The view from a property on the shore of Unity Pond, also known as Lake Winnecook. Photo courtesy of Brian Levesque

A grant to fund the beginning of the Unity Pond watershed project has been approved. Now, organizers of the effort to address the lake’s problem with algae blooms are looking for a project manager.

Andy Reed, chairman of the Waldo County Soil and Water Conservation District, said the position will involve “organizing all of the stuff that goes with this project.”

Unity Pond, also known as Lake Winnecook, is on Maine’s list of impaired lakes due to decades of persistent algae blooms every summer.

The lake covers 4 square miles, making it the largest lake in Waldo County.

The Unity Pond watershed encompasses 29 square miles and has more than 100 miles of streams around its borders.

The watershed is in the towns of Burnham, Thorndike, Troy and Unity. More than 300 individual shoreline lots surround Unity Pond.

The Friends of Lake Winnecook, a group of 147 members, has partnered with other agencies, including the Waldo County Soil and Water Conservation District, to secure a $45,058 grant through the federal Clean Water Act to study Unity Pond.

There is also a $20,000 matching grant for the project, about $8,000 of which is coming from the Friends of Lake Winnecook.

“Experts in the field of lake restoration tell us a lake restoration costs on average $1,000 per acre. With Unity Pond being 2,569 acres, we face a monumental task ahead of us,” Brian Levesque, president of Friends of Lake Winnecook, wrote in an email.

“While there are many grant opportunities available for these projects, a significant amount will need to be raised from the stakeholders here on the lake to be able to come to the table with.”

Groups looking to address algae problems at Unity Pond, also known as Lake Winnecook, have secured a grant to conduct a study and hire a manager for a project that could eventually cost millions of dollars. Photo courtesy of Brian Levesque

The previous Watershed-Based Management Plan for Lake Winnecook, now out of date, needed to be updated every 10 years. The latest plan expired in 2017.

The two-year grant helps fund a water quality analysis survey, water quality monitoring, watershed modeling and watershed surveys, according to officials.

Following these studies, the Waldo County Soil and Water Conservation District will work with Friends of Lake Winnecook to create a plan.

Other agencies involved include the Center for Wildlife Studies, the towns of Unity and Burnham, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service and the future project manager, deemed the managing environmental consultant. Jennifer Jesperson, owner of Ecological Instincts, based in Manchester, has also been hired as a consultant on the project.

“The key difference from the 2007 plan to the updated plan is the legacy phosphorus that sits in the lake now will be finally addressed with expert recommendations on how to remove it,” Levesque said.

The project will identify sources of phosphorous runoff and other problems that contribute to poor water quality. A plan to correct the problems will then commence.

The results of the project will create an updated watershed management plan that meets the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standards.

Once created, the watershed plan will guide a period of restoration efforts from 2022 to 2032.

“What it’s going to show are the improvements to be done that would upgrade the quality of the water since the last project,” Reed said. “I would think the project would show, basically, the increases in regulations that stop water phosphates from going into the streams, rivers and lakes.”

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