Erosion Control Program
Our lakes and streams are the lifeblood of our region. The health of the waters depends largely on what flows into them. Today, our waters are under attack.
Some of our lakes have excess phosphorus, resulting in annual algal blooms that not only diminish quality of life on these lakes but also threaten the ecological and economic health of our region. Prevention is our priority; through watershed surveys and erosion control projects, we decrease the amount of excess phosphorus entering the lakes. Alum treatments, which abate decades of phosphorus contamination and prevent seasonal algal blooms, are a remedial effort that has been implemented on East Pond in 2018. Our lakes will face an increasing threat of algal blooms in the coming years if efforts are not made to decrease erosion.
Alum treatment underway on East Pond
Good lake stewardship starts on the land.
Phosphorus is introduced to our lakes through both natural and man-made sources. Nature has designed our lakes to mitigate naturally occurring phosphorus, but the increased phosphorus introduced by humans has pushed nature past the tipping point. We must invest in watershed wide erosion control projects to further limit the introduction of man-made phosphorus and regain balance in our water ecosystems.
Since 1999, 7 Lakes Alliance has received funding provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. The funding is administered by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in partnership with EPA. Working collaboratively with Maine Department of Environmental Protection and local towns, this program has already brought more than $960,000 of federal grants to the Belgrade Lakes Region to increase water quality by improving erosion control on public and private roads throughout the watershed and providing support for the East Pond alum treatment. This federal funding has leveraged additional local, town, and foundation contributions of $1.5 million for these projects.
Youth Conservation Corps Program
7 Lakes Alliance is also home to Maine’s largest Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) that employs high school and college students to reduce sources of pollution in our lakes through the installation of lake shore erosion control projects. Working with homeowners, businesses, and municipalities, the YCC tackles more than 100 projects each year, including rain buffer gardens, armored shorelines & ditches, infiltration steps & trenches, and erosion control mulch. YCC is a low cost option for landowners seeking to protect their lake from erosion problems.
YCC installing riprap to prevent shoreline erosion.
Soil from exposed eroding sites is the most prevalent form of pollution in Maine. The YCC aims to decrease soil erosion in the watershed, protecting water quality for all. To decrease erosion on your property, consider installing Best Management Practices (BMPs). Some examples of BMPs that you or the YCC can install include:
Buffer Gardens are one of the most important ways you can protect your lake. Vegetated buffers along the shoreline, ditches, and streams help slow the flow of runoff into the lake, allowing excess surface water (carrying phosphorus) to infiltrate back into the ground. Buffers can be composed of native trees and shrubs, landscaped gardens of flowering shrubs or perennials, or a combination of these.
Riprap is rock armoring for eroding shorelines. When waves, ice, and boat wakes impact a shoreline, the resulting erosion can deposit soil and nutrients into the lake (and eat away at your shoreline). The large angular rocks of riprap absorb the energy of waves and ice protecting the shoreline from erosion. It should be noted that although the YCC cannot install riprap if there is no buffer above it, the team would be happy to install the buffer garden as well.
Rain Gardens can help keep runoff from roofs, driveways, and other impervious surfaces from impacting the lake. A rain garden is a depression that collects runoff during heavy rainfall and allows it to infiltrate into the soil rather than flowing away quickly carrying soil with it. Rain gardens do not hold standing water after rainstorms; the water enters the soil within a few hours and is utilized by the plants. During dry periods, a rain garden is simply an attractive landscape feature.
Infiltration Trenches and dry wells, like rain gardens, collect and infiltrate stormwater. These trenches are filled with crushed stone that provides porous material to collect runoff. Infiltration trenches along drip lines are a very effective tool to prevent erosion from roof runoff.
Infiltration Steps are timber steps filled with crushed stone. These steps prevent erosion from foot traffic and runoff on steep slopes. They also provide attractive, safe paths through steep areas making them ideal for many lakefront properties.
Ditches and Culverts are often subject to erosion from heavy runoff. Armoring these areas with stone can prevent sediment from being carried into water bodies downstream. Check dams or plunge pools help slow the flow of water in ditches and collect sediment.
Rubber Razor Blades and other water-diverting tools such as open-top culverts can help direct runoff away from roads and driveways. Though these structures are not suitable for plowed roads, they are very effective tools for preventing erosion on seasonal roads.
Other projects to stabilize exposed soil and eroded footpaths involve erosion control mulch (ECM), vegetating eroding slopes, diverting runoff into wooded areas, and more. The YCC is devoted to finding a solution to any erosion problem.
It will require more cooperation, increased collaboration, and far greater resources to ensure that our children and grandchildren enjoy the pristine lakes of our youth, that our natural resources-based economy continues to flourish, and that the Belgrade Lakes Region remains a healthy and uniquely beautiful place to live, grow, and enjoy a high quality of life.