UNITY — The local lake association voted to continue as an independent organization Saturday after some discussion on looking into moving under the management of a larger local group, such as the Sebasticook Regional Land Trust or the Unity Barn Raisers.

The majority of the Friends of Lake Winnecook, which represents those who live around the lake in Troy, Burnham or Unity, voted to remain an independent group. About 50 people attended the meeting, including two Unity selectmen.

One audience member said he opposes incorporating into another group.

“We run the risk of being an afterthought,” he said. “Our agenda wouldn’t necessarily be theirs.”

The treasurer of the Friends, Joe Foley, pointed out that the group had to think of the “many generous donations” that the organization had received over the years.

“If we go with another organization, how are we going to manage that money?” he said.

The group’s president, Richard Kersbergen, said more people would have to step up and take active roles in the organization if they want it to stay independent.

“We really need some new people to come on our board of directors,” he said.

Throughout the discussion, multiple people volunteered for board of directors positions, and one woman said she would volunteer to be the new treasurer.

Foley, the current treasurer and a past president, and his wife, Eve, a former board member, are moving to Vassalboro after being a part of the Friends for 15 years. Eve said they are moving so they can downsize their home for retirement. Kersbergen presented them with wine during the meeting to thank them.

An almost entirely new board was elected at the meeting. Joanne Roy will represent Burnham; Jennifer Galik, Troy; Andy Reed will continue to represent Unity; and Allison Morrill and Charlie Schaefer will be at-large members. Pat Kelley, of Troy, is the new treasurer.

Anni Roming and Melissa Bastien will stay in their positions as secretary and vice president, respectively. Kersbergen agreed to remain president for a seventh year, with the understanding that he will step down next year.

Nate Gray, a fisheries biologist for the Maine Department for Marine Resources, was the keynote speaker at the 30th annual meeting. He went through the many species of fish, many of which are endangered, that run in the waters of the Kennebec River basin.

One of those fish is the alewife, which once had a population greater than 6 million in the area. Now there are a little more than 3 million. They are the “principle ecological drivers of the basin,” Gray said, as they’re an important prey fish — and bait fish — which is why the department is working to restore that population, among others. Alewives also tend to take a palpable amount of phosphorous with them when they migrate to the ocean, leaving behind cleaner lakes and rivers. So far, it’s going well, he said.

“This is the single most successful restoration project … on the planet,” Gray said. Dams blocked access to about 52 percent of natural alewife spawning habitat, so the state has removed some.

“The cause of the decline of this fish is us,” Gray said. “And the irony is that we’re also the solution.”

In other business, Kersbergen presented the Secchi disk readings for the lake, which gauge the clarity of the water. The readings were similar to last year’s but in a different pattern, he said. The maximum reading occurred June 4, while it was on May 17 last year. It also dropped to below 1 meter on July 24 this year, which was lower than any reading in 2015.

“This trend is better than it’s been the past 10 to 15 years,” Kersbergen said.

He also discussed the metaphytons, often called green “cotton candy,” floating in the lake. Their presence is increasing in lakes across the state, he said, because of high phosphorous levels.

To help stop phosphorous from seeping into the lake, Bastien and Roming are both inspectors certified through the Maine Lakes Society’s LakeSmart program. This year they inspected 11 homes and nine passed, receiving LakeSmart signs for their yards.

The program’s goal is to encourage lakeside property owners to keep the lake and water quality in mind when they make changes to their property or home.

The Maine Lakes Society also offers a LoonSmart certification. If people promise not to create wakes within 100 feet of the shoreline and not to use lead tackle, they get a sticker to put on their LakeSmart signs.

“It’s mostly about having a conversation,” Bastien said about the inspections.

This was also a “banner year” for loons, she said. Seventeen adult loons were counted during the annual loon count, which is twice as many as last year. Lead and mercury are poisoning loons, which is why lead tackle is illegal now. As loons absorb more lead, they get less “loonlike,” Bastien said, leaving their chicks more at risk. Maine Audubon offers to trade new tackle for lead tackle.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

 

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