Partners undertake Cross Lake Watershed survey

ST. JOHN VALLEY, Maine — The Friends of Cross Lake association will coordinate a survey of Cross Lake’s watershed in partnership with the St. John Valley Soil and Water Conservation District, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Maine Forest Service and Department of Environmental Protection.

The Friends of Cross Lake Association will conduct a survey of the Cross Lake Watershed regarding soil and water health beginning this month. (Courtesy of Friends of Cross Lake Association)

The partners undertaking the survey want to keep soil and nutrients on the land to improve soil health, instead of exporting them to the water, where they can do harm. Volunteers and UMFK faculty and students will provide additional assistance.  

A watershed is all the land where rain and snowmelt drains to a waterbody. Therefore, all of the rain and snowmelt in Cross Lake’s watershed ends up in the lake through surface runoff, tributaries, and springs, even if it started far away. Cross Lake’s watershed is large, at 54 square miles, and includes land in New Canada, Fort Kent, Frenchville and St. Agatha, as well as Cross Lake, Sinclair, T16R5, and T16R4.  

In May, NRCS staff from the Fort Kent field office will commence the project with the survey of agricultural land within the watershed. The survey of other developed land will begin on June 8 with follow up throughout the month. Technicians and trained volunteers will look for soil erosion sites that are sources of sediment to the lake and its tributaries.  

Sediment from soil erosion carries phosphorus, a nutrient that feeds algae in the water.  Too much phosphorus causes algal blooms that not only affects recreation but more importantly, depletes the oxygen needed by coldwater fish like salmon and brook trout. Cross Lake and its two main tributaries, Daigle and Dickey Brooks, have excess phosphorus and do not meet state water quality standards.

In preparation for the survey, FOCL sent a letter to every property owner in Cross Lake’s watershed to notify them about the project and to provide an opportunity to exclude their property. Information collected during the survey will not be used for enforcement or regulatory purposes, or to identify survey participants who are not required to fix any erosion problems.

The survey is the first step in a long-term effort to restore the health of Cross Lake for the benefit of residents, visitors, and future generations. Survey completion is necessary for the partners to qualify for grants of assistance to develop a management plan and fund cost-effective solutions. FOCL, the NRCS and SWCD will work cooperatively with all willing property owners to obtain funding to help stop sediment and phosphorus from reaching the lake and its tributaries.

To learn more about the survey or other FOCL activities, contact Kirk or Cheryl St. Peter at (207) 834-1127 or message them through FOCL’s Facebook page.  If you own agricultural land in the watershed and want to speak to NRCS or SWCD about the survey, reach them in Fort Kent at (207) 834-3311, ext. 3.

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