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China Lake Maine: Sunset

Projects, Programs & Research

2022 - 2032:
The China Lake Watershed-Based Management Plan (WBMP)

This plan describes the water quality conditions, watershed characteristics, and steps that can be taken to restore water quality in China Lake over the next 10 years. The plan is estimated to cost $3.16 million to complete through state, federal and local resources over this time period. The plan outlines management strategies and a planning schedule (2022 – 2032), establishes water quality goals and objectives, and describes actions needed to achieve these goals. This includes strategies to:

  1. Increase efforts to reduce the external phosphorus load by addressing existing nonpoit nsource (NPS) pollution throughout the watershed and limit new sources of phosphorus from future development and effects of climate change;

  2. Significantly reduce the internal phosphorus load through inactivation of phosphorus inbottom sediments;

  3. Prevent new sources of nonpoint source pollution from getting into the lake throughmunicipal planning and enforcement, land conservation, and climate change adaptation;

  4. Raise public awareness about lake restoration strategies to increase participation in planning efforts among watershed residents;

  5. Build local capacity through partnership building and fundraising activities;

  6. Monitor and assess improvements in China Lake’s water quality over time. This includes annual baseline monitoring in the lake, stream monitoring, plankton monitoring, and monitoring of harmful algal blooms.


2020 - 2021:
China Lake Watershed-Based Management Plan Update

The Kennebec SWCD received a Clean Water Act Section 604(b) planning grant from USEPA to develop an updated WBMP for China Lake. The plan included several important monitoring/assessment tasks including: 


2020: China Lake Watershed Survey (PDF)

A comprehensive watershed survey was completed in 2020 with help from 12 volunteers and 10 technical leaders in partnership with Maine DEP to assess the condition of roads and developed properties in the watershed. A total of 161 sites were documented across 11 different land-use types, with 67% of sites located on residential properties. Twenty properties were ranked high impact, 59 medium impact, and 82 sites were ranked low impact. 


Sediment Sampling & Analysis

In 2020, Maine DEP with assistance from the KWD, collected 30 sediment samples in China Lake across 10 geographic areas and water depths in the east and west basins. Samples were analyzed by Colby College to document the physical and chemical characteristics of the sediments and to test phosphorus release under reducing conditions at different levels of aluminum treatment. P release at each station was greatly reduced by adding aluminum to the samples. Recommendations from this work include collecting additional sediment samples and conducting an aluminum treatment to reduce the internal P load in the east basin by 90%. 


Septic Inventory and Sensitive Soils Analysis

Ecological Instincts conducted a sensitive soils analysis for septic systems in the China Lake watershed. The analysis includes a review of the Maine Soil Catena to identify soils and drainage classes that may result in short-circuiting of septic leachate (e.g., shallow to bedrock soils and coarse sandy soils). The analysis identified 533 parcels located on sensitive soils within 150 feet of a waterbody, at least 318 of which are developed lots. The Town of China’s septic system database was also updated in 2021 which indicates 45% of the 452 developed properties in the shoreland zone have been updated since 1998.


2020 - 2021:

Bathymetric Map Update

Bathymetric data collected in 2002 by Dan Buckley (University of Maine, Farmington) was re-evaluated in 2020 to produce 1 m contours. The resulting data provided information necessary to more accurately calculate lake surface area, lake volume, and area and volume by depth intervals in the lake from top to bottom in order to estimate the extent of anoxia (loss of oxygen) and internal P loading. 


In-Lake Monitoring Initiative

Long-term water quality data has been collected by Maine DEP, Lake Stewards of Maine, and KWD since 1970. In-lake water quality is collected by KWD biweekly between April and October. This includes water clarity, dissolved oxygen and temperature profiles, and total phosphorus and chlorophyll-a readings within the water column. In 2020, additional phosphorus sampling was added to the KWD sampling program including two additional samples at Station 1 (10.5 m and 17.5 m), and one additional sample (10.5 m) at Stations 1 and 2 in the east basin. The results clearly documented a significant release of P from bottom sediments in 2020, especially in July – September when dissolved oxygen levels are less than 2 ppm in water below 7 m (23 ft). 

2016 - 2021:
China Lake Watershed Road Survey & Road Rehabilitation Program

In 2016, a survey of roads in the China Lake watershed was conducted by Maine Environmental Solutions to provide CLA with an overview of the condition of camp roads along the shoreline. This survey resulted in improvement projects being completed on several camp roads in the watershed between 2018 - 2021.

2014 - 2021:
Alewife Stocking & Downstream Dam Removal Efforts

The Maine Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) began active alewife (river herring) restoration of China Lake in 2014.  Alewife were trucked from the Lockwood hydroelectric facility fish lift in Waterville and stocked at the north end of the east basin boat launch on China Lake. The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife stocking permit allows for 25,000 fish per year to be stocked. In 2021, following removal of downstream barriers, an estimated 180,000 alewife returned to Outlet Stream and were hand netted over the dam into China Lake for several days. In 2022 a fishway will allow fish to freely swim over the Outlet Dam and into China Lake.  

2009 - Present: LakeSmart Program and YCC

In 2016, the CLA/CRLA established a LakeSmart Program for China Lake. Since the program’s inception, there have been over 250 site visits completed by trained LakeSmart inspectors. Thirty-five certifications have been awarded to properties on the lakeshore. CRLA also established a Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) program that employs high school and college students to engage in watershed stewardship by implementing lakeshore conservation and erosion control projects. Through the YCC, CRLA is able to implement approximately 20 site improvements a year in the China Lake Watershed.  

2006 - 2010:
Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 319 funds

Between 2006 and 2010 the CRLA and KCSWCD oversaw two phases of US EPA Clean Water Act Section 319 grant funded implementation projects to help reduce P runoff from the watershed. The major focus was to address high-priority/ highimpact residential sites and gravel roads along the shoreline, as well as high-priority agricultural sites and active forestry. Over $457,000 was invested in the watershed incuding $163,495 in grant funding and $294,317 in local matching funds. The work resulted in a significant decrease in sediment and P loading to the lake.

China Lake Watershed-Based Plan

This 10-year remediation strategy was prepared by the KCSWCD and China Region Lakes Alliance (CRLA) based on recommendations from the 2005 TMDL as well as the Colby Watershed Analysis Report. The plan set an interim in lake TP goal of 17.8 ppb to be reached over the 10-year period by addressing 15% of the external load and removing 20 kg/yr of P through optimizing the fall drawdown, for a total P reduction of 328 kg/yr.

A Watershed Analysis of China Lake - Colby College

In 2005 a watershed analysis of China Lake was completed by the Colby College Environmental Assessment Team. The analysis included an assessment of water quality in the lake, a review of land cover and land use patterns in the watershed, modeling the effects of future land use changes on phosphorus loading, and presents possible techniques for remediation. The report recommends managing external phosphorus loading from development including residential areas, roads, and agricultural land. It also recommends considering an aluminum treatment and water drawdown to reduce the internal phosphorus load.

China Lake Shoreline and Stream Survey^
China Lake Total Maximum Daily Load (TDML) - Maine DEP (2001)

A report was prepared by the Maine DEP in 2001, which set a target in-lake P concentration of 15 ppb and called for a reduction of 1,075 kg P/yr (27% reduction) to improve water quality. The report estimated internal recycling of P as 48% of the total load as a result of anoxia during the summer, and external loading from watershed sources as 52% of the total load.  

China Lake Watershed Survey*

China Lake Watershed-based Management Plan, pgs. 4-7
*China Lake Watershed Survey

^China Lake Shoreline and Stream Survey

Masthead Photo Credit: Jen Syer

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