The watershed: Where do we go from here?

With the arrival of spring, the two-year, $150,000 Wentworth/Crescent watershed management plan is now winding down, and its accomplishments are significant. Among them:

  • A door-to-door survey of hundreds of properties along the shoreline of the two lakes and their tributaries, resulting in a raft of information about the age, placement, and maintenance of near-water septic systems
  • Identification, as part of the survey, of more than 100 properties of various sizes where runoff from snowmelt and rain storms is eroding shorelines and roadway stream crossings and is likely delivering large amounts of phosphorus into our surface waters. That list has been prioritized so that sites whose repair would provide the greatest return for the cost could be placed first in line for funding in the future.
  • Creation of a “build-out analysis” that estimates the extent of the development that could take place in the watershed under current zoning regulations. Using growth trends and other factors, the analysis estimated that all available property could be developed in Wolfeboro by 2033.
  • Creation of a mathematical land-use model that has estimated the current and projected amount of phosphorus being delivered to the lakes from all properties in the watershed. The model identified Lake Wentworth as the source of 96% of the water load and 68% of the total phosphorus entering Crescent Lake, and it ranked the 14 tributaries that flow into Wentworth by the amount of phosphorus they deliver.
  • Working from the data produced by the lake model, the Steering Committee that oversaw the watershed management plan set a goal of reducing the existing phosphorus levels in Lake Wentworth and Crescent Lake by 15% in the coming years.

The details of the Wentworth/Crescent watershed management plan are contained in a final 190-page report. That document, which details the findings and recommendations of the two-year project, is available from this site in two parts:

NOTE: You can order a color print copy of the entire watershed plan by downloading and completing this form.

So, what’s next?

While leaving us with a treasure trove of data about our watershed, the management plan also included an action plan that lays out what needs to be done over the next 10 years to fix the problems found and even improve the quality of our lakes and streams. That plan consists of four areas in which the lake organizations, watershed property owners, and the Town of Wolfeboro will have an opportunity to collaborate in getting things done.

Those activities involve:

  • Education and outreach
  • Enhancement of municipal ordinances
  • Implementation of best management practices (BMPs) in correcting problems
  • Monitoring and assessment of changing conditions in the water and surrounding land

Education and outreach

The watershed plan notes that a lack of awareness is among the leading causes of behavior that harms our waters. Some residents may lack an awareness of how important water quality is to the local economy; waterfront property owners may be unaware of how poorly maintained driveways and pathways erode under snowmelt and rainstorms and so carry pollutants into nearby waters; and visitors may not recognize that lack of care with the fueling and use of recreational craft can pollute and damage water resources.

For these issues, the watershed plan proposes a host of educational and outreach activities to provide both residents and visitors with information they can use. In addition to maintenance of web sites like those of the Lake Wentworth Association (lwa.org) and the Lake Wentworth Foundation (lakewentworth.org), the action plan proposes that the two lake organizations provide several forms of outreach and education:

  • Youth Conservation Corps — Working with local high school and college students during the summer, the program would help property owners address modest stormwater runoff problems. The program could demonstrate how to use simple, inexpensive strategies such as rain gardens, water bars, and infiltration trenches to prevent erosion from carrying phosphorus-laden soil into surface waters.
  • Regular information updates — The frequent use of familiar newsletters such as the LWA’s Zephyr and local newspapers can update residents of the watershed and other property owners regarding issues affecting the health of our surface waters and activities related to them.
  • Shore meeting presentations — Meetings of shore associations can be used to make presentations on issues of interest and urgency for those living by the water.

Municipal ordinances

Following a review of Wolfeboro’s existing zoning regulations, the watershed plan’s consultants noted a number of shortcomings: a lack of environmental controls in those ordinances; a lack of information and guidance for shorefront property owners involved in working on their properties; threats to water quality from uncontrolled use of sand and salt on local roads.

In response, the action plan suggests several actions on the part of the town’s Planning Board:

  • Improved guidance — Town officials are urged to provide more and better information regarding the town’s zoning ordinances and to do it well before residents and property owners are actively involved in development or improvement projects on their properties.
  • Extend protection for sensitive areas — The consultants suggest extending protections for areas where soils drain poorly and where steep slopes can lead to erosion; they recommend adoption of standards within the town’s zoning ordinances to enact protections against pollution from development; they urge creation of incentives for homeowners to maintain septic systems that are situated near surface waters; and they suggest setting standards for road construction and drainage.

Best management practices (BMPs)

Best management practices are best-in-class methods for dealing with water pollution threats such as stormwater runoff from roads, roofs, and steep sites without buffers; inadequately maintained and malfunctioning septic systems; sand and salt and salt runoff from roads; and lack of vegetated shoreline buffers.

The action plan calls for the lake community and the Town of Wolfeboro to address a list of stormwater runoff problems identified during the septic survey in 2012. In addition, the report urges that private and public contractors and landowners use best practices when managing both public and private roadways in the watershed.

An area receiving considerable attention is the condition of septic systems, especially those close to surface waters, those constructed more than 20 years ago, and those that have received little or no maintenance. The town is urged to encourage regular pumping of such systems and to direct new subdivisions to use community septic systems.

Monitoring and assessment

The plan identifies a number of areas that will require constant monitoring to ensure that they do not threaten the gains in water quality that the community has initiated. Among the threats listed by the consultants are noticeable drops in water quality; climate change impacts to lake quality; effects from extreme storm events; and invasive species threats such as milfoil.

Among the recommended activities:

  • Documenting current land uses around the shoreline — Train volunteers to conduct a baseline survey of land uses around the shorelines of Wentworth and Crescent using GPS technology.
  • Monitoring water quality in the lakes — Continue the use of volunteers to carry out the long-running Lakes Lay Monitoring Program (LLMP) in partnership with UNH
  • Publishing water quality data annually — Develop annual water quality reports from the UNH LLMP and make them available to watershed residents.
  • Managing invasive plants — Continue to use volunteers to control invasive species like milfoil in Lake Wentworth and Crescent Lake. Conduct frequent surveys of dams, tributaries, and shallows during summer months.
  • Monitoring storm events — Train volunteers to monitor road crossings and culverts near the shorelines during storm events; use the gathered information to identify problem areas, and recommend solutions.
  • Assessing camp roads — Assess the condition of camp roads and make recommendations for improvements to minimize runoff.
  • Resurveying target sites — Resurvey documented non-point source pollution sites identified in the watershed plan for BMP implementation and develop a tracking system to document long-term functionality of those BMPs.

 


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