Brian Levesque, president of the Friends of Lake Winnecook board of directors, stands Friday on the shore of Unity Pond, where erosion-prevention measures are underway. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

BURNHAM — A beach stormwater erosion project was completed at Unity Pond at the start of October.

Unity Pond, also known as Lake Winnecook, spreads across Burnham, Troy and Unity.

Contractor S.B. Martin of Winslow made a bid “to help us out,” said Brian Levesque, president of the Friends of Lake Winnecook board of directors.

Levesque said Steve Martin had personal ties to the area, having swum at Unity Pond as a child and recently completed a similar project at Pattee Pond in Winslow.

“The site was in really bad shape,” Levesque said. “It hadn’t been maintained in 30 years. Of course, the pandemic really put a damper on things because the select board wasn’t meeting and the annual town meeting got postponed.”

Once the project was approved, it was winter and officials had to wait for the project to face another vote the following year. Getting three towns and communities to work together is not always easy, according to Levesque.

Brian Levesque, president of the Friends of Lake Winnecook board of directors, stands Friday on the shore of Unity Pond, where erosion-prevention measures are underway. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Other lakes and ponds in Maine have experienced similar issues with algae growth. North Pond in the Belgrade Lakes Region has a similar blue-green algae bloom that has been an issue in recent years.

Like the 7 Lakes Alliance in Belgrade Lakes having support from Colby College, Friends of Lake Winnecook had Unity College helping with efforts to revitalize Unity Pond. But as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, the college backed out. At that point, three Unity College faculty members continued to help with efforts to improve the pond, and the Center for Wildlife in Cape Neddick joined the project following Unity College’s departure.

“I am also the agreement administrator for the grant that Waldo County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded, which is funding the creation of a Watershed-Based Management Plan,” said Amanda Pratt, environmental specialist in the Watershed Management Unit at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. “These grants are funded by U.S. EPA through … the Clean Water Act.”

“The district, Friends of Lake Winnecook and DEP completed a watershed survey in May that was part of this grant, and the results will be incorporated into the Plan,” Pratt said. “The plan will serve as a road map to guide lake management with the goal of improving water quality over the next 10 years.”

Jen Jespersen, an environmental consultant hired by the Waldo County Soil and Water Conservation District to help manage a two-year planning grant from the state DEP to update a 2006 Watershed-Based Management Plan, said efforts to improve Unity Pond are challenging.

A sailor prepares his boat Friday near Burnham Beach on Unity Pond. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“Unity Pond has a long history of water quality problems dating back to the 1930s, and is one of 21 lakes in the state on the Maine DEP’s impaired lakes list for not meeting state/federal water quality standards under the Clean Water Act,” Jespersen said. “For Unity Pond, the goal is to reduce the amount of phosphorus in the lake, which is fueling the annual algal blooms that can turn the water green each year.

“If and when the lake turns green is highly dependent on how much phosphorus is available for algae, which is largely driven by the weather in any given year.”

Once the project is complete, Jespersen said, the partners in the project expect to apply for more state and federal funding. She said they would use the additional money for cost-sharing assistance to landowners and municipalities to reduce the phosphorus making its way into Unity Pond.

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