Oxford wants to partner with state for erosion control

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WATERSHED —A map shows the Whitney and Hogan ponds watershed survey area where volunteers found 83 points of potential impact to the watershed.

OXFORD — The Board of Selectmen has agreed to partner with the state  to fund erosion control measures on Rabbit Valley Road if the town’s contribution can be “in-kind.”

Jeff Stern, environmental planner for the Androscoggin River Watershed Council, met with the Board of Selectmen at its May 3 meeting to discuss erosion issues on Rabbit Valley Road and how they are affecting the algae growth in nearby Whitney and Hogan ponds.

Stern wants to apply for a Department of Environmental Protection  competitive matching grant for funding  in the range of $40,000 to $50,000 and have the town partner with the state in the effort.

The contributions by the town can be in-kind, meaning they can be the labor and equipment that the town uses.

Stern said the concern on Rabbit Valley Road is the erosion problems that may be contributing to the algae bloom in nearby Whitney and Hogan ponds. Erosion can cause sediment to flow into the lakes.

When erosion gets into the ponds it disrupts the phosphorous and can be “like junk food to algae.”

The result can be turning a blue water lake into a green and slimy body of water such as what happened at China Lake in China and Sabattus Pond in Lewiston.

The problems can not only affect recreation and wildlife on the lake, but the property tax base from the generally higher property values of lake front houses.

“Once it occurs it’s extremely expensive to fix (if it can be fixed at all). Prevention is the key,” he said.

The first step in preventing the problem occurred last summer when a total of 83 sites where active erosion is taking place were discovered in the Whitney and Hogan ponds by volunteer surveyors.

One June 3, 2017, volunteers from the the Hogan and Whitney Ponds Association surveyed the watershed of the two ponds which are located off Route 26 near Welchville section of town to locate erosion sites and possible sources of sediment contamination that may impact the ponds’ water quality.

Whitney and Hogan Ponds are popular summer destinations off Route 26 and home to several camp grounds. More than three-quarters of the land surrounding the two ponds are residential and about 15 percent is vacant. The number of property owners who live on their land year round is less than 25 percent. The Hogan and Whitney ponds watershed covers about 2.6 square miles.

At that time, the group walked and drove around the watershed area looking for possible sources of pond pollution including areas of storm runoff and soil erosion.

Almost half of the impacts (48 percent) were assessed at “medium” while over a third were determined to be “low” impact. Only a small proportion (16 percent) were judged to be high impact, according to the association report.

The report stated that  nearly two thirds (or 65 percent) of the reported sites were low cost (less than $500) to remediate, while most of the remaining costs were “medium” ($500 to $2500). Only a small handful (6 percent) would cost more than $2500 to remediate.

Asselin said work needs to be done on Rabbit Valley Road regardless of the grant, and added that he hoped the state would consider using the in-kind contribution of town labor and equipment as part of the match.

Stern said the application is due June 15.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net