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2023 Annual Meeting Summary

Aug 3, 2023

Attendees at China Lake Association’s Annual Meeting on July 29, 2023 heard about the ongoing phosphorus problem impacting China Lake’s water quality and the status of remediation efforts. Additionally, results from the annual Loon Count were shared, current/past CLA presidents offered various insights, and after a brief financial report, the meeting concluded with the election of CLA’s Officers and Directors for 2023.

Presentations for the following speakers are available: Wendy Garland, Jen Jesperson, Robbie Bickford, Bill Powell.

Keynote speaker Wendy Garland, Director with Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection, said the Watershed-based Management Plan (WBMP) outlines actions to tackle BOTH sources of phosphorus: watershed (aka nonpoint source [NPS] pollution) and internal (aka already in the lake).

Garland encouraged attendees to redefine “China Lake Syndrome” - the moniker attributed in the 1980’s due to “nuisance algae blooms as the result of too much development too fast, leading to the leaching of nutrients into the lake” – to one of hope and success, i.e. “collaborative efforts within a watershed that remove phosphorus sources and restore lake water quality.” She concluded with information about cyanotoxins and PFAS. China Lake is operating under heavier PFAS restrictions than other lakes, with guidance that only one fish meal per month be consumed, versus two for other lakes.

Jen Jesperson of Ecological Instincts followed Garland’s presentation. Emphasizing the implementation of shoreline buffers to reduce watershed phosphorus, she urged landowners to create non-mow areas laced with wildflower seeds in their yards, plant buffer kits (once available) containing native erosion-fighting plants, and work with CLA and CRLA to identify and remediate erosion.

Jesperson also informed attendees that one of the initial WBMP milestones (sediment sampling and analysis) was completed in 2022. Data from these samples will determine final estimates for the alum treatment in the East Basin.

Both Garland and Jesperson referenced WBMP funding. If approved, Garland said the recent 319 grant application would fund watershed remediation in 2024-2025; a decision is expected in early August 2023. Also, funds from LD 164 could be disbursed to China Lake in Maine’s 2025 fiscal year, although a final decision has not been made.

Kennebec Water District’s Water Quality Manager Robbie Bickford provided an update on Secchi disk transparency, dissolved oxygen and surface temperature readings of China Lake. Recognizing higher than average rainfall amounts this spring, Bickford said the lake is close to the lake level order (top of spillway) as mandated by the state, and reminded attendees that the Town of Vassalboro currently maintains and operates the outlet dam. 

In closing, Bickford shared that the Narrows beach is maintained by KWD and available for public use; he also noted the woodland harvesting schedule for the southern peninsula of the Narrows, and mentioned that tours of KWD’s water treatment facility are available upon request.

CLA Director Bill Powell announced that 49 adult loons were counted during this year’s Loon Count, 13 higher than 2022’s count. Powell also reported on CLA’s partnership with Maine Audubon’s Loon Restoration Project, which aims to promote a healthy loon population throughout the state. He said the team hopes next year’s raft will be more successful, as this year’s raft was destroyed by wildlife before any loons could utilize it.

CLA President Stephen Greene – along with former CLA Presidents Scott Pierz and David Landry – offered various insights to attendees: 

  • Greene commented that his involvement with CLA comes from recognizing the urgent need for action to protect the lake for future generations, and that CLA’s top priority is WBMP execution. He urged attendees to similarly become active and engaged with lake stewardship and remediation.

  • Pierz followed by saying his proudest moment with CLA was the alewife restoration project, which was completed in 2022 by 30 Mile River Watershed Association. Approximately 2 million alewives have entered/exited China Lake since.

  • Landry encouraged landowners to avoid using phosphorus-based fertilizers and advised CLA to be diligent about invasive aquatic plants, noting the threat posed to lake health and economic stability.

The business portion concluded the meeting. CLA Treasurer Natasha Littlefield informed the audience that CLA’s financials now use Quickbooks to provide better tracking, reporting and analysis. Greene then asked to approve the slate of Officers and Directors for 2023, all nominees were approved without discussion or dissention. 

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