reviewing three proposals with cost estimates, they referred board member Rick Denico, Jr.’s, questions about the project to the expertise of public works department members.

In other business March 21, select board members unanimously:

Left the town office hours adopted in January as they are. Miller said residents who expressed opinions are pleased, especially with the earlier opening.
Approved closing the transfer station on Easter Sunday, as has been done in past years.

Miller said he has no new information related to the Vassalboro Sanitary District’s finances. The district has a rate increase scheduled April 1 for its about 200 customers, who have told select board members they cannot afford even present rates.

Select board members have been working on the issue since before the Dec. 14, 2023, meeting which drew more than five dozen people to discuss reasons and potential remedies for the financial problems (see the Dec. 21, 2023, issue of The Town Line, p. 2).

The next regular Vassalboro select board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 4.

Webber Pond tests positive for blue-green algae toxins

Blue-green toxic algae bloom.

by Roland D. Hallee

Following weeks of speculation, the test results were confirmed, on Friday, September 9, that Webber Pond, in Vassalboro, has tested positive for toxic algae blooms.

According to Linda Bacon, at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, “scum collected Wednesday afternoon [September 7] tested positive for microcystin this afternoon, an algal toxin that causes damage to the liver.”

Bacon added, “you’ve always had cyanobacteria blooms! This year was just particularly bad.”

Concentrations exceed EPA’s drinking water threshold and their recreation standard. Bacon continued, “Rapid tests were performed on the samples at DEP. The rapid tests do not provide numeric results, but assume that the concentrations of microcystin are likely to be 100-1,000 times these limits, which is typical of scums.”

According to Bacon, it is very likely that concentrations in open water do not exceed the recreation limit, based on data DEP has collected over the past few years.

The overall message is: don’t drink water taken from an area where scums are present or have been present recently (within the last two weeks). Don’t let pets drink the water and don’t let them in the water if scums are present. If they get scum on their fur, rinse them off with fresh water as soon as possible.

Do not let children play in the scums. Scums are quite tempting as they look like paint, so children will paint the rocks on the shoreline, the dock, or whatever is nearby while having lots of fun.

If you get your water from the lake, do not use it for cooking or drinking; make sure showers are short.

Bacon said, “although water treatment systems for algal toxins are still being refined, evidence suggests that it is a good idea to have two filters on an intake line, the one closest to the lake being a coarse filter (looks like wound string), followed by an activated charcoal filter. The charcoal filters are more expensive and would clog quickly if the coarse filter was not in place.”

Cyanotoxins have acute health effects in humans. The most common Cyanobacteria producing toxin, Microcystin-LR, will produce abdominal pain, headache, sore throat, vomiting and nausea, dry cough, diarrhea, blistering around the mouth, and pneumonia

Microcystis, Dolichospermum (previously Anabaena) were observed in the sample along with Aphanizomenon.

Referring to the drawdown on Septembeer 18, “Regardless, I would remove as many boards as you can [from the dam], but I wouldn’t leave the boards out. If we end up in another year of drought, it could become a water level issue next summer. Keep track of flows and when the flow decreases to what the usual end-of-drawdown has been, begin replacing the boards.

Concerning the alewife egress from the lake, “one thing that can happen – not saying that it did – is that adult spawners get trapped and die in the lake along with all the nutrients in their bodies. It will be very important to make sure adults can leave the lake post-spawning to minimize this issue.

Webber Pond Association (WPA) members approve revised bylaws

Jason Seiders, a marine biologist with the state explains the cause of the early summer fish kill on Webber Pond. (photo courtesy of Scott Pierz)

by Roland D. Hallee

By a split vote, members in attendance at the Webber Pond Association annual meeting passed the new, revised bylaws, as was recommended by the board of directors.

Highlights of the revised bylaws include the establishment of proxy voting, the forming of a water quality and water level management committee, adjustment in membership requirements, disqualification and termination criteria for directors and officers, and an indemnification clause.

The subject of proxy voting received the most discussion and was the most controversial item in the revised bylaws. The article would allow a member in good standing to present no more than two proxy votes for members in good standing who are unable to attend the annual meeting for various reasons. The person unable to attend the meeting would have to submit a form delegating their vote to someone else.

The dues structure was altered from the old practice of a $25 membership allowed two members of a household to cast votes at the annual meeting. That was adjusted to individual memberships of $25 per person, eliminating the two-for-one practice.

The revised bylaws created a water quality and water level management committee that would oversee the dam and determine when a mini-flush and the annual drawdown would take place.

This committee would determine if, and when, a mini flush was necessary, and set the date for the annual drawdown. All decisions would be made according to the most recent scientific data regarding the water quality with Secchi disk readings, phosphorus levels as determined by the state with lab testing of phosphorus levels in the pond, the water level – taking into consideration the level of the water at the spillway – and projected weather conditions. This would eliminate the annual vote for the drawdown which was always a contentious subject. The annual drawdown would be set for the second Monday following Labor Day, taking in all the data as described above.

The Webber Pond Association annual membership meeting was well attended as they hear association president John Reuthe speak.

That would be followed by replacing the gates in the dam two weeks following the drawdown, or around the beginning of October. The winter level would be set in November, to allow the pond to refill before ice in.

The indemnification clause would not hold board members and officers liable for lawsuits in the case of accidents at the dam. The dam has seen some vandalism in recent years.

Officers re-elected were John Reuthe, president; Tiffany Luczko, vice president; Rebecca Lamey, secretary, and Ericka Bennett, treasurer. Board members re-elected were Charlie Backenstose, Roland Hallee, Jennifer Lacombe, Kevin Luzcko, Bob Nadeau and Susan Traylor. The term of officers was changed from one year to two years.

At the beginning of the meeting, WPA President John Reuthe introduced Jason Seiders, a marine biologist with the state of Maine, who spoke on the fish kill that occurred earlier this summer.

Seiders noted that it is not unusual to have such a fish kill among adult largemouth bass in lakes with similar conditions as Webber Pond. He cited that a similar kill occurred at Three Mile Pond before Webber’s.

He noted that largemouth bass are not native to northern New England, and that they are at the northern end of their range. Following the fish kill, dead fish were taken and examined. What was first believed to be a fungus, turns out to be a parasite to which the skin cells of the fish reacted.

He explained that those types of fish kills usually happen right after ice out, especially at the time of spawning, when adult largemouth bass are stressed and more susceptible to parasites. Although Webber Pond is described by the state as a “bass factory,” it could take four to five years for the fishery to recover.

Charlie Backenstose reported that the Secchi disk reading on July 22 showed the pond was having a severe algae bloom with a reading of 1.64 meters (5.4 feet). A severe algae bloom is described by the DEP when the visibility is below two meters. The July 29 reading was 1.38 meters and the August 11 reading was 1.48 meters (4.9 feet).

“These readings are significantly lower than we normally see at this time of the year,” he said. In fact, the 1.38 reading was the second lowest reading since collecting data began in 2005.

According to Susan Bacon, at the DEP, the May fish kill was a result of a parasite, and suspects it had very little to do with the algae, despite dead fish slowly adding to the nutrient load. Hot July weather more than likely had something to do with it, as the water temperature spiked, resulting in the internal recycling kicking in at a slightly different time than usual, promoting growth of a different species.

High winds were also a factor in the algae bloom. Wind gusts of up to 35 miles per hour on two different days during the first two weeks of July contributed. Heavy wind kicks up phosphorus from shallow areas of the lake, providing more feed, and also adds oxygen to the lake, which allows the algae to live in deeper waters.

In other business, the membership passed, with two dissenting votes, to contribute $1,500 to the China Region Lakes Alliance.

Proposed WPA bylaws revisions to go before membership at Aug. 13 annual meeting (2022)

Webber Pond.

The Board of Directors of the Webber Pond Association (WPA) is recommending that WPA members approve the Revised WPA Bylaws shown below at the August 13, 2022, Annual Meeting.




A. NAME: The name of the Corporation is the Webber Pond Association, Incorporated (“WPA”).

B. PURPOSE: The purpose of the WPA shall be to protect and improve the water quality and water level management of Webber Pond to enhance recreational enjoyment. This shall be accomplished through education, conservation efforts, active management, and timely identification and correction of problems that arise.

C. REGISTERED AGENT and OFFICE: The Registered Agent and Registered Office of the WPA shall be as designated by the Board of Directors or President. The address of the Registered Office may be changed from time to time by the Board of Directors, President, or the Registered Agent.


A. MEMBERSHIP: Membership shall be open to any person who supports the purposes of the WPA. A member in good standing is defined as an individual who supports the purposes of the WPA and has paid annual membership dues.

B. DUES: Membership dues shall be as determined by the Board of Directors. Members are to be notified of the dues amount at least 14 days prior to the Annual Meeting by the Secretary, President, or designee. Dues cover the period from one Annual Meeting to the day before the next Annual Meeting.

C. MEMBERSHIP PRIVILEGES: Only members in good standing are entitled to vote at the Annual Meeting or any Special Meeting, serve as a Director or Officer, or serve on a committee. Each member in good standing shall have the right to cast one vote. The approval of a majority of members is required to elect members of the Board of Directors and Officers of the WPA; amend the Bylaws of the WPA; approve the sale or other disposition of all, or substantially all, of the assets of the WPA; and approve the dissolution of the WPA, or merger/consolidation into another legal entity.

D. VOTING QUORUM and MAJORITY RULE: Twenty members of the WPA must be present in person or by valid proxy at Annual or Special member meetings to vote on agenda items. A valid proxy shall serve as a presence for quorum purposes. A majority vote of members present, in person or by valid proxy, is required to pass a motion.

E. PROXY VOTING: Any member in good standing that cannot attend the Annual Meeting, or any Special Meeting, has the right to appoint another member in good standing to attend the meeting and vote in their place as a proxy. The member appointing the proxy must sign and date a WPA proxy form authorizing the proxy to attend a specific meeting and vote on their behalf. To be valid, the proxy form must be signed and dated by the member not more than 60 days prior to the meeting, be presented by the person representing the member to the Secretary or the person presiding at the meeting before or at the commencement of the meeting and shall be effective only for the meeting specified in the document. A member in good standing may only act as a proxy for up to two members in good standing. Members who have signed a proxy form have the right to revoke the proxy by providing written notice to the President or Secretary of the WPA at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.

F. ANNUAL MEETING: The Annual Meeting of the membership of the WPA shall be held on a Saturday in August, or as determined by the Board of Directors. The purpose of the Annual Meeting is to elect Officers and Directors for the following year, receive reports of the actions of the WPA and discuss issues of concern. Notice of the Annual Meeting shall be sent by the Secretary, President, or designee at least 14 days prior to the meeting and include the agenda for the meeting, the dues amount, and the recommended slate of Officers and Board Members.

G. SPECIAL MEETINGS: Special Meetings of the membership of the WPA may be called by the President, any five Directors and Officers, or any seven members of the WPA. Notice of a request for a Special Meeting shall be sent to the President and Secretary 28 days prior to the proposed meeting date and shall include the purpose of the meeting and a proposed agenda. The request including purpose and agenda shall be forwarded to members by the Secretary or President at least 14 days prior to the proposed meeting date.

H. POLL OF MEMBERSHIP: The Board of Directors my put questions to members by email if this is determined to be in the best interests of the WPA. The Board will include its position on questions posed.


A. RESPONSIBILITIES: The management and administration of the WPA shall be entrusted to the Board of Directors. The Board shall define, establish, and maintain policies and practices as necessary for the operation of the WPA.

B. NUMBER: There shall be a minimum of 5 and no more than 15 members of the Board of Directors, including those Directors serving as Officers.

C. QUALIFICATION: A person must be recognized as a member in good standing of the WPA to be a member of the Board of Directors.

D. TERM: Directors shall serve for a term of three years and remain on the Board until they resign or are replaced by vote of WPA members in good standing. Directors may be re-elected with no term limits. The Board may implement a system of staggered terms for Directors whereby approximately one-third of the Directors may be elected at each Annual Meeting, to provide continuity for the Board.

E. NOMINATION: 1. A Nominating Committee of 3 to 5 Board Members appointed by the Board of Directors shall ask WPA members for any expressions of interest in becoming a WPA Officer or Director or their recommendations for WPA Officers and Directors by the end of May. The Nomination Committee shall prepare a slate of candidates for the Board of Directors and Officers for review and vote at least 14 days prior to the June Board Meeting. The slate of Officer and Directors recommended by the current Board members will be included in the Notice of the Annual Meeting to be sent to members 14 days before the Annual Meeting.

F. MEETINGS: Board of Directors meetings may be called by the President or a majority of the Board members.

G. VOTING QUORUM: The attendance of half or more of the current Board members in person or electronically shall constitute a quorum to approve motions.

H. VOTING: For all matters coming before the Board of Directors, a majority vote of those at a meeting in person or electronically at which a quorum is present shall prevail.

I. USE OF ELECTRONIC MEANS: To the fullest extent permitted by law, the Board of Directors and committees may conduct business by electronic means, including, but not limited to, electronic attendance and email notices to Directors and committee members.

J. WATER QUALITY AND WATER LEVEL COMMITTEE: A standing committee of no less than 5 and no more than 11 members appointed by the Board of Directors, with a majority being Board Members and the balance being WPA members in good standing who have indicated an interest in participating. The committee shall develop, maintain, administer, and communicate water quality and water level monitoring and management procedures for the WPA. These shall be based upon Webber data, best practices, and recommendations from the Town of Vassalboro and relevant State of Maine and federal agencies. The committee shall also promote education and outreach programs that encourage best practices for lake users, such as the LakeSmart program that helps lakefront property owners manage their land to protect water quality.

K. VACANCIES: Vacancies in the Board may be filled by the Board of Directors. The person so selected will serve until the next Annual Meeting.

L. CONFLICT OF INTEREST: If any matter comes before the Board in such a way as to give rise to a conflict of interest, the affected Director shall make known the potential conflict, answer any questions that may be asked of them and withdraw from the meeting until the matter has been brought to a vote. The affected Director shall not participate in discussions or vote on the matter and shall not be included in the calculation of a quorum for the vote on the matter.

M. DISQUALIFICATION AND TERMINATION: Three absences from meetings of the Board of Directors shall constitute grounds for disqualification. Two-thirds of the Board of Directors shall have the authority to terminate a person’s position on the Board of Directors.


A. OFFICERS: The Officers shall be a President, Vice-President, Treasurer, and Secretary. The Secretary and Treasurer may be combined at the discretion of the Board of Directors.

B. QUALIFICATIONS: A person must be recognized as a member in good standing of the WPA to be a WPA Officer.

C. TERM: Officers shall serve for a term of two years and remain in office until they resign or are replaced by vote of WPA members in good standing. Officers may be re-elected with no term limits.

D. PRESIDENT: The President shall be the chief executive and administrative officer of the WPA, leading the affairs of the WPA in a manner consistent with the Purpose of the WPA and in cooperation with the Board of Directors. The President will preside at all Board, Annual and Special meetings and perform other duties as assigned by the Board of Directors.

E. VICE PRESIDENT: The Vice President shall perform duties as assigned by the President and the Board of Directors. In the absence or disability of the President, the Vice President shall perform the duties of the President.

F. TREASURER: The Treasurer shall keep accurate records of all monies received and paid out and shall have custody of all property, including bank accounts. All funds shall be paid out as directed by the Board of Directors or President. The Treasurer shall make a report of the financial condition of the WPA at Board and Annual member meetings.

G. SECRETARY: The Secretary shall count votes at meetings, keep a faithful record of all meetings, and perform other secretarial duties as required. Draft minutes of Board Meetings are to be sent to the Board within 2 weeks of the date of any Board Meeting. Draft minutes of Annual and Special Meetings are to be sent to the Board for review within 14 days and shall be reviewed by the Board promptly, so that they can be forwarded and to the members of the WPA within 28 days of the date of the Annual or Special Meeting.

H. VACANCIES: Vacancies in any Officer position may be filled by the Board of Directors. The person so selected will serve until the next Annual Meeting.


A. INDEMNIFICATION: The Directors, Officers, volunteers, employees, and agents of the WPA shall not be individually or personally liable for the debts or obligations of the WPA and shall be indemnified by the WPA against all financial loss, damage, cost, and expense (including attorney’s fees) reasonably incurred by or imposed upon them in connection with or resulting from any civil or criminal action, suit, proceeding, claim, or investigation in which they may be involved by reason of any action taken or omitted to be taken by them in good faith as a Director, Officer, volunteer, employee, or agent of the WPA.

B. PRUDENT CARE: Indemnification is subject to the condition that a majority of a quorum of the Board of Directors comprised of those Directors who are not parties to such action, suit, proceeding, claim, or investigation, or if there be no such quorum, independent counsel selected by a quorum of the entire Board of Directors, shall be of the opinion that the person requesting indemnification acted in good faith and in the reasonable belief, under the circumstances, that their actions were in the best interests of the WPA, or that such person took or omitted to take such action in reliance upon advice of counsel for the WPA or acted on information furnished by a Director, Officer, employee, or agent of the WPA and accepted in good faith by the person seeking indemnification.

C. BENEFIT: The indemnification provided herein shall inure to the benefit of the heirs, executors, or administrators of any Director, Officer, volunteers, employee, or agent and shall not be exclusive of any other rights to which such party may be entitled by law or under any resolutions adopted by the Board of Directors.

D. INSURANCE: The WPA shall procure insurance covering the Directors, Officers, and volunteers of the WPA against any liability incurred in such capacity or arising out of their status as such.


A. AMENDMENT: These Bylaws may be amended at any Annual or Special Meeting of members by a majority vote of members in good standing present in person or by proxy where a quorum exists. Suggestions for changes to the Bylaws to be made at an Annual Meeting must be submitted to the President and Secretary by any member in good standing no later than July 1 so that they can be considered by the Board of Directors and sent to WPA members with the Board’s input for consideration at least 14 days prior to the Annual Meeting. Suggestions for changes to the Bylaws to be made at a Special Meeting must be submitted to the President and Secretary by any member in good standing at least 28 days prior to the proposed Special Meeting so that they can be considered by the Board of Directors and sent to WPA members with the Board’s input for consideration at least 14 days prior to the proposed Special Meeting.

Lake Association Annual Meetings 2022

Image Credit:

2022 Lake Association Annual Meetings

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7 p.m.
Palermo Consolidated School
Route 3

9 – 10:30 a.m.
China Middle School
Lakeview Drive

10 a.m.
Vassalboro Community School
Webber Pond Road

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To be included in this list, contact The Town Line at

Webber Pond Association elects new president, vice president; votes down membership restrictions

Webber Pond.

by Roland D. Hallee
with contribution from Susan Traylor

The Webber Pond Association annual meeting was held on August 14, at the Vassalboro Community School with 88 association members present.

There were several controversial items on the agenda at this year’s meeting, including the drawdown, association membership, and ownership of the Webber Pond Dam.

Following the president’s and vice president’s report, election of officers were held.

John Reuthe was elected the new association president, unopposed. Past president Frank Richards, who had held the office for 20 years, has stepped down. Tiffany Luczko was elected vice president, unopposed; treasurer is Erika Bennett and Secretary Rebecca Lamey. Returning directors are Bob Bryson, Bob Nadeau, Charlie Backenstose, Jennifer Lacombe, Pearley LaChance, Phil Innes, Roland Hallee, Russell Charleston, Susan Traylor. New directors elected were Dave Haskell, Kevin Luczko, and Lindsey Tweed.

One of the topics that drew considerable debate, as is the case annually, was the yearly drawdown. At their meeting in July, the board of directors recommended the third Sunday of the month, Sunday, September 19, which has been the drawdown date for the past several years. The date of September 26 was mentioned during discussion. The September 19 drawdown date was approved 46-42.

In the end, it was decided to conduct the drawdown differently this year because of the lake conditions.

A mini flush began later that day, on August 14. The lake is presently experiencing a severe algae bloom, with Secchi visibility of only 1.94 meters/6.4 feet, combined with high water levels due to all the rain. The lake level currently stands at 5.5 inches above the spillway. The mini flush will allow the removal of algae and phosphorus without significantly impacting water levels for recreational use.

One foot of boards were removed on both sides of the gates at the dam – they will be replaced in a week or when the water level reaches the spillway. If there is no rain, the lake normally loses about an inch a week due to evaporation, so the mini flush is a low-risk strategy. Last year the water was about even with the spillway at this point.

The normal annual flush will begin on Sunday, September 19, with three feet of boards removed on both sides. Typically, water levels at the dam have gone down 12 inches in the first week, eight inches in the second week, and four inches in the third week of the drawdown. Another change this year is that the boards will be replaced on October 3, in accordance with Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recommendations to limit the time that lake bottom sediments are de-watered. Per DEP, draining the top several feet in a lake reduces the total lake volume by a large amount and often exposes large areas of lake bottom. This exposes significant areas of fine sediment to drying and can expose previously stable sediments to heavy rain, wind, and wave action for months, releasing phosphorus into the lake. This could be the issue with increased sediments in the very shallow areas of the lake, which are perceived as lower water levels.

A final flush, when boards are removed to set the lake at winter water levels, will take place in late November. Russell Charleston, who this past year was responsible with monitoring the dam and the lake levels, was approved by the membership to monitor the situation and will choose the date, based on weather conditions, and will post it on Facebook.

Last year there were very high phosphorus readings 0.057 (compared to figures normally in the 0.018 to 0.025 range). This indicates that phosphorus was brought to the surface when the lake turned over (cooler water on the top of the lake sank and warmer water from the bottom rose). Most of the phosphorus in the lake is on the bottom of the lake. If that were to happen again this year, more phosphorus could be flushed from the lake.

In other business, another controversial issue was the proposal to limit association membership to shoreline property owners only. Current by-laws state that anyone with an interest in the lake may become an association member. Following much, sometimes heated, debate, the motion was rejected 36-52.

Following that vote, Reuthe announced he would be forming a committee to review the by-laws in their entirety.

The proposal to ask the town of Vassalboro to assume ownership of the dam, currently owned by the association was quickly tabled to next year, pending more research and communications with the town.

The membership also voted to contribute $1,500 to the China Region Lakes Alliance. During that discussion, it was decided Webber Pond Association should look into forming a LakeSmart program, as is the case on China Lake, where the program has been very successful. CRLA Executive Director Scott Pierz was present at the meeting, and provided an overview of how the program works.

2019 Webber Pond Association takes on three controversial issues

Frank Richards, of Vassalboro, has been president of the Webber Pond Association for 20 years.

Postpone proxy balloting and voter restrictions to 2020

by Roland D. Hallee

This year’s edition of the Webber Pond Association annual meeting took on the feel of meetings from the past. Where in recent years they have been somewhat quiet, especially in regards to the lake drawdown, this year’s version produced additional controversy, with much discussion about the drawdown, and questions about proxy voting and voting restrictions.

Many different views were presented in regards to the drawdown date. In their June meeting, the board of directors had recommended Monday, September 16, as the proposed date. The third Monday in September has been the norm for the last five years or so. The directors came to that conclusion by trying to determine a date that would pass on the first vote.

However, this year, there were other dates mentioned at the annual meeting, mainly October 28 and November 30. The two latter dates never came up for a vote as the September 16 date passed, 33-29, a far closer vote than in years past. Over the last 10 – 12 years, votes in favor of the third Monday have been more one-sided, with few dissenters.

The common thought for the September 16 drawdown was that it has “been beneficial” to lower the water level in September as opposed to later in the year, even though DEP recommendations are for a mid-August drawdown. Association Vice President Charles Backenstose, a strong proponent for early drawdown, said that the September date is a compromise that is still useful at exporting phosphorus, while enabling people to use the lake longer. “Who wants to pull boards [at the dam] in July?” he asked.

Association President Frank Richards noted that the November 30 date coincides with the end of duck season. “I don’t think we’ll get any more water quality benefit by setting the winter level on October 28. There’s just no reason to not wait until November 30, if the membership favors a later draw down.”

Attendees at the meeting also brought up the possibility of implementing proxy voting for members unable to attend the meeting because of work, or other, commitment. Discussion on this topic drew the most heated exchange of the meeting, with some in attendance insisting that the by-laws provided for them to present the question to the membership for a vote at this year’s meeting. It was moved and approved to put the question on the agenda for the 2020 meeting.

Also, a motion to change the by-laws to restrict voting rights to lake property owners only was ruled out of order by Richards. It was the president’s opinion it was too big a change to be put on the agenda without any prior notice. A motion was made to overturn Richards’ ruling, but was defeated, although 16 people did vote to support the motion.

It also was moved and approved to place the voting membership question on the 2020 agenda.

In other business, Bob Nadeau, Webber Pond Association’s representative on the China Region Lakes Alliance, reported that the reason that more shoreline work is being done on China Lake than Webber Pond and Three Mile Pond is because of the fact that China provides significantly more funding to the CRLA than do the other two lakes. Both Webber and Three Mile ponds are located in Vassalboro.

“Alewives continue to be a much-discussed topic as a water quality management tool and as a restoration effort,” said Nadeau. “There is no doubt that the water quality has improved since their introduction into both Webber and Three Mile ponds.”

Nadeau also noted that, as of his knowledge, there are no invasive plants in Webber Pond. The Webber Pond Association voted to give $1,000 to CRLA. In total, according to Nadeau, it costs about $6,000 a year to provide boat inspectors at the three lakes.

In his vice president’s report, Backenstose said the water clarity in the pond has doubled over the last three weeks, to 3.7 meters (approx. 9-1/2 feet), an improvement from less than two meters on July 13. He also has seen no collection of the scum that accumulates when a severe algae bloom is present.

Backenstose has taken Secchi disk readings on the pond for the last 15 years. He also takes phosphorus samples that are analyzed at the state level. There is no data available for Secchi disk readings in October or November, as Backenstose, a Pennsylvania resident, returns home in September and is not available to produce readings for those months, which have increasingly become part of the discussion as far as the annual drawdown is concerned. A member of the audience volunteered to take those readings in order to be able to build a data base for those two months in regards to water clarity. The offer was enthusiastically accepted by Richards.

In his president’s report, Richards said, “Webber is on track to have a really good summer with respect to keeping the lake at a good level.” They have been able to keep levels at the spillway despite several years of drought conditions.

Gov. Janet Mills, left, tries to lift a net full of alewives during the May run. Phil Innes, a Webber Pond Association director, helps the governor. (photo by Jeff Nichols)

The association has been using a management plan for Webber Pond that was drafted in 1990 by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. That plan is in the process of being updated and will be posted on the Facebook page as soon as it is available, according to Richards.

From a question posed by Richards, no one in attendance has caught, nor heard of anyone else on the lake having caught, a northern pike. A good sign.

Richards also noted that in May, Gov. Janet Mills visited the fish ladder at the Webber Pond dam. It marked the first time a Maine governor had ever visited a fish ladder anywhere in the state of Maine. Another landmark appearance was the presence of the directors of the Department of Marine Resources and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to the Vassalboro dam.

Members returned all officers, Frank Richards, president; Charles Backenstose, vice president; Rebecca Lamey, secretary; John Reuthe, treasurer. Also elected were directors Robert Bryson, Scott Buchert, Mary Bussell, Darryl Fedorchak, Roland Hallee, Phil Innes, Jennifer Lacombe, Robert Nadeau, Stephen Pendley, Pearly LaChance, John Reuthe, Susan Traylor and James Webb.

Notice of Webber Pond draw down

Webber Pond

Photo courtesy of Frank Richards, president of Webber Pond Association.

Frank Richards, president of the Webber Pond Association, has announced that as a result of the unanimous vote at the Webber Pond Association annual meeting on August 18, the 2018 drawdown is set to begin on Monday, September 17, at 8 a.m.

“It is advised to pull docks and boats on the weekend of September 15-16. The pool may go down faster than usual because of the drought conditions,” said Richards

Webber Pond Association members tackle many subjects at annual meeting

Webber Pond

A “field” of weeds in the northwestern corner of Webber Pond. Photo courtesy of Frank Richards, president of Webber Pond Association.

by Roland D. Hallee

At their August 18 annual meeting, held at the Vassalboro Community School, members of the Webber Pond Association heard about various matters of interest, including water levels and clarity, bacterial infections, increasing the alewife harvest, changing the annual meeting date, and finally, a presentation on ways to deal with the increased amount of weeds in Webber Pond.

There was concern about the water level in the pond, which drew considerable dialogue. As of August 18, the water level in the pond was four inches below the spillway following the heavy rains of the previous two days. Prior to that the water level had been measured at six inches below the spillway by association president Frank Richards. Phil Innes, who monitors the dam, reported at the meeting the levels had risen. He had taken the latest reading the morning of the meeting. It is recommended the level be set at one to two inches below the spillway by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

All the boards are in the dam except for one which must be left open to allow the egress of mature alewives, who otherwise would have no way to exit the pond. Doing so allows more water to escape the lake than would be ideal. Failure to allow the mature alewives to leave the pond could possibly result in around 100,000 alewives trapped in the lake, eventually dying, creating even more problems in the lake, according to Vice President Charles Backenstose.

Richards mentioned conversations with the state that a specially-engineered egress channel could possibly be installed that would allow the fish to continue to exit the pond, but by releasing much less water. This method is now being used in new fish ladder construction, and has proven to be successful, according to Richards.

Backenstose, who monitors water clarity in the lake through Secchi Disk readings, reported that water clarity was typical from mid-May through late June at 14 – 15 feet. “This is pretty amazing, considering that last year at this time, visibility was about half that,” he reported in the group’s newsletter. “The dry weather may have contributed to clearer water.”

Although, at the meeting, Backenstose reported that as of the week of August 12, water clarity had diminished to about six feet.

Answering a concern about incidents of bacterial infections reported in the local newspapers at other central Maine lakes, Director Susan Traylor reported that Webber Pond has never appeared on the list of lakes where these types of bacteria, including e-coli, have been identified.

Traylor also made a presentation about the possibility of increasing the alewife harvest. In her research, she concluded the lake association should recommend to the town of Vassalboro that the town submit a revised alewife harvest plan to the Maine Department of Marine Resources for the 2019 season that would allow a change to the current harvest plan, which has been in place for over a decade. She concluded that no more than 240,000 alewives should be allowed to enter the pond.

In an article in the newsletter, Traylor states the 240,000 target allows for 100 alewives per acre in both Webber and Three Mile ponds. In 2018, 461,000 alewives entered Webber Pond. Of these, an estimated 38,000 went to Three Mile Pond (about 33 per acre). This left 423,000 (352 alewives per acre) in Webber.

This study came as a result of the issue having been raised at the 2017 annual meeting that maybe there were now too many alewives entering the lake, possibly creating an imbalance in nutrients being brought into the lake as opposed to what is removed with the fall egress of the young alewives.

Two options were presented to the membership by Traylor. Richards suggested the body give the president permission to use option #1 in his negotiations with the DMR. That option states: [The lake association] recommends that the town of Vassalboro submit a plan to DMR to harvest seven days a week once a target number of 240,000 alewives have entered Webber, with no further alewife entry to the pond. In 2018, following this practice with a target of 240,000 alewives would have allowed the boards in the dam to be replaced on May 30, rather than June 16.

Presently, the plan calls for alewife passage for three days a week and allows alewife harvesting the other four days. There is no limit on the number of alewives that can enter the pond.

Replacing the boards at the dam on the latter date in 2018 contributed, to some degree, to the lower water levels in early summer.

Jim Hart, director of the China Region Lakes Alliance (CRLA), warned against acting too quickly. In his address, he stated that alewives return to their place of birth. Therefore, alewives that are leaving Three Mile Pond, and returning to the ocean to mature, will be back in four years. They will most likely return to Three Mile Pond, and not stay in Webber Pond. That could affect the number of alewives that remain in Webber Pond, and vice versa. He suggested a three- to four-year trial period.

The motion to recommend increasing alewife harvest was the only item on the agenda that caused lengthy discussion, with the final straw vote being 17-8 in favor of the increase. The DMR has final say on the matter.

The final item on the agenda was a presentation by Nick Jose, a Vassalboro resident who is a third-generation resident of Webber Pond. He had seen a video on YouTube describing a piece of equipment that would literally mow the weeds on the pond.

The machinery would cut the weeds two feet down from the water surface, gathered into hoppers, brought to shore and loaded into trucks by conveyor belt, to be hauled away to a composting facility. Presently, he states, weeds are being cut by boat propellers and float to the surface. The wind carries the weeds to various locations on the lake, where they eventually sink, decay and begin the reseeding process that multiplies the weed infestation.

The equipment, which he said he was willing to invest in, carries a price tag of $200,000. Negotiations would have to take place to find a way to fund this project on both Webber and Three Mile ponds. He estimated the process would probably have to be repeated twice a year. He also stated the practice is ongoing throughout the country, and that DMR would be receptive to this program as long as the lake association was on board.

The question of whether there is milfoil present was answered by Richards, stating the weeds in the pond are native aquatic vegetation.

In other business, officers were elected: Frank Richards, president; Charles Backenstose, vice president; Rebecca Lamey, secretary; John Reuthe, treasurer.

Directors elected were returning directors Robert Bryson, Scott Buchert, Mary Bussell, Darryl Federchak, Roland Hallee, Phil Innes, Jennifer Lacombe, Robert Nadeau, Stephen Pendley, John Reuthe, Susan Traylor and James Webb. Pearley LaChance was named as a new director.

The annual drawdown of the pond, which historically has been a contentious subject, was set for Monday, September 17, at 8 a.m., by a unanimous vote of the membership.

Richards posed a question to the membership on the possibility of changing the date of the annual meeting to earlier in the summer. The straw vote showed the majority present preferred retaining the current date of the third Saturday in August.

Richards’ annual question as to whether anyone has caught, or heard of someone catching, a northern pike in Webber Pond was met with no response from those present.

The association also voted to contribute $1,500 to the CRLA.

Webber’s Pond, Week of April 29, 2018

© 2018 by Roland D. Hallee