Survey finds 83 erosion sites in Whitney/Hogan watershed

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VOLUNTEERS — Volunteers for the Whitney and Hogan ponds watershed survey on June 3 stand in front of the Oxford Town Office for a group shot after receiving training on what to look for.

OXFORD — A total of 83 sites where active erosion is taking place was discovered in the Whitney and Hogan ponds watershed by volunteer surveyors during a recent evaluation.

The 83 documented sites included residences, trails, beach accesses, public roads and others, according to a preliminary watershed update presented to members of the Hogan-Whitney Ponds Association at its annual meeting on June 24 at the Oxford Town Office. This was the first survey conducted by the Association in the watershed area.

EROSION — Volunteers snapped this picture of bank erosion along the shoreland in the Whitney and Hogan ponds watershed during a survey conducted in June.

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

Whitney and Hogan ponds, which are popular summer destinations and home to several campgrounds, lay parallel to each other and are interconnected at the northern end. The outlet leads to the Little Androscoggin River and on to the Welchville Dam.

The 170-acre Whitney Pond has a maximum depth of 24 feet, while the slightly larger 177-acre Hogan Pond has a depth of 34 feet.

According to information from the Association, more than three-quarters of the land surrounding the two ponds is 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.

Association volunteer Bruce Wilson said the 21 volunteers including students from the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, assisted by six technical experts from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring program, walked and drove around the watershed area looking for possible sources of pond pollution. These included areas of storm runoff and soil erosion, which is considered to be the single largest pollutant (by volume) to Maine’s surface waters.

Wilson stressed that the survey was not intended to lead to enforcement action but rather to gather information for use in grant applications that could help resolve problems and educate landowners about the issues.

“Locally-led watershed surveys such as this one have been used

WATERSHED MAP — This map shows the Whitney and Hogan ponds watershed survey area where volunteers found more than 80 points of potential impact to the watershed.

successfully throughout Maine to document threats to water quality,” he said.

The survey group met at the Oxford Town Office where members were given a training session on what to look for prior to heading out on the day-long survey of 270 properties in the watershed, with the property owners’ permission. Only 11 declined, Wilson said.

“We were looking for active signs of erosion that causes sediment to flow into the lakes. Phosphorus from that erosion is the number one cause of lake-quality degradation across Maine,” Wilson said in his report to the Association.

“Each group tallied the type of land use where the erosion was taking place, the impact of the erosion (based on a three-tier points system: low, medium, and high), and the potential cost of remediation (also low, medium, and high),” he said. “In addition, we have built a database of these 83 sites with photographic documentation of the erosion areas, GPS coordinates, property description, property owner name, and recommendations for any remediation.”

Almost half of the impacts (48 percent) were assessed at “medium” impact and more than a third were determined to be “low” impact. Only a small proportion (16 percent) were judged to be high impact, he reported.

Correspondingly, 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 $2,500,) according to the report.  Only a small handful (6 percent) would cost more than $2,500 to remediate.

Many of the low-cost remediation areas involved some erosion control mulch, Wilson reported. The Association is looking into purchasing and stockpiling mulch for residents’ use.

Wilson added that a steering committee is currently developing a more detailed report and an action plan to work with property owners and funding sources to develop an overall remediation plan.

The survey was funded in part through the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program Center for Citizen Lake Science and the New England Grassroots Environment Fund.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net