Watershed plan gets green light from state

The effort to develop a management plan for the Lake Wentworth/Crescent Lake watershed cleared its final hurdle on June 22 as Governor John Lynch and the Executive Council gave their approval to a $67,800 grant from the Department of Environmental Services to a partnership of the Town of Wolfeboro and the Lake Wentworth Foundation. The money is part of a larger pool of funding made available to the state by the US Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act.

The DES funding will be combined with a $30,000 pledge by the Lake Wentworth Foundation and some $55,000 in matching volunteer labor and materials to create a detailed scientific picture of the surface waters in the watershed. The project is expected to begin in July and last a year.

The Lake Wentworth/Crescent Lake watershed covers some 22,500 acres, encompassing about 60 percent of Wolfeboro’s land area, with smaller portions in Brookfield and New Durham.

Members of the local steering committee, including Town Planner Rob Houseman, LWF President Jack O’Connell, Planning Board Chair Kathy Barnard, and Bob Craycraft, director of the University of New Hampshire’s Lakes Lay Monitoring Program, will oversee the project, which will be conducted by a consortium of environmental consultants.

Selection of the consultants is expected to take place by early July.

The process of creating a management plan for the watershed will begin with an analysis of 25 years of water quality data collected by Lake Wentworth Association volunteers. Based on the outcome of that analysis, a long-term water quality target will be set for the two lakes.

A door-to-door canvass of properties around the lakes and near their tributaries will gather data to help gauge the level of use that septic systems receive as the town’s population ebbs and flows with the seasons. The canvass will also be used to provide educational materials on how to prevent stormwater runoff and how to maintain septic systems in order to minimize phosphorous leaching from residential yards.

Over the course of the management plan project, two workshops are expected to demonstrate the use of native plantings to help prevent runoff from residential properties into nearby streams or lake waters. In exchange for the use of their properties as demonstration sites, volunteer landowners will get the benefit of the labor and plantings needed to create the landscaping work. A call for potential sites will be issued after work on the plan gets under way.

Project consultants will combine information from historical water quality data, satellite and aerial photos, field data, and survey data from residents into a scientific model of the lakes in order to identify sources of unwanted nutrients and to determine the ability of the lakes to absorb those nutrients before water quality begins to degrade.

The consultants and town staff will also review Wolfeboro’s zoning and building ordinances in light of the gathered scientific data and will recommend changes intended to prevent future degradation of water quality throughout the watershed. The plan will assist in evaluating various growth scenarios for Wolfeboro, to provide town officials with information that can guide decisions affecting future development.

Finally, the plan will identify sites throughout the watershed that may pose a threat to water quality and will enable the consultants to develop a priority list for those having the largest impact. Best-practice engineering designs and cost estimates will be developed for dealing with sites identified as contributing to water quality impairment.

Following completion of the watershed management plan, the local partnership is expected to apply for additional grants to implement the recommended engineering installations.

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