China Lake annual meeting reflects on association mission

David Preston, right, Secretary for the China Lake Association, presents a recognition award to Scott Pierz for his seven years of dedicated service to the China Lake Association. (photo by Elaine Philbrook)

by Jeanne Marquis

The 2021 Annual Meeting of the China Lake Association (CLA) was a reflection on how vital their mission is to restore and protect the quality of China Lake. The many speakers and quality of the information shared at this meeting demonstrated the important collaborations CLA has forged with the numerous related environmental organizations and governmental departments.

Scott Pierz, China Lake Association president opened the 2021 meeting with recognition of the passing of Director Emeritus Irma Simon. Her advocacy for the environment earned her the nickname “Mother Nature” by her high school science students. Simon was among the founding members of the China Lake Association and appointed to the Board of Directors a few years later where she served for more than 30 years.

The keynote speaker Jennifer Jespersen founded Ecological Instincts, an environmental consulting firm located in Manchester, Maine. The Kennebec County Soils and Water Conservation District awarded Ecological Instincts the contract to conduct the 2020-21 China Lake Watershed Survey. In addition to her firm’s work with China Lake, Jespersen also manages grant-funded watershed restoration projects on Varnum Pond in Temple, Abrams Pond in Eastbrook and Georges Pond in Franklin.

Jepersen began by outlining the history of studies that have been conducted about the water quality of China Lake and where the current Watershed Survey fits into this body of collected data. The Watershed Survey documented areas of potential soil erosion in the 26 square miles in the Towns of China, Vassalboro and Albion which drain into China Lake. She explained how this information will be used to identify strategies to continue to improve China Lake’s water quality over the next ten years.

Jepersen explains, “Lakes are a reflection of the watershed — the more we change the quality of the runoff, the more we change the quality of the lake.”

Keynote speaker Jespersen previewed another study that measured the naturally occurring release of phosphorus from the sediment at the bottom of the basins of the lake. China Lake has two basins, east and west. The results from this internal loading research will be out in September 2021.

Matt Streeter of Maine Rivers, a guest speaker, presented an update of the Alewife Restoration Initiative for 2021. This initiative began more than six years ago and has restored the run of an estimated 950,000 alewives to help restore the natural ecosystem as it existed prior to the building of the dams. The fish, except for a few lucky ones, will not be able to make it all the way to China Lake until work is completed at the Outlet Dam, which is underway this year. The dam will be replaced by a Denil fishway that will allow the fish to pass through while maintaining the water of the lake. The reason why the restoration of this fish population is so important is that the young alewives will ingest the phosphorus and take it with them when they migrate out to the ocean. Alewife restoration is another vital step in maintaining water quality.

Another guest speaker, Robbie Bickford, Water Quality Director of the Kennebec Water District (KWD), presented a report on last year’s water quality in China Lake. He told the attendees of the annual meeting 2020 was the first year in the last five years that there was not a marked improvement in the water quality of China Lake. He attributed this to an early ice out in the spring and near drought conditions at the start of the summer among other factors. The lack of improvement shows how critical it is to diligently continue our water quality efforts.

Updates were presented at the annual meeting about other China Lake initiatives from China LakeSmart, Gravel Road Rehabilitation Program, Invasive Plant Patrol Program China Lake Loon Count and the Youth Conservation Corps. To find out how to get involved with the China Lake Association or any of the China Lake initiatives go to chinalakeassociation.org for information.

The China Lake Association welcomed in a newly elected president, Stephen Greene and expressed a deep gratitude to Scott Pierz for his seven years of service as president. Under Pierz’ guidance, the China Lake Association developed close relationships with stakeholders and advocated successfully for the funding for effective programs to improve the water quality, educate landowners and visitors.

David Preston said, “Besides being a great organizational leader, one of Scott’s strongest contributions has been his sharp-eyed monitoring of day-to-day issues. If there is a project affecting the lake, or a problem with water levels, you name it and Scott is on it. He persists in standing up for fair enforcement of environmental codes with expertise and conviction of what is right. Like Dr. Seuss’ Lorax who spoke for the trees, Scott speaks for the lake!”

 
 

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