7 Lakes Alliance and three of our lake association partners are seeking $60,000 from the Town of Belgrade this year to protect the town’s five lakes. Specifically, the funds would help remediate and combat the spread of invasive milfoil, and stem erosion that degrades water quality. The request, which voters must approve, is not made lightly.
The State of Maine has designated all five of Belgrade’s lakes as impaired or threatened, meaning they are at future risk of suffering algal blooms. Human activities in the watershed and bigger storms sparked by climate change are contributing to erosion that washes dirt into lakes and streams. Dirt contains phosphorus, a key nutrient on which algae feeds.
Further, we know that left unchecked, invasive milfoil will aggressively spread, choking the ecosystem for fish and native aquatic plants, and limiting the lakes’ recreational uses.
Funding sought by 7 Lakes, the Belgrade Lakes Association, Friends of Messalonskee and the McGrath Pond-Salmon Lake Association would help address both issues.
Some funds would support the Youth Conservation Corps. That program hires high school and college students to complete erosion control projects around camps and lakefront homes. Property owners pay for materials plus the YCC’s labor at a reduced rate.
Other funds would help pay for Courtesy Boat Inspectors, who check boats at public launches to ensure invasive plant fragments are not transported between lakes. The remaining funds would support the divers who search for invasive plants and manually remove milfoil.
Controlling erosion and preventing invasive milfoil from spreading requires resources. As everyone knows, fuel, labor and equipment costs have increased. The Town of Belgrade’s support of lake protection efforts has remained at $40,000 since 2016. In 2015, the Town contributed $50,300. Accounting for inflation, that amount equates to more than $63,000 today.
Again, 7 Lakes and the lake associations are not making the $60,000 request lightly, recognizing it represents a 50% increase. (Similar increases have been requested of other towns.) But we believe it’s needed to help protect Belgrade’s greatest natural resource. The lakes are the heart of our community – economically, culturally, recreationally and aesthetically. Belgrade is a singular place because of them.
Last year, the Town of Rome doubled its appropriation to 7 Lakes and two lake associations to $36,000 following a compelling argument that the appropriation represented a smart community investment. A similar case can be made in Belgrade, where lakefront property accounts for 60% of the tax base. That lowers levies for other property owners while supporting core services such as fire protection, road maintenance and the transfer station.
We understand and appreciate that Belgrade’s budget faces pressure this year. We respectfully ask for voters’ consideration of a warrant article that is critical to the community’s vitality.
Early voting in the election in which this town meeting warrant article will be decided begins Feb. 16. Early ballots will be available through March 14. Belgrade residents can pick up a ballot at the Town Office, 990 Augusta Road, from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays, except on Thursdays, when the office is open until 7 p.m.
Early ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. March 17. They can be returned to the Town Office. (There’s a ballot dropbox under the portico on the north side of the building – turn left at the flagpole – available 24/7.) They can also be submitted at the Center for All Seasons on Election Day, which is Friday, March 17. Polls will be open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. at the Center for All Seasons, located at 1 Center Drive along Route 27 in the Belgrade village.