Growth has taken toll on lake

 

“People used to be able to dive off of their docks, now they can walk off of them,” head of the Poultney Mettowee Conservation District Marli Rupe might be exaggerating just a little bit for comedic effect when talking about Lake St. Catherine, but her point is entirely serious.

Even the tiniest of particles can fill a container if there are enough of them and enough time.

And since the creation of the lake a lot of particles have gotten in to this particular container.

Decades of development have created vast areas known as ‘impervious surfaces’, think bullets hitting Superman’s chest, but in this case with water. Those surfaces don’t allow water to get into the ground where it would be filtered by the soil before entering the water table. Instead the water, carrying various types of sediment, runs into the lake one rain drop at a time. The impervious surfaces could be anything from rooftops to driveways, sidewalks or streets.

Maps show the amount of development that has taken place in the area around the lake over the last several decades, each new home contributing drainage and erosion to the issue, she said.

What the lake association and other invested groups decided to do was educate the public and show both contractors and the average lakeside resident what they can do to help out – so the tradeshow was created.

“We’re working really hard to have the trade show,” she said. 

“Preserve the Lake: Trade Show and Seminar” will be held March 28 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

The tradeshow will take place at the Wells Village School on Route 30 immediately west of the village of Wells and just around the corner from the lake. Rupe said the show will have “tons” of information and all kinds of handouts available.

The event is free and open to the public.

This is a first time for this event, but efforts to protect the lake will continue.

“We’ve never done anything like this before, this is a little bit different from what we did before,” she said.

“We’re especially hoping to get contractors and developers, people who work around the lake,” she said.

“We know they want to do a good job, we just want them then to be aware of some of the unique things that go on in a lake environment,” Rupe said.

Invitations have also gone out to other lake associations from around the region.

“We’d love to have them,” she said. 

Rupe said the trade show will have a series of seminars in two ‘tracks,’ one for the more technical patrons, the contractors who work around the lake and developers, and the second for the general public.

“It will be kid of like a ‘Water Quality 101’ for homeowners and the general public about what they can do,” Rupe said.

“We want to let them know that everything you’re doing has an impact,” Rupe said, while showing that simple cost-effective solutions are available, even to the homeowner.

Rupe said at a September presentation, an official from the state said every formerly wooded lot that has been developed provides five times more runoff, seven times more phosphorus and as much as 18 times more sediment than when populated with trees. However, the solution doesn’t necessarily mean refilling the lot with large trees.

“A lot can be done with just small plants,” she said. 

The background of the sediment issue begins many years ago at the turn of the last century. Lake St. Catherine was created by the construction of a dam which created what is known as an “impounded wetland.” What the area that is now lake used to be like could be seen along the shores of Little Lake or Lily Pad Pond; the dam caused the wetland to fill up and created a lake.

Sediments which accumulate within the lake have increased as the lakeside has become more developed and have changed the face of Lake St. Catherine, Rupe said.

“It’s now extremely shallow at the dam, but you used to be able to get to it by boat,” she said.

Sediment also created good conditions for the growth of aquatic plants such as the invasive species Milfoil.

A number of different things go into the lake, she said, from phosphorus and nitrogen to just plain dirt from erosion.

Soil that makes its way into the lake, then acts as a growth medium for the weeds while slowly filling up the lake.

With those conditions you get “a nice, rich nutrient base,” she said, “You’re going to have pretty prolific weed growth.” 

Recognizing this issue, groups like the Lake St. Catherine Association and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources have joined forces to bring attention to efforts that will greatly reduce the amount of foreign materials making their way into Lake St. Catherine.

Later in the year another event is being planned for those who live seasonally at the lake and cannot make it to the tradeshow. 

At the tradeshow, Children from the Wells Village School will be selling food as a fundraiser for a trip the kids plan to take, she said, with coffee and snacks early and then soup and other items later in the day.

The Poultney Mettowee Conservation District covers the water shed’s western side of Rutland County, including the Poultney and Mettowee River, and the environmental issues that affect those watersheds as well as solutions to those problems.

To get more information on this topic and see a PowerPoint presentation complete with photographs check out: littlelakestcatherine.com.

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