Saturday, October 27, 2007

Maine Public Broadcasting Network Sebago Story

This is my transcript of this story. See website archive stories to hear the radio version. -Roger Wheeler

Maine Things Considered
Sebago Water Levels Debated
Reported By: Susan Sharon Date Aired: 10/8/2007

----On a late summer day last month this is what Songo Beach at Sebago Lake State Park sounded like, children swimming, people boating and a succession of waves pounding the shore. What you can not hear is what is happening to the beach itself, but you can see it, Dana Murch of the Department of Environmental Protection learned this first hand on a trip to the beach a few years ago.-----

(Dana Murch)“When I was there several years ago I could stand with my feet on the sand put my arms straight out and rest it on top of the roots of the trees which means that on some parts of the State Park Beach, the beach had lost roughly two vertical feet of sand which is a lot.

----As portions of the beach have washed away many of the trees have been cut up and removed but there are still large exposed root systems marring what remains of the shore
Doug Watts a consultant and activist hired by the group Friends of Sebago Lake says the lake’s condition is and the beach erosion is unacceptable and a violation of the State’s anti-degradation stature.-----

(Doug Watts)” What Friends of Sebago Lake is saying is that there used to a 35 foot wide beach there during they summer . There is not one anymore. The water goes almost up to the trees and under state law that is a State Park natural beach that has been destroyed. The State’s anti-degradation law does not allow that.”

----What keeps the lake artificially high as much as ten higher than its natural level according to Dana Murch of the DEP is the Eel Weir dam on the outlet of the lake operated by Sappi, the dam and the lake level have been the subject of much disagreement and dissension for more than 15 years. Sappi uses the higher water to generate electricity. Some like it high because it provides easier boat access. Some like Friends of Sebago Lake member Roger Wheeler want to see lake levels closer to what they were historically. Wheeler’s family have owned a pair of cottages oin the lake since 1909. He says every year a little bit more of his yard crumbles into the water and he says other residents have it worse. This lake has four to six foot waves. The natural shorelines are disappearing. Everybody is losing land , their trees are gone, some have been flooded, some can open their door and step in the lake, I guess some people like that and dive off their front porch .People have lost an incredible amount of land. SAPPI declined a request for a taped interview for this story but a spokesperson for the company did answer several question via email. Brooke Carey says erosion is a natural process that happens on the shoreline of every lake of the world and will continue to happen and there is not a water level plan that will stop it although Carey adds that a water level management plan adopted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission more than a decade ago minimizes the problem. That plan built as a compromise between a diverse group of stakeholders set targets for the water level while still allowing the dam operator to generate hydropower And says Paul Hunt of the Portland Water District it also controls flooding in the Presumpscot River.------

(Paul Hunt)“The dam is also a flood control structure, when we get 5 inches of rain and the lake is rising and people are saying dump some water out of the lake because I don’t want it to erode my shorefront . Well, if you open up the dam you are going to flood Westbrook “

------In the midst of this on going debate over Sebago Lake’s water level SAPPI”s license for the Eel Weir Dam is up for renewal. Lot’s of people have weighed in how this lake should be managed for the next 30 years the lake after all is the public water supply for the greater Portland area and Dana Murch of the Maine DEP says his department is in the process of determining what terms and condition are necessary for the dam operator to meet state water quality standards, that includes consideration of erosion of Songo Beach under the state’s anti-degradation statute. ------

(Dana Murch)- “Generally speaking the shoreline of Sebago Lake is sand. Loss of sand
may affect people’s use of a beach but is unlikely to affect water quality.”

----Park officials say that the beach erosion problem appears to be stabilizing. And Murch points out that water quality is so good that the Portland Water District is largely exempt from some treatment requirements under the safe drinking water act. Roger Wheeler and the Friends of Sebago Lake remain skeptical and they are keeping a close eye on the DEP.

(Wheeler) “If they issue water quality certification and they do not protect these resources we will object. This could end up in court. “

-------Once the DEP decides whether to issue the dam water quality certification all other license and management issues surrounding Sebago Lake will be up to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission which could take action sometime next year.
For MPBN news I am Susan Sharon.---

Friday, October 19, 2007

Save the Presumpscot River

The State of Maine seems intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Friends of Sebago Lake are very confused.

Friday, October 12, 2007

New FOSL analysis

It is rare that you can compile a 12 year photographic history of destruction.

During the past month, I reviewed hundreds of photos taken by Friends of Sebago Lake since 1996 of the destruction of Songo Beach at Sebago Lake State Park.

I discovered a consistent photographic sequence of one section of Songo Beach that extends from 1996 to 2007.

It was not easy to do. But now it is done.

This is the link.

DEP admits culpability

"You are not looking at a natural lake anymore." said Dana Murch, Maine DEP.

Well this is a rather dumb statement, given that Sebago Lake was not dug out of a dry sand pit during the 1950s.

We are looking at a natural lake, Dana. It is just damaged.

This is like saying that the Lincoln Memorial with graffitti is no longer the Lincoln Memorial because of some spray paint.

But it is interesting Dana Murch would use those words.

They are not accidental.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Murch on Sebago Lake

In the Lakes Region Weekly October 5, 2007 its says," Sebago Lake beaches have become significantly reduced throughout the past decades, and Murch said that there is evidence that the shorelimne is still adjusting to the dam." "You are not looking at a natural lake anymore." said Murch.

I have a few comments on Murch's statements.
The dam was permanently raised in 1878. Historical water level charts indicate that lake levels reached todays near full pond levels prior to the 1878 improvements to the dam. The lake had equilibrated to the higher lake level average in the first 60 years since 1878.
This is evidenced by the 40 years of shoreline stability from the 1940's until the 1980's noted by FERC in the 1996 EIS. Then comes Dana Murch's DEP approved and orchestrated higher lake levels post 1987 which have destroyed Sebago's beaches and harmed the ecosystem and water quality. The DEP must be very scared and to cover their liability has resorted to making misleading statements as they have done in this article. The DEP approved the ending of the lake level management prior to 1987 which more mimicked the water level seasonal cycle that which would occur in nature.
Thanks to DEP this lake is unnaturally regulated.It is a natural lake that is impounded by a badly managed dam.