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China/Vassalboro fifth graders help with revegetation program

Students at VCS helping with the revegetation project at the Masse Dam Site.

Fifth grade students from China Middle School and Vassalboro Community School are continuing the work started two years ago by fellow students helping with the revegetation project at the Masse Dam site, in Vassalboro. They are learning the connections between alewives, native plants and the restoration of Maine waterways back to their original state. The restoration of Maine waterways, also known as the Alewife Restoration Initiative, will allow river herring, an anadromous fish, to return to freshwater to spawn.

The site of Masse Dam, which was removed in 2018. (photo by Eric Austin)

Matt Streeter, from Maine Rivers, shared what has happened and is happening as dams are being removed allowing alewives and blueback herring to return to China Lake and Outlet Stream. Nate Gray from the Maine Department of Marine Resources provided information on alewives as a keystone species and what that means to our local environment. Anita Smith, a Maine Master naturalist, clarified the difference between native and invasive plants and why we need to focus our restoration efforts with native species.

This year’s seed collection were ones that would do well in wet to medium wet soils. Some of the seeds planted were Swamp Milkweed, Swamp Smart Weed, New England Asters, Wild Bergamot, Black-eyed Susan and Golden Alexander. Next fall students will go to the Masse Dam site to plant their young plants along the outlet stream. There is also a plan for the fifth graders to visit the site this spring. In the spring they will learn more about the history of the site, identify critters from the stream to determine if the stream is healthy or not, as well as plant shrubs along the stream’s edge.

Seeds for this project were provided by the China Lake Association.

Article and photos submitted by Elaine Philbrook of the China Lake association.

Students at CMS helping with the revegetation project at the Masse Dam Site.

Invasive Plants 101 workshop, held in China, well attended

Some of the attendees at the Invasive Plant 101 workshop, held in China on August 24, were, from left to right, Sonny Pierce, of Rangeley Lake Heritage Trust, Peter Caldwell and Marie Michaud, China Lake Association, and Spencer Harriman, of Lake Stewards of Maine. (contributed photo)

by Elaine Philbrook

Friend or Foe?

That was the question on participants’ minds who attended the Invasive Plant 101 Workshop, at China Town Office, on August 20.  The workshop was hosted by the China Lake Association and the Kennebec Water Districts. Participants included members of the China Lake Association, the Kennebec Water District, Echo Lake Association, Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust, the Boothbay Region Water District, folks from the town of Palermo, and year-round and summer residents of China Lake.

The six-hour workshop was presented in four parts:

  • Overview of invasive species issues in Maine and the Nation;
  • Plant identification fundamentals;
  • Plant identification hands-on exercise with live aquatic plants;
  • Conducting a screening survey, employing tools and techniques.

Illustrations for 11 of Maine’s most unwanted invasive aquatic plants.

The overview included information on the negative impact invasive aquatic plants can have, and have had, on ecosystems, economics, recreation, property values, and human health in and around lake communities.  A few facts shared about Maine lakes and their economic development are as follows: 640,000 residents recreate on Maine lakes, visitors spend $2.3 billion annually, generating and sustaining $3.5 billion in economic activities, $1.8 billion in annual income from Maine residents and over 50,000 jobs.  These figures are from a 2005 study by T. Allen, Center for Tourism Research and Analysis, Maine Congress of Lakes Association.

The town of China benefits through the taxes generated from lake property owners, both year-round and seasonal.  China residents and others enjoy the natural beauty and recreational activities the lake provides. These same activities and pleasures are shared by people visiting for a day or vacationing for a longer period of time.  If China Lake or Three Mile Pond where to become infested by an invasive plant these recreational activities would be jeopardized.  The cost on the community can be phenomenal, from the loss of tax revenue to the expense of plant removal.  Early detection of an invasive aquatic plant will insure that the activities and financial benefits that we all enjoy from experiencing our lakes will continue uninterrupted.

One of the working groups at the Invasive Plants Workshop 101.

The second and third parts of the workshop were about the 11 aquatic invasive plants, their native look-a-likes, and what to do if you find a suspicious plant.  If you think you have found an invasive plant you should mark the sport where you found it, take a photo or obtain a sample of the plant, and contact your local identification representative on invasive plants (Elaine Philbrook) to help with identification (or follow the directions on the Lake Stewards of Maine web site: https://www.lakestewardsofmaine.org/reporting-aquatic-species-6/). A word of caution, when gathering a sample of a suspicious plant, be careful to gather all the fragments of the plant.  Invasive plants are able to propagate from very small plant fragments.

The final part of the workshop covered how to conduct a lake screening survey and use helpful tools. A screening survey consists of people who have had training to identify invasive aquatic plants.  Participants choose or are assigned an area on the lake to watch for suspicious plants.  Once a year they report their findings to the lead supervisor.  A survey can take place anytime during the year you can get out on the water. The best time to do a survey is between mid-July to early fall because plants are in bloom.

To become a “screener” you need to be trained.  Trainings can be a six-hour Invasive Plant 101 workshop, or three-hour Invasive Plant Paddle; both are offered by the Lake Stewards of Maine. A third option is an Invasive Plant Paddle offered by a trained local resident.

If you are interested in becoming part of the screening survey team contact Elaine Philbrook at esphilbrook@gmail.com.   The goal of the China Lake Association is to have enough trained people available to develop a screening survey team that will continuously monitor the China Lake.

Winners of 2019 China Lake Association post contest

The winners of the China Lake Association poster contest were, from left to right, Elaine Philbrook, contest coordinator, April Dutilly (fifth grade, fourth place), Madeline Clement (fifth grade, fourth place), Elijah Pelkey (fifth grade, third place), Elliotte Podey (fifth grade, first place), and Kayleigh Morin (sixth grade, first place). Back is China Lake Association President Scott Pierz. Not present, fifth grade winners, Ruby Pearson (second place), Bayley Nickles (fourth place), and Octavia Berto (sixth grade, second place), and Jayda Bickford (sixth grade, third place). (photo courtesy of Elaine Philbrook)

CHINA: KWD trustees hear China Lake report

Image Credit: chinalakeassociation.org

by Roland D. Hallee

At their March 15 meeting, the Kennebec Water District board of trustees heard a report, on the request of trustee Allan Fuller, regarding the China Lake water level and maintaining this level within the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) lake level guidance order.

Kennebec Water District Engineer Matt Zetterman informed the trustees that in order to meet the winter target level of one to two feet below the spillway, KWD has recently made an adjustment to increase the flow to the Outlet Stream, from 115 cubic feet per second (cfs) to between 150 and 160 cfs. Zetterman explained that although the DEP allows a maximum water release of 200 cfs, in consideration of the stream volume capacity, property owners, and shoreland, KWD attempts to maintain a flow below this level. In addition, as the lake level decreases, it becomes more difficult to sustain the higher flow. He further explained that the month of April is when the flow is adjusted with the intention of replenishing the lake with water. With the amount of eventual snow melt, raising the level should not be too difficult, but adjustments will continue depending upon weather variables such as the amount of precipitation, or the lack thereof.

Zetterman assured the trustees that KWD has good and constant communications with the DEP, and the DEP is aware of the effort by the Kennebec Water District to maintain the lake level within the state guidelines.