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Grant key to McGrath road project

Sue Feiner was at a loss. She wanted to protect McGrath Pond from the stormwater that rushed across her property, gashed the ground and swept harmful dirt into the lake. But she and her husband were not prepared to spend $13,000 to repair Woodrest Lane, the gravel road that was the source of the erosion issues.

Before a $13,000 road improvement project, erosion on Woodrest Lane contributed to stormwater runoff sweeping sediment into McGrath Pond. The project's cost was split between property owners along the road and a Clean Water Act grant administered by 7 Lakes Alliance.

The situation illustrates why 7 Lakes Alliance annually applies for and administers Clean Water Act grants that aim to address erosion that is damaging to a lake or stream’s water quality. In the 2022-23 grant cycle, 7 Lakes received $308,650 from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Of that total, $94,270 was earmarked for work in the McGrath Pond-Salmon Lake watershed. Of that, $67,000 was allocated for repairs and reconstruction of roads whose erosion was washing dirt into the lakes. (The balance of the funds mostly covered the personnel costs of managing the grant.)


The impact of the grant funds has more than doubled, with property owners, lake and road associations, businesses and towns contributing more than $74,000 in matching funds, yielding more than $140,000 for construction.


The grant-funded “remediation work is without doubt the most important set of projects we've undertaken in three decades of work on our lakes,” said Lenny Reich, president of the McGrath Pond-Salmon Lake Association. “7 Lakes Alliance staff have been central to that effort, from direct involvement in the formulation of our Watershed-Based Protection Plan, to submission of grant proposals to Maine DEP, to hiring contractors and overseeing projects to completion.”


Charlie Baeder, who has administered the grant program for 7 Lakes, noted the most recent work keeps an estimated 93 tons of sediment (equivalent to about four dump truck loads) and 79 pounds of phosphorus out of the lakes annually. Phosphorus is a key nutrient on which algae feeds; too much phosphorus risks an algal bloom.


“I want to put myself out of a job by fixing things,” Baeder said. “We want to get out of the remediation business and focus on prevention.”

The improvements on Woodrest Lane have eliminated erosion and runoff into McGrath Pond. The results are "like a miracle," property owner Sue Feiner said.

In the case of Woodrest Lane, 1,500 feet of the road was re-crowned and re-ditched, and two new culverts added, to funnel stormwater away from the lake. The impact was immediate and impressive, Feiner said. Where stormwater once cut deep rivulets as it rushed to the lake and left her driveway a muddy mess, “we had zero erosion last summer,” she said.


“The work eliminated the problem,” she added. “It was like a miracle.”


The $13,000 cost was split evenly between the grant and property owners along the road. Feiner called the grant funding “essential,” saying the project would not have happened without the financial aid. “We definitely weren’t going to shell out $13,000,” she said.


The process unfolded seamlessly and the results are “fabulous,” Feiner said. “When it rains, you can tell there’s not thousands of gallons of water washing through the grass and cutting into the shoreline. It was good to have knowledgeable people walk the property and tell us what to do to protect the lake. Because we love the lake.”


Baeder reported 7 Lakes still has some funds to spend around McGrath Pond and Salmon Lake for 2023. Explaining there’s “more work to do,” Baeder said, 7 Lakes plans to seek more grant funding in 2024-25. He encouraged property owners experiencing erosion issues to contact 7 Lakes Alliance (207-495-6039 or charlie.baeder@7lakesalliance.org) to schedule a spring or summer evaluation.


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