Linda Schier of AWWA Wins Gulf of Maine Council Award

Linda Schier (c) accepting the Visionary Award from Steve Couture (r) of NHDES and GOMC representative. Looking on is Sally Soule (l) of NHDES.

Linda Schier (c) accepting the Visionary Award from Steve Couture (r) of NHDES and GOMC representative. Looking on is Sally Soule (l) of NHDES.

Linda Schier has been bestowed the 2016 Visionary Award by the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment (GOMC). The Council was created in 1989 by the governments of Maine, Massachusetts, New Brunswick, New Hampshire and Nova Scotia to foster environmental health and community well-being throughout the Gulf watershed.

This year, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) staff members Steve Couture and Sally Soule nominated Linda for her exemplary work and dedication to protecting the lakes in the border region of Acton, Maine and Wakefield, New Hampshire.

As the Executive Director of the Acton Wakefield Watersheds Alliance, Linda brings lake issues in this area to the attention of municipalities, businesses, educational institutions, governmental agencies, residents, visitors and students.

In 2005, Linda and AWWA founded a Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) to provide summer jobs for local youth. Under Linda’s guidance, the YCC has installed over 750 stormwater management practices that prevent many pounds of sediment and phosphorus from reaching lakes, rivers and streams. She has also served as the leader for two significant watershed planning projects, one for Province Lake and another for the Salmon Falls headwaters lakes. During these projects, Linda brought diverse stakeholders together to collect and analyze watershed data and recommend specific actions for reducing pollutant load to the waters.

The full list of Linda’s accomplishments is extensive, including projects such as initiating Weed Watcher programs, organizing water quality monitoring volunteers, hosting special interest workshops, advocating for lake protection at municipal forums, organizing educational events and river clean-ups, conducting watershed assessments, and leading hands-on school and community programs.

Celebrating the award with Linda are AWWA Directors (l-r) Pete Tasker, Mary Lenzen, Dick DesRoches, Pete Dinger, Jon Samuelson, Jeanne Achille and Rosemary Stewart.

Celebrating the award with Linda are AWWA Directors (l-r) Pete Tasker, Mary Lenzen, Dick DesRoches, Pete Dinger, Jon Samuelson, Jeanne Achille and Rosemary Stewart.

Linda does not shy away from the technical, environmental, and social challenges inherent in lake protection work. Through her enthusiasm, curiosity and persistence, she motivates others to care about lakes, too. Her passion, creativity and deep understanding of lakes and people have earned her the respect of many.

The CyanoMobile is Coming to Wakefield July 27!

Mobile Lab 4The CyanoMobile is coming! What is the CyanoMobile? It is the USEPA Northeast Regional Laboratory mobile lab that will be traveling around the New England states this summer teaching citizens about the new Northeast Cyanobacteria Monitoring Program. It’s coming to Lovell Lake on Wednesday, July 27, from 9 am to noon to inspire volunteers to take action.

Join us in welcoming the CyanoMobile for an exciting morning learning how to become a citizen monitor or just to learn more about the health of our lakes. The Northeast Cyanobacteria Monitoring Program is coordinating three monitoring projects to locate and understand harmful cyanobacteria in lakes in the northeast states.

Under the right conditions cyanobacteria can spread quickly, forming dense “blooms” on a waterbody’s surface. These blooms are a big problem because many cyanobacteria species produce toxins that are dangerous to humans and wildlife. Cyanobacteria and their toxins can be found in water as well as in the air nearby.

During this hands-on program, cyanobacteria experts Hilary Snook of the USEPA Northeast Regional Laboratory and Dr. Jim Haney of the UNH Center for Freshwater Biology will teach you how to sample for and identify cyanobacteria species. No experience is necessary and you can choose to learn the very simple “Bloomwatch” program or get more involved with the “CyanoScope” project or “CyanoMonitoring.”

In the morning we will go out in a boat to collect samples, then conduct shore side sampling, concentrate the samples, prep slides and learn to use the Cyano Apps and Dirty Dozen key. There is plenty of bench space in the lab and there will be a large monitor for viewing the samples.

We are thrilled to be able to participate in this exciting new project and look forward to building our local team to gather information about the state of our lakes. For more information or to register contact Linda Schier at AWWA – (603) 473-2500  To learn more about these projects please visit

Warm Winter

It seems as though we may finally get a real winter after all, but the warm period over the last two months was very out of character for Maine/New Hampshire. In Manchester this November, temperatures reached up into the 70’s, and on Christmas day it was 64 degrees.

It’s tempting to say this is all just a part of living in New England, with our crazy “bikini one day, parka the next day” weather.  In addition to the peculiarity of the weather, it’s beginning to have some major effects, some of which could present some serious issues. For one, plants are beginning to come out of their dormancy, with flowers blooming in Boston on Chrismas Eve. This means that the plant will be less likely to survive as the cold weather quickly returns. They aren’t the only ones struggling though. Ski resorts are dealing with much higher costs of having to make snow, and plow drivers aren’t supplementing their income the way they did last year with the continual barrage of 6+inch storms. Our lakes and aquifers could also be affected since they are mostly recharged by the snow melt in Spring.

Also, squirrels are getting much fatter, which isn’t really bad or good, but it is just adorable.

Fat Squirrel

What’s causing all this warm weather? It’s easy to point to global warming, but the answer isn’t quite as black and white as that. Saying that one warmer winter without snow is the result of global warming is like saying that just because we had a polar vortex last year means global warming doesn’t exist. Both fail to look at long term data, and look at weather instead of climate.

Many also suggest the dreaded El Niño, but that doesn’t seem to be quite the  answer either. According to NOAA, the Eastern U.S isn’t really experiencing El Niño the way that the west coast has, with warm weather and lots of heavy rain.We may begin to experience El Niño later on this year, but meteorologists aren’t seeing any signs of it on our coast yet.

The actual cause of this warm weather is the same force that drove us to twenty-some odd degrees below zero in 2014; the polar vortex. The band of cold air around the north pole, called the Arctic Oscillation, is particularly tight this year, keeping all the cold air in northern Canada. During the polar vortex, air pressure differences caused the Arctic Oscillation to slip down into the US, bringing cold temperatures with it. What we are seeing now is the opposite effect, where Arctic Oscillation’s tightness is keeping our area of the world quite mild.

Don’t get too comfortable with the warm weather though; the Arctic Oscillation could still slip and bring a cold snap that would plunge us back into the icy reality of winter in northern New England. Even as a write this, the temperature is a brisk 24°F, where it seems like only a few days ago it was in the high fifties.

Strange Lakes

We all love to think of our lakes as unique, and certainly they are. However, the lakes in the AWWA regions are (thankfully) relatively tame. We get the odd freshwater jellyfiish, invasive species, or algae bloom but, as these examples from around the world demonstrate, things could get a lot, lot weirder.

1. Laguna Colorada

laguna coloradaLaguna Colorada in Bolivia is perhaps one of the stranger lakes to make this list. Sediments and algae give it its vivid red color, and the lake is punctuated with borax salt islands. The result is something utterly otherworldly. This saltwater lake is also frequently visited by massive flocks of flamingos, making the whole color palette of the area quite otherworldly.

2. Jellyfish lake

Jellyfish LakeJellyfish lake in Palau is a saltwater lake, connected by rock fissures to the ocean. Many lakes have jellyfish, including freshwater lakes like our own Province Lake, but what makes Jellyfish Lake unique is the concentration and quantity of jellyfish here. Each day, millions of jellyfish migrate across the lake, which is only about 1500 meters long. Luckily, these jellyfish are not harmful to humans, which makes snorkeling with them quite the thrilling experience.

3. Lake Superior

lake-wavesWe all know Lake Superior is big. It is, in fact, the biggest freshwater lake in the world. But the shear size of the lake isn’t why Lake Superior is on this list.  With such massive size, the lakes have a great deal of “fetch” or space for wind to move over the water. This results in some waves on Lake Superior reaching a staggering 35 feet tall. That’s some choppy water!

4. Don Juan PondDonJuanSTILL.0660_webThis shallow body of water can be found in Antarctica. What makes it unique from, say, the rest of Antarctica’s “lakes” is that it’s not frozen. Even at -30°C (-22°F), the pond doesn’t freeze. This is in large part due to the extreme salinity levels, which sit at around 40% and are 1.3 times higher than the Dead Sea.

5. Lake BhalkhashbalkhashLike many of the lakes on this list, Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan is a saltwater lake. That doesn’t make it unqiue, there are many lakes like this around the world. What is unique about this lake is that it is also a freshwater lake. Balkhash’s two sides are separated by a narrow strait which keeps the waters from mixing.

6. Lake Baikallake baikalThis Russian Lake is famous for being the deepest and oldest lake in the world.It also sports a massive amount of methane in it, which bubbles up to the surface, leaving rings massive enough to see from space.

7. Pitch Lakepitch lakePitch Lake in Trinidad contains the largest amount of natural asphalt in the world. This means the water here is sticky and black. Somehow though, the lake is still able to support microbiological life.

8. Boiling Lakeboiling lakeThe Boiling Lake in Dominica is, as the name would imply, constantly boiling. This is due to a fissure below the lake in which hot gases can escape via the Earth’s crust. The lake is inaccessible by road, and the thick layer of vapor hanging over the lake makes photographing this phenomenon difficult.

9. Lake Nyoslake nyosLake Nyos in Cameroon is one of the few lakes that has taken lives without a drowning. A pocket of hot magma sits under the lake, creating a layer of gaseous carbonic acid. In 1986, a sudden outgassing of this lake occurred, tragically suffocating 1,700 people in a nearby village.

10. Man Sagar LakeJalmahal_RestoredMan Sagar Lake in India is the site of the beautiful Jal Mahal palce. Hundreds of years ago, a drought led the local government to dam a river, flooding the palace and surrounding low-lying area. The palace still stands today and is supposedly haunted, because there’s no way an abandoned palace in the middle of a lake wouldn’t be.



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!

Province Lake Septic Evaluation Project: Request for Qualifications

The Acton Wakefield Watersheds Alliance (AWWA) has been awarded funding from NHDES, through a grant from Section 319 of the Clean Water Act, for implementation of the “Province Lake Watershed Management Plan Implementation Phase 1: Addressing High Priority Actions and Building Local Capacity” project. Province Lake lies in Wakefield and Effingham, NH and Parsonsfield, ME and is listed on the NHDES 303(d) list as impaired for Aquatic Life Use due to high levels of phosphorus and chlorophyll-a and for Primary Contact Recreation due to recurring cyanobacteria blooms.

AWWA invites interested contractors to submit qualifications for the development of the “Evaluation of Septic System Risk to Province Lake” program. The selected consultant will work closely with AWWA, the Province Lake Association, NHDES and other project stakeholders to evaluate high risk septic systems within the Province Lake watershed. 

For the full project description and to download the RFQ, please visit: Province Lake Septic Evaluation Program RFQ.

Province Lake Road Mgmt Plan: Request for Qualifications

NOTE: RFQ was revised on April 9, 2015 to clarify submission and questions address.

The Acton Wakefield Watersheds Alliance (AWWA) has been awarded funding from NHDES, through a grant from Section 319 of the Clean Water Act, for implementation of the “Province Lake Watershed Management Plan Implementation Phase 1: Addressing High Priority Actions and Building Local Capacity” project. Province Lake lies in Wakefield and Effingham, NH and Parsonsfield, ME and is listed on the NHDES 303(d) list as impaired for Aquatic Life Use due to high levels of phosphorus and chlorophyll-a and for Primary Contact Recreation due to recurring cyanobacteria blooms.

AWWA invites interested contractors to submit qualifications for the development of a Road Management Plan to address stormwater runoff from  Bonnyman Road and Route 153. The selected consultant will work closely with AWWA, the Province Lake Association, NHDES and other project stakeholders to implement surface water quality restoration tasks within the Province Lake watershed.

For the full project description and to download the RFQ: Province Lake Road Management Plan RFQ 2015

Invasive Aquatic Species Workshop- A Resounding Success

This past Sunday, the Acton Wakefield Watersheds Alliance hosted a workshop on Invasive Aquatic Species at the Acton Town Hall. Representatives from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Exotic Species Program, the Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program in Maine, and the York County Invasive Aquatic Species Project spoke about the invasive species currently in our area and the species Maine and New Hampshire may have to deal with in the near future.

Workshop participants attempt to identify different species of milfoil

Workshop participants attempt to identify different species of milfoil

photo 18

A tray of Eurasian milfoil


photo 29

Amy Smagula of the NH DES teaches New Hampshire residents about aquatic invasives.

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The workshop floor bustled with activity as local residents made their way around to view the different types of native and invasive plants.

67 attendants learned how to correctly identify a vast array of different invasives, how to conduct an invasive species survey in their respective states, and what to do if they find an invasive in their lake. The workshop was a success in e very way imaginable, and we want to thank everyone who came out to help protect their lake and all those who helped pull this great event together!

Farewell Dustin – Welcome Back Sam!

Dustin CroppedThere is a changing of the guard here at Acton Wakefield Watersheds Alliance. Program Manager since November of 2010, Dustin Johnson, has opened his own business, Gneiss Brewing Company in Limerick, Maine. AWWA’s successes have been brought to a new level by Dustin’s enthusiasm, keen science understanding and fascination with all things water. Under his management the Youth Conservation Corps installed 314 erosion control measures on 66 properties in the Acton Wakefield region. Dustin made an additional 111 Technical Assistance visits to homeowners to show them how to make their properties lake friendly using his custom designed plans. He worked with sound science, wit and warmth to convey the message that what we do on land has an impact on the quality of water in our lakes.

Be GneissDustin took charge of our outreach educational program in the Paul School and Acton Elementary School by developing curricula which delighted the students with engaging lessons.  His computer expertise reached new audiences via Facebook and Twitter and his winter blogs on these social media and AWWA’s website ( gave us all a glimpse into our water in a new way.

Sam2010Though Dustin leaves big shoes to fill, we are happy to announce that Sam Wilson is up to the task. Sam joined AWWA in 2005, our first year, as a crew member for pilot projects on Pine River Pond and Great East Lake. He returned as a crew member in 2006 and 2008, and became Crew Leader in 2010, ‘11 and ‘12.  In early 2013, Sam was appointed Project Assistant to work with and learn from Dustin in preparation for his transition to the Program Manager position when Dustin departed.

Sam graduated from the University of Vermont with a B.S. in Natural Resources with a focus on natural resource planning. Sam2013 CroppedWhile at UVM, he worked for the UVM Watershed Alliance giving watershed education lessons to students statewide. According to Sam, “Being able to come back and make a positive difference in my hometown is why I am so committed to working with AWWA. I have spent so much of my life doing this work I can’t imagine working anywhere else.”

Transitions are a time to grow and all of us at AWWA are glad that Dustin is fulfilling his dream and that we have the capable and enthusiastic Sam to fill his shoes. Onward!