Landscaping for Healthy Lakes a Huge Success!

On Saturday, June 27, the Acton Wakefield Watersheds Alliance collaborated with Springvale Nursery to present a program entitled “Landscaping for Healthy Lakes” to local residents. The workshop included an indoor lecture phase and an outdoor, “hands on” phase. Executive Director, Linda Schier, of AWWA gave a brief history of AWWA and explained its mission of protecting and improving the water quality in our regional water bodies. Project Manager, Sam Wilson, then explained the techniques used by AWWA’s Youth Conservation Corps which are called Best Management Practices (BMPS). These techniques control storm water and cause it to infiltrate into the ground rather than rush into the lakes, ponds and streams carrying surface pollutants such as soil, oil, pet or farm animal waste, and agricultural chemicals and, thereby, reducing the quality of the water.

Special attention was given to building rain gardens, dripline trenches and the use of rip rap (large crushed rocks) to slow down water and infiltrate it into the ground where it is naturally cleansed before it enters our water table or water body.

File Jun 29, 6 07 46 AMThis was a perfect opportunity for Michelle Martin of Springvale Nursery in Sanford to educate the audience about what kind of plants to use to supplement the installation of BMPS. Michelle stressed the benefit of choosing native or native-improved plants to include in lakeside, riverside or streamside locations. These plants tend to be hardy and require less care than more exotic nursery selections, and  can be very beneficial for homeowners who are usually more interested in relaxing and enjoying the recreational value of their properties than having to tend to fussy landscaping installations. The plants recommended by Ms. Martin were especially selected for their ability to be suitable for sun and shade, dry and sometimes wet locations. She brought samples of her most recommended plants which included day lilies, ilex winterberry, Nannyberry Viburnum and Dwarf Native Honeysuckle.

File Jun 29, 6 07 10 AMAfter a snack break, everyone went outside of the Greater Wakefield Resource Center on Main Street in Union, NH, for the “hands on” phase of the day’s activities. Sam demonstrated how to safely use the tools and then presented the plans for installing a dripline trench in front of the building, a channel for directing the water into a rain garden, and the rain garden itself. Workshop attendees were invited to work alongside members of the YCC crew and many took advantage of the opportunity to wield a shovel or a pickax and dig in.

Other “hands on” activities which were situated outside on the premises were a display of live macroinvertebrates collected from the nearby Branch River. Linda Schier helped those attending to identify such denizens as Dragonfly, Mayfly, and Stonefly nymphs, Caddisfly and Helgremite larvae (which become Dobsonflies and are very sensitive to pollution) and Whirlygig Beetles. At a nearby table, Jeanne Achille displayed and File Jun 29, 6 09 35 AMdiscussed the various aquatic plants which typically grow in local water bodies. The native plants included Pickerel Weed, Bladderwort, Large Leaf Pondweed, Watershield and Spatterdock. Of particular interest to the group was the Variable Water Milfoil, collected from a lake in Dover, which is an invasive plant and can totally take over a water body making it impossible to use for swimming, fishing and other recreational activities. Although it has infested some lakes in New Hampshire and Maine, lake associations and other organizations are working hard to prevent its spread, while those infested are spending thousands of dollars per year to try to control it.

File Jun 29, 6 10 07 AM File Jun 29, 6 12 49 AM File Jun 29, 6 15 52 AM IMG_8239After a hardy lunch, some of the audience remained to help the crew finish installing the BMPs. The storm on Sunday was timely as it presented a test of the efficacy of all this hard work. Special thanks must be extended to the YCC Crew Leaders Jordan Sheperd and Seth Fogg, with Crew member Dan Crowley, and intern Kaitlin Carr. With the beginning of a new YCC season, this workshop is a great reminder to local waterfront homeowners to call Sam Wilson at 603-473-2500 to have their property evaluated for erosion issues and obtain a free Technical Assistance Plan and perhaps become a Project Host. Every BMP installed prevents phosphorus from entering the water and protects water quality. The YCC is funded by grants and individual donations, which allows the crew to work on properties at no cost to the homeowner who pays only for the materials. Don’t delay, be a good lake steward and call Sam today!

Maine Supports Project to Protect Great East and Wilson Lakes

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has awarded a Nonpoint Source Pollution Control project grant to the Acton Wakefield Watersheds Alliance for 2015-2016. The “Great East Lake and Wilson Lake Watershed Implementation (Phase 2 Maine)” project will continue the work started in Phase 1 and address serious chronic road issues on Lakeside Drive on Great East Lake, residential properties on both Great East and Wilson lakes and work with both lake associations to further enhance the lake residents’ understanding of the connections between land activities and water quality.

2014-07-16 12.58.19

Erosion on Lakeside Drive after a midsummer storm

The newly formed Lakeside Drive Road Association is eager to work with AWWA and Maine DEP to correct chronic erosion issues along its road and residential properties. The sediment delivery to Great East Lake from Lakeside Drive is estimated to be well over 40 tons per year and the road association is committed to this repair and its long-term maintenance.

Many of the shorefront properties along Lakeside Drive have been impacted by the torrents of stormwater running off the road and the AWWA Youth Conservation Corps will assist those interested in repairing their landscapes to infiltrate the stormwater before it reaches the lake. In addition, the AWWA will continue assisting landowners around the rest of Great East Lake and on Wilson Lake to make their properties more lake-friendly.

Healthy septic systems are an important ingredient in healthy lakes. AWWA will partner with the Great East Lake Improvement Association and the Wilson Lake Association to survey residents within 250’ of the lake about their septic systems. The information will be analyzed to determine where septic outreach and potential cost-share funds for improvements to malfunctioning systems are needed.

If you own property on either Great East or Wilson and would like AWWA’s help with your landscape or have questions about your septic system give us a call at (603) 473-2500 or email

Funding for this project was provided in part by a Watershed Assistance Grant from the ME Department of Environmental Protection with Clean Water Act Section 319 funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

AWWA 2014 Annual Meeting & Project Tour August 15th

2014 Crew 1

Join AWWA to celebrate the terrific work of our youth crew and road project partners! On Friday, August 15 the Acton Wakefield Watersheds Alliance will hold its 2014 Annual Meeting and Project Tour. The brief business meeting will be held at the Province Lake Golf Club off of Route 153 (18 Mountain Road) in Parsonsfield, Maine beginning at 9:30 am. Attendees will then carpool to selected YCC and road project sites around Province Lake. The Youth Conservation Corps crew will describe their work and showcase the effective and attractive erosion control practices they installed at residences along the shore. The tour group will also visit the road project site at the Towle Farm/Bonnyman Road intersection where the Province Lake Association partnered with the UNH Stormwater Center and the Town of Wakefield to fix chronic drainage issues that were sending polluted runoff directly to Province Lake.Towle Farm hole IMG_6046

Registration is requested so we can prepare for carpooling. Please contact AWWA at (603) 473-2500 or to register or with questions.


Under the Surface: A Look Under the Ice at Province Lake

I’ve been unable to post a blog for our winter series, Exploring the Winter Rivers, for the past few weeks. This is primarily due to the flurry of winter trainings and conferences that AWWA’s been attending in order to keep up to date on the best stormwater implementation and outreach methods. However, once I knew Dr. Haney was coming up  to Province Lake this winter, I knew it would be something I had to tell you all about.

Dr. Haney had last come to Province Lake in September 2013 with his field limnology class to do sampling on the waters of Province Lake. One of the most valuable tests which he was performing was a sediment core analysis, sediment core analyses are particularly valuable because, unlike other tests which give us a snapshot of the lake, a sediment core analysis can give us a look at the history of the lake. This is particularly useful on Province Lake, where the history of the lake is murky at best and one historical document seemingly contradicts the last. While a core sample was obtained in September, Dr. Haney was not sufficiently pleased with the depth of the sample. It seemed as though the core sampler wasn’t penetrating the sediments as far as it should have. Typically, Dr. Haney is able to gather information dating back to pre-development times, but our first sample was only able to take us back several decades. A plan was made to perform winter sampling, hoping the ice would give us a more stable launching pad for the sediment corer.

Yesterday gave us another opportunity to attempt a sediment core grab. Dr. Haney, his student John DuFresne, and past student Nancy Leland were all in attendance, as well as members of the Province Lake Association, AWWA, and NH DES. We loaded up the snowmobiles (provided by members of PLA) and headed out to the deepest spot of Province Lake.IMG_9923

With motorized augers, we were able to quickly drill through the ice in seconds.

Nancy Leland and Linda Schier dropped a plankton net through one of the holes, collecting both phyto and zooplankton. The number and variety of plankton which are present in Province in winter will give us a clearer picture of Province Lake’s ecology throughout the year. The phyto and zooplankton are separated through a simple device which attracts the zooplankton to the light. Within 20 minutes, we can be sure that 95% of the zooplankton will have gone down into the light exposed tube.IMG_0054

At the sediment coring station, however, things were not looking as promising. Repeated attempts at different sections of the lake yielded nothing but murky water, with the corer failing to penetrate the sediment layer. Typically, with the amount of weight Dr. Haney attached to the corer yields almost too much sediment, filling the tube entirely. This time however, we were lucky to get an inch. It appears as though Province Lake either has an abnormally hard sediment layer, the layer is incredibly small, or as Dr. Haney suggested, the lake churns sediments enough to keep them from forming a consolidated layer of sediment, instead leading to several feet of murky water at the bottom of the lake.

Photo Mar 27, 11 25 19 AM


This is not a failure though, merely another piece of Province’s puzzle. Dr. Haney believes that the next step will be to map the bottom of Province Lake after ice out. With this, we will be able to determine how deep the sediment layer is, and hopefully determine a site which will yield a better sediment core. We will keep you all posted with updates as we receive them.

I’ve posted more photos of our time out on the ice below.



An auger is used to drill a hole through the surface of the ice.


A device used to separate phytoplankton from zooplankton.


Pulling plankton from under the ice.


Dr. Haney examines a plankton sample full of copepods.


Members of AWWA and PLA observe the pulling of plankton


A plankton net emerges from below the ice.


AWWA member Jeanne Achille is excited to ride a snowmobile!


The team loads up the snowmobiles to head out to the deep spot.


A shot of the auger being towed behind a snowmobile.

Exploring the Winter Rivers: The South River Barrens

My second foray to one of the AWWA region’s frozen rivers brought me to the South River, which enters Province Lake almost exactly at the border between Parsonsfield, Maine and Wakefield, New Hampshire.

Starting right about here.

Focusing right about here.

I was excited to get out onto the South River, as it is the largest river system entering Province Lake.  I’ve been working in the Province area quite a bit as of late (as you can see here, here, here, and here too) to help reduce the cyanobacteria blooms which have occurred in the area repeatedly for the past several years, so I thought it would be nice to check out one of the lake’s biggest tributaries.

Province Lake

Province Lake

I started my trip off Rt-153 where the South River runs under a culvert into Province Lake. From here, I made my way over the icy snowbank and began my trek into the marshy surroundings of the river.  Despite the clear definition of the river where it meets the culvert, I still had a difficult time keeping track of the main channel as I pushed away from the road. The South River didn’t have a coniferous canopy cover to shield it from winter’s barrage of snow and ice, and as a result the river was completely hidden from view with the exception of a few sparse patches of water popping up in the wetland brush. The river also takes multiple small channels through a wetland area within the first several hundred feet. I eventually found myself hundreds of feet away from the main river, wondering both where I had gone wrong and how a large river can just disappear.

Pretty easy to get lost walking through this.

Pretty easy to get lost walking through this.

A quick bit of recon led me back to the river and the road. Once again, I made my way following the river’s path; this time really focusing on following the main stem.  At one point I even found the faded tracks of another animal that appeared to have followed the river. The recent thaw and refreeze had blurred the tracks’ definition, but whatever had made them was definitely bigger than a house cat.

Finally, I pushed through the scrubby wetlands and into a section of open river. The river straightened out and I could see a few thousand feet in front of me, and hundreds of feet on either side.

The vast icy expanse surrounding the South River

The vast icy expanse surrounding the South River

The running water was clearly channelized now, tearing an uninterrupted white band through the scrub. The river’s normal banks were defined on either side by a sudden rise in elevation, however a closer look at the surrounding wetland vegetation and geography tells the whole story. Scrubby wetlands vegetation means that the ground hundreds of feet on either side of the South River stays wet. That is somewhat common in slow moving rivers. The less obvious thing is that on either edge of this wetland we can find sharp rises in elevation.  During floods, the water in this area rises above the normal banks and floods the entire wetland area.  The area of woodland vegetation begins to occur on the sharp rises past the wetland area, where “normal” plants can put down roots and survive. This means that during a high water time, the South River likely triples or quadruples in width.

I continued onward, the sparse vegetation and glaring white snow of the river giving a dystopian feel to my little walk. I traveled only a mile or two in that day, but the South River felt endless in snowshoes, each step leading to more of the same, each slight angle around bend in the river revealing another vast expanse of ice.

Time and space seem to work differently here.

Time and space seem to work differently here.

And then I found poop, and it brightened my day.



I’d had a suspicion about the ill-defined tracks from earlier that day. My identification skills being somewhat dull from city living and never having them in the first place, I naturally assumed they were something big and dangerous like a mountain lion, or possibly a long extinct relic of the ice age hunting me behind the cover of the bushes. My mind wanders when I’m alone in nature.

Obviously the work of something that wants to eat me.

Obviously the work of something that wants to eat me.

My logical side however, thought it was likely beaver, mink, or fox. Of course, I otter have known better.

Get it?

It was otter scat, is what I’m getting at.


Even this otter hates my puns.

Now, not to focus on the poop, but there was poop all over the place.  I had first noticed it  a while back and had my suspicions that whatever was dropping scat was living in the water by how frequently it popped up by thawed pockets. Then there were two key pieces of evidence:


Exhibit A

I tried to capture a photo as clearly as possible, but those pictures show an opening in the river with tracks that come out of the water, move about 15 feet away in a semicircle, and loop right back into the hole. This narrowed it down to otters or beavers, and then I saw this:

IMG_0508Exhibit B

That is a track clearly marked with a belly slide. River otters love to slide where they can; it’s a fun, fast, and efficient way for them to move. Also, a closer look at the scat (because how can you not look closer, right?) revealed small stones and bits of shell from their favorite meal, freshwater mollusks.


Not all can handle the glamor of my job.

 A large area of open water with a concentrated amount of scat indicated that their burrow was likely nearby.

IMG_0507Otters aren’t the only creatures roaming the banks of the south river in winter. Not far from where I believed the otter burrow to be, I found coyote scat. It’s my belief that a coyote came to the area looking for an otter based snack, and as he was visiting he left this behind. The size was much different from the otter’s, as was the (ahem) composition.


Not as grainy, much larger. Thanks for letting me borrow your gloves, dad!

Satisfied with the day’s  adventure, I turned north and used a shortcut to quickly make my way over dry land through the woods and back onto Rt-153. Walking between the trees, I couldn’t help but think of my thought process while working on the Province Lake Watershed Management Plan. I’d always thought about how the plan would help the lake and the people on it. My snowshoeing trip gave me a different perspective though. Preserving the Province Lake watershed doesn’t just help balance a lake with a nutrient overload for the benefit of waterfront residents. It protects the natural ecosystem of the area, plants and creatures that have lived in the region for millenia without major change, always present but almost unseen. The man made world dominates the developed, asphalt border of Province Lake, but a few hundred feet away nature still prevails. And that is a trait which will always be worth protecting.

Places like this are disappearing, but they are worth an uphill battle.

Places like this are disappearing, but they are worth an uphill battle.

I’ve added a few additional photos below. Be sure to like us on Facebook and/or Twitter (@AWWA_Lakes) and look out for next week’s blog post!

Bird's nest

Bird’s nest.

The canopy of conifers on my way out from the river.

The canopy of conifers on my way out from the river.

Some really well defined otter tracks.

Some really well defined tracks. I’m thinking raccoon.

A closeup of where i believe otters are living in the rivers

A closeup of where I believe otters are living in the river. Note the defined entryways.

Ice can freeze in many strange ways. Here we have a layer of ice over liquid wwater, being contained by a layer of snow and ice.

Ice can freeze in many strange ways. Here we have a layer of ice over liquid water, being contained by a layer of snow and ice.

Lastly, for those who came here just looking for more pictures of my dog Gir, who was in last week’s blog on Pike Brook, here he is dressed as a taco for Halloween

Gir Taco

Exploring the Winter Rivers: Gir Explores Pike Brook

It has been a long, cold winter here in New Hampshire. We’ve had a polar vortex, frequent snow storms, and I’m pretty sure my black Prius has turned permanently white with salt. However, a combination of cabin fever and a rare lull in my workload has made this the perfect time to pick up our annual winter blog series about some of the water related features in the AWWA region. The lakes have been relatively inactive since they first froze, and Dustin stole my thunder last year by doing a dam tour (the puns practically write themselves!), but one thing we hadn’t covered yet was the rivers. So, one morning I grabbed a pair of snowshoes, my pug Gir (I’m not above using cute dog pictures to get people to read this), and headed out to a nearby brook.

The first stream I tackled was Pike Brook in Brookfield. The brook’s headwaters start in Brookfield and move into Wakefield, where it meets up with Locke Brook and eventually the Branch River.


Gir, mentally preparing for the task ahead in my parents’ driveway.

I grabbed a pair of snowshoes from my parents’ house and proceeded to drive down Stoneham Road. I grew up on Plantation Drive, just off of Stoneham Road, so I know the area well. No matter how many times I drive through it, the beauty of the small farms interspersed with picturesque woodlands never ceases to amaze me. We each have our own ways of seeing  our home state, an area which defines it, and for me Stoneham Road is about as close as you can get to a defining image of New Hampshire.

I found a safe place to park in a stretch of undeveloped land near Pike Brook. I donned my snowshoes, grabbed Gir’s leash, and we were on the move.

Some of us were more excited about this than others...

Some of us were more excited about leaving the car than others…

The Pike Brook culvert at Stoneham Rd

The Pike Brook culvert at Stoneham Rd

Pike Brook goes under Stoneham Road via a large culvert. While the culvert seems to be adequate for moving  water under the road, it lacks a naturally lined river bottom as well as an adequate size to maintain the river’s width. This can serve as a barrier to aquatic life forms such as aquatic insects and fish by increasing the velocity of water moving through the river at this point. To its credit though, the culvert is larger than most in the area, and there seems to be a minimal impact downstream.

The canopy along Pike Brook

The canopy along Pike Brook

I’m lucky to have a small dog, because the snow pack consisted of powder covered by a thin crust of ice; the result of recent melt and refreeze. My snowshoes kept me from the worst of it, and 20 lb Gir was able to traverse it without breaking the upper layer. Immediately after the stream crossing, the brook meanders back and forth throughout the woods. Its banks are well defined, and there is a massive amount of canopy cover keeping the brook cool in the summer. The woodlands in this area are lush, with a healthy mix of conifers such as pine and hemlock; as well as deciduous trees such as oak and beech. The stream was narrow, and carved through the woods away from the road.

Gir was more than a little interested in this area

Gir was more than a little interested in this area

A snowmobile trail runs through this area, and I was happy to see that there appeared to be no ill effects. If anything, it is what is preserving the surrounding area as forest, and maintaining valuable wildlife habitat. Snowmobile riders enjoy the woodlands and keep the area undeveloped, maintaining a buffer area for wildlife.  I saw a few songbirds, and even a few holes from small mammals (likely squirrels, but I’m no wildlife expert).

We continued to trek our way along the stream and noticed it began to widen. The woodlands opened up into what appeared, under the thick blanket of snow, to be a meadow. The vast number of dead trees however, reveal that this is actually a wetland. Initially I thought this might have been caused by a beaver dam, but reaching the end I discovered it went back to a narrow woodland stream with no impediments. When water from a stream or river saturates a low point, it often causes the roots of trees (especially deciduous trees) to rot, quickly killing them where they stand. The brush in this area was thick, but we pushed on; me finding the path of least resistance and Gir attempting to eat every bit of grass, brush and loose snow he could find.

As we continued over the frozen wetland, I began to realize the significance of this area. The numerous snags (standing dead trees) provide habitat and food for insect larvae, which in turn provide for woodpeckers and other birds. By breaking the line of the forest, a large portion of edge habitat is created for fauna such as hawks, crows, songbirds and deer. This one wetland area creates many new niches for species to fill, and promotes the overall biodiversity of the area. While no animals were present that day, I can see how the area would be a hotspot for all sorts of creatures come spring. I tried to quickly outline my thoughts on the matter in the video below.

Reaching the end of the wetland area, we decided to make our way back to the car. On the way back, Gir and I noticed something that really sums up why AWWA loves to plant vegetated buffers along lakes and streams.

For those who can’t watch the video, that is a root mat from a fallen tree, and you can see just how well it holds the surface soils together. Some really amazing stuff! And yes, of course Gir tried to eat it.

Above: One VERY tired pug.

Above: One VERY tired pug.

I made my way back to the car along the snowmobile trail. I wondered what the rest of the stream looked like, what the headwaters uphill looked like and how the Pike Brook met up with Locke Brook. My time tromping around Brookfield was up though; I had to get back to the AWWA office, and I’m pretty sure Gir was sleepwalking at this point. I loaded my gear and my pup in the car, and we drove off down the bumpy New England road, a man, his dog, and the memory of a babbling winter brook.


I’ve posted some additional photos from the hike below. Also, stay tuned as I’ll be adding a new river blog each week while winter lasts:

Open water dots the wetland area

Open water dots the wetland area

The bed of the stream is heavily vegetated, suggesting that it is somewhat it receives minimal flow through the dry season.

The bed of the stream is heavily vegetated, suggesting that it receives minimal flow through the dry season.

while some parts are covered entirely with snow and ice

Some parts of the stream are covered entirely with snow and ice…

While some parts remain open water

…while some parts remain open water

Dense brush dominates the wetland section of the stream. It consists mostly of birch, dogwood, and box elder.

Dense brush dominates the wetland section of the stream. It consists mostly of birch, dogwood, and box elder.


This branch fell 30 ft from a tree top and landed about 12 feet from us. Always be aware when hiking, especially if you’re alone!


Snow shoes were invaluable for traversing the deep snow in the woods

Snow shoes were invaluable for traversing the deep snow in the woods

Another great example of a root mat!

Another great example of a root mat!

Winter for AWWA

It’s winter here in the land of AWWA, but that doesn’t stop us from working to protect our area’s lakes. While I can’t have our YCC install projects on lakefront roads and properties, and I certainly can’t give advice on erosion issues when the land is covered in a thick white blanket, things are still plenty busy over here at AWWA.

First and foremost, we recently wrapped up our unit on groundwater with the seventh graders of Acton and Wakefield. Students learned about how water goes from clouds to aquifers to their faucets and back again. We also learned about different chemicals that can end up in groundwater, and what they mean for us, as well as home plumbing. Students tested their groundwater for pH, conductivity, chloride, nitrates, hardness and iron. I then made maps which the students were able to review to find trends in the data. Students came away from the lesson with an increased sense of their role on groundwater quality. Special thanks to all the volunteers who helped make this program a success for 2014!

We’ve done some major updates to our website over the past few months. Each lake page now has some interesting facts about it as well as individual maps of YCC projects. In lieu of a traditional newsletter that costs money and trees, we’ve developed a webpage to give updates about “What’s AWWA up to”. Most exciting (to me at least) is a new interactive map detailing all of AWWA’s YCC sites for the past eight seasons with photos, project statistics, and more! Keep checking AWWA’s Facebook page and website, as I’ll be adding a new blog exploring the rivers of the AWWA region in the coming weeks.

We also recently assisted with the Province Lake Association’s Action Plan meeting. This was one of our most successful meetings yet, 60 people attended despite it taking place on a snowy Saturday morning in January. The meeting served as a way for lake residents, state and town officials, conservation groups, and researchers to discuss the threats to Province Lake and specific actions we need to take in order to combat these threats. This meeting will contribute to the Action Plan, which will ultimately describe what actions to take to reduce the occurrence of algae blooms in Province Lake, as well as how much of an effect each action will have. For more information on the meeting, check out this article written by the Carroll County Independent.

PLA Meeting

Province Lake Action Plan Meeting, a huge success

Beyond participating in, and planning, events like our educational programs or the PLA Meeting, winter provides AWWA with an opportunity for self-examination. This opportunity coincided perfectly with my new role at AWWA as Program Manager. Over the coming months I will continue to look for ways that I can use my skills and experiences to make AWWA an even more effective, well-run organization. I’m also going to be attending seminars, workshops, webinars, conferences and anything else I can find to allow me to better serve the AWWA lakes and communities.

While the lakes may be dormant and Acton & Wakefield aren’t the bustling communities they will be come July, AWWA is doing anything but resting. We are learning, training, growing; and we can’t wait ‘til summer!

-Sam Wilson
AWWA Program Manager

Schier Wins EPA Award

EPA Award Schier

AWWA Executive Director Linda Schier (second from left) accepted an Environmental Merit Award from the US EPA. Celebrating with Linda are Jeanne Achille, AWWA Vice President ; Eric Williams, Watershed Assistance Supervisor, NHDES; and Thomas Burack, Commissioner, NHDES.

Each year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognizes organizations and individuals for their contributions to environmental awareness and problem solving and who have demonstrated particular ingenuity and commitment. Linda Schier, Executive Director of the Acton Wakefield Watersheds Alliance, was among the 28 recipients so honored this year. As expressed by the E.P.A. “Linda Schier brings people together with a persistence and devotion to water quality protection and restoration that are inspirational to those who work with her.”

Linda was one of the founders, in 2005, of the Acton Wakefield Watersheds Alliance which is at the headwaters of the Salmon Falls River, the source of drinking water for 47,000 people in Maine and New Hampshire. Her work included the establishment of a Youth Conservation Corps which hires local youths who install erosion controls on the shore land properties of cooperating homeowners and towns. In 2012 alone, the Corps installed 125 Best Management Practices (BMPs) and prevented 48 tons of sediment and 40 pounds of phosphorus from entering local water bodies.

The Salmon Falls Headwater Management Plan was a huge project funded by Linda’s efforts to procure grants and her direction resulted in the plan which created a water quality picture of the five lakes and ponds that are approaching critical thresholds of phosphorus.

The E.P.A. tribute went on to praise Linda for inspiring “…more than 100 citizens to help identify 491 sites that contribute excess phosphorus to the project waterways. Schier works with local schools and lake associations n Maine and New Hampshire to protect local waterways. Communities and the water resources have benefitted from her devotion and persistence.”

Province Lake Water Sampling with Dr. Jim Haney, UNH

Dr. Haney and his Field Limnology class from UNH performed a variety of tests on Province Lake’s water and sediments back on September 3rd, 2013. Members from the NHDES, Province Lake Association, and AWWA were there to assist where needed, and we were lucky enough to get this video of Dr. Haney and his students capturing a core sample of the lake’s bottom.

The results from these tests will give lake managers and watershed scientists a better idea of the lake’s current condition and how it has changed over time. For more information on Dr. Haney’s visit, click here.

Dr. Haney lowers a water quality probe into Province Lake.


A student separates the water column into sections to find the properties of the water at different depths of Province Lake.

Dr. Haney explains an instrument which uses light to measure levels of chlorophyll-a and phycocyanin; the pigments found in algae and cyanobacteria, respectively.

Here’s to Another Successful AWWA YCC Season

It is hard to believe that just 8 short weeks ago we were kicking off our 8th Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) season.  We had some veteran crew leaders and one returning crew member, but the rest were looking at their first experience with AWWA…

In that time a lot happens and the changes are amazing.  Not only do these six teenagers and two young adult crew leaders go out everyday and transform eroded water front properties into beautiful landscaped areas, but they grow as individuals. Each member of the crew learns new skills, grows stronger with every wheel barrow load, and experiences adversity, both physically and mentally.

This year, our crew set out on June 24th with a lot on their plates.  We had a lot of projects lined up and more coming in everyday in the earlier part of the season.  Although it took some time (as it always does) to bring everyone up to speed and mesh together as a team, within a few weeks the crew was moving through projects at a great rate.

The pushed through the heat of the middle of summer and tackled every task we set before them with enthusiasm and positive attitudes.  As the YCC season neared an end, the crew was working on all cylinders and having a great time doing it.  It was this attitude that allowed us to complete a record 25 projects across 7 lakes in Wakefield, NH and Acton, ME.  On these sites they installed 101 Best Management Practices (BMPs) to reduce the flow of polluted runoff to the lakes and infiltrate that runoff into the ground where it can be cleaned by the soils.  These BMPs will stop an estimated 57.2 tons of sediment and 48 pounds of phosphorus from entering the lakes annually!

As the Program Manager and Technical Director, I could not be more pleased with the effort of these 8 individuals and the result of their hard work.  Below are a few pictures of the work they did this summer.  Stay tuned for our annual report and more of our work as we move from this great summer to fall!

Great East Lake – Rip rap shoreline, erosion control mulch, rock terraces, native vegetation, and infiltration trench.

Lovell Lake – Waterbars, dripline trench, and erosion control mulch

Great East Lake – Infiltration Steps

Balch Lake – Infiltration Steps, Erosion Control Mulch, and Native Vegetation

Wilson Lake – Rain garden at the Hawk Road Right of Way