April Update - Mitigation or Testing at Highland Lake?

posted Mar 30, 2018, 3:16 PM by Joseph Bickard

Mitigation or Testing at Highland Lake?

This is a good question and an important one. Important because it involves everyone, and because it is about money.  Money always matters.

To answer your question, HLA is moving forward on both fronts.

HLA is committed to determining what is causing the picocyanobacteria bloom in Highland Lake.  We are also moving forward with mitigation efforts that we know are effective in reducing phosphorus intake into the lake.

Here is how:


What is mitigation?  Simply put mitigation is the action of reducing the severity or seriousness of something.  The emphasis is on the identification and mitigation of pollution.

We know that the nutrient levels in Highland Lake are most likely a major contributor to the bloom and we already know how to implement mitigation strategies to reduce non-point source pollution (NPS) into the lake. Such sources are the major conveyer of phosphorus into the lake, and phosphorus is likely one of the primary drivers of the bloom.

The Town of Windham awarded a grant of $10,000 to HLA to be utilized toward mitigating high priority road sites that are major contributors from NPS into Highland Lake. Those sites will be identified in a Watershed Survey, scheduled for May 19, 2018.

There IS A LOT going on!  The timing of all of this matters.  While HLA readily acknowledges that we have a phosphorus issue, we also want to base our mitigation efforts on the results of the Watershed Survey.

The Watershed Survey is a joint effort of the Towns of Windham and Falmouth, DEP, CCSWCD, HLA, and many volunteers from the watershed community.  A survey has not been done at Highland Lake since 1999.  Think of this survey as taking an updated photo of the watershed. 

This survey is not about enforcement. This survey is about identifying problem areas and working collaboratively with property owners to implement lake-smart habits in order to preserve the lake and to protect property values. 

This survey will guide how mitigations funds are spent. 


As we begin working on mitigation, the intensive water quality testing program will be implemented by Dr. Karen Wilson (Professor at USM), Keith Williams, the DEP, and other scientists. 

Here’s where the intersection of the watershed survey, mitigation strategies and the testing program all come together.  We need the results of the survey in order to implement mitigation strategies.  We need to know more about the bloom in order to better assess the best response to the bloom.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is that, as stated by Karen Wilson, “… there is a lot that we don’t yet know about the causes of the bloom.”  Remedying that lack of knowledge will require a focused and well-coordinated attack. 

Some of the elements in this testing program include:

1.    An intensive protocol that tests phosphorus levels at several sites in Highland Lake, as well as measuring phosphorus levels at varying depths in the lake.

2.    Instituting a more in-depth testing for potential toxicity of the cyanobacteria in the lake.

3.    Assessing the potential role that that the migrating alewife population may have on the bloom

4.    Re-calculating depths in Highland Lake. 

5.    DNA testing to positively identify the cyanobacteria. 

Think of the upcoming effort this summer as a 3-pronged approach to the bloom:

1.     Implementation of the watershed survey which will give us key information about where and how we need to apply mitigation strategies.

2.    Implementation of mitigation strategies to reduce NPS into the lake. 

3.    Implementation of the water quality testing program as a set of very detailed and focused efforts toward discovering the primary cause (s) of the picocyanobacteria bloom.

Finally, all of the above requires funding. HLA believes that this approach for 2018 reflects a good balance between the need to mitigate and the need to conduct research.  Won’t you join us in this multi-faceted approach to solving the issues at Highland Lake?  

Write your check to:          Highland Lake Association


And mail to:                         Highland  Lake Association

 P.O. Box 1684

                                               Windham, Maine 04062


Or go to this link:                Donate to Highland Lake Association


Thank you for your support!

Rosie Hartzler 

March Update

posted Feb 26, 2018, 6:10 AM by Joseph Bickard   [ updated Feb 28, 2018, 5:02 AM ]

Happy Winter to everyone! 

The HLA is in the midst of dynamic changes. From an invigorated and active Civic Affairs Committee, headed by Dennis Brown, Kim White and Chantal Scott, to the updates on the Water Quality testing program at Highland Lake. The news about the Watershed Survey that will engage with every resident in the Highland Lake watershed.

Also, I would be remiss if I did not mention the upgraded web site, overseen by board of directors member, Joe Bickard. The web site www.highlandlakemaine.org contains a wealth of information about Highland Lake. Our community is changing – more development, and more activity in the watershed. This development is no doubt the driver of a trend that points to increased levels of phosphorus into Highland Lake. Phosphorus is the culprit that leads to algae and most particularly, in Highland Lake, it is believed to be the primary driver of the picocyanobacteria blooms that have reduced the water clarity levels from a usual 5 meters to less than 2 meters for the past 4 years during a 4 week period from mid- July to mid-August.

It’s going to take a lot of work from a lot of people to lower the phosphorus levels in Highland Lake. We as a community have been here before. For those of you who have lived in the watershed since 1999 , you well remember the collosal effort and thousands of dollars (over $600,000) invested in the effort to reduce runoff into Highland Lake. Now I am calling on each of you to renew your commitment to preserve and protect this most valuable resource.

What can you do?

First if you are still reading, you have made a decision to become more informed regarding the situation at the lake.

Second, you are taking ownership in this lake – this is your lake, and you want to preserve it for generations to come.

Then of course we want you to become a member of the HLA and actively participate in the ongoing work of the HLA. There are so many ways that you can get involved. Here are just a few:

Volunteer for the Watershed Survey! Please contact Chantal Scott at chantal.altavista@gmail.com if you are interested.

Become part of the ongoing effort to update ordinances in Windham and Falmouth so that these ordinances better protect the lake. (Contact John MacKinnon or Dennis Brown for more information )

Get trained as a water quality monitor and help the water quality team take samples this summer. (see article describing how to get certified as a water quality monitor)

Learn how you can become involved with Project Based Learning at Highland Lake – a focus that will engage students from the Windham Middle School, is just now getting started, and needs ongoing leadership.

Contribute an article or photos to this newsletter.

Get engaged with your local road association as this is a concrete way that you can influence how your private road is maintained, which in effect helps the lake!

I look forward to seeing everyone at the Public Forum on March 7. And by the way – we have a contest running to get a new name for this newsletter. Top prize for the contest winner will be a selected piece of HLA themed t-shirt!

Finally, want to get in touch with a board member? See complete list of all board members plus contact information at the www.highlandlakemaine.org

Rosie Hartzler 

February Update

posted Feb 26, 2018, 6:08 AM by Joseph Bickard

Civic Affairs Committee Efforts July 2017 to Feb 2018

  •   The Civic Affairs Committee was re-energized, thanks to Kim White (VP/BOD) and Chantal Scott (BOD), at HLA Annual Meeting Initially focused on developments

  •   Shifted focus to phosphorus export to the lake because of picocyanobacteria blooms

  •   Pushed for moratorium on construction within the watershed until better controls on

    phosphorus are in place and better understanding of the bloom cause(s)

  •   Got moratorium approved by Windham Town Council

  •   Initiated Highland Lake Leadership Team (HLLT) to help protect Highland Lake through policy

  •   HLA members fill every HLLT chair position except one (4 out of 5)

  •   Spoke on Lake issues with Westbrook and presented to Falmouth Town Council

  •   Appealed Highland Views Stormwater Permit

  •   Worked with Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District (CCSWCD) on phosphorus export from campground

  •   Hired Headwaters Hydro to support Stormwater appeal

  •   DEP reopened Highland Views Stormwater Permit due to errors in application pointed

    out by HLA

  •   Started petition on retroactive high density housing and phosphorus regulations in Lake watershed

  •   Reviewed Windham ordinance and pointed out to Town that Highland Views did not meet Windham ordinance requirements for MHP Overlay Zone

  •   Town then further found that Highland Views did not meet State regs as proposed either

  •   Highland Lake Leadership Team and Committees well underway to protect the Lake and communicate best practices to residents within the watershed.

  •   Pressed Windham Town Council to enact retroactive phosphorus ordinance

  •   Windham Town Council agreed to move forward with proposed retroactive phosphorus

    ordinance review
    For more information contact Dennis Brown – HLA Treasurer/BOD 

December Update

posted Jan 28, 2018, 6:10 PM by Joseph Bickard

1.    “A Visitor of Murky Origin “

Front page article in Portland Press Herald, Saturday, December 9, 2017.  This article by Megan Doyle, presented a well balanced view of the critical  issues impacting Highland Lake.  The timing of this article could not have been better given the ongoing calendar of events focused on actions being taken to preserve and protect this resource.  http://bit.ly/2nMoS3m


2.    Science Roundtable

A group of researchers, scientists, water quality experts, representatives from the towns, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Marine Resources. met at the  Inland Fisheries and Wildlife building in Gray, Maine, on Friday, December 1, 2017,  for a day long Highland Lake Science Roundtable. Dr. Karen Wilson, Professor of Environmental Studies (USM) served as Facilitator.  (see attached program for a list of all invitees)

The morning session focused on “The science behind why the Picocyanobacteria (Pcy) bloom and why now at HL?”  Jeff Dennis presented a power point that gave in in-depth view of the data accumulated from HL since 1974.  It was pointed out due to the efforts of Keith Williams, and other dedicated water quality monitors at HL, that there is no other lake in Southern Maine that has as significant a cache of data available for study, as is available on HL. 

The afternoon session focused on developing several hypotheses regarding the relative contributors to the Pcy bloom.  These hypotheses included:

Increase in phosphorus causes Pcy bloom - What are possible sources of P?

Fish, Bottom sediments, Pcy  - Can Pcy mobilize P from bottom and deliver to water column?

Other hypotheses:

a.    Climate change is driving the Pcy bloom

b.    Timing of alewive spawning, growth, outmigration

c.     Food Chain Dynamics cause Pcy bloom

d.    Pcy migration from bottom of lake impacts Secchi Disk Transparency (SDT)

     3.    Update on water quality testing results from 2017

The graph shows the results of testing for Phosphorus, Nitrogen, Chlorophyll, and Secchi prior to, during the following the Pcy bloom

4.    Water shed Survey – May 19, 2018

John MacKinnon, Kim White and Rosie Hartzler has been working to clarify details of the contract with CCSWCD regarding how money will be allocated to this most important study of the watershed.  An important step was taken just last week, when this group met with John Mcclaine, DEP, to clarify what responsibilities the DEP could assist the HLA with on this survey.  Steering Committee members include folks already mentioned above plus:  Chantal Scott, Donna Pennoyer, Peter Simonson, Heather True (Project Manager- CCSWCD) 

Civic Affairs

1.    Appeal submitted to DEP (see attached)

Dennis Brown has dedicated a voluminous number of hours reviewing plans submitted by Chase Homes for the proposed Highland Views development.  Dennis’ research included the necessity for a 3rd party review of the plans, and innumerable phone conversations with Town staff (Windham and Falmouth), DEP officials, and CCSWCD staff regarding the details implicit in the review of the plans. 

This ongoing effort is all focused on the need to take aggressive action in protecting HL from the very real potential negative impacts of more development in the water shed. 

2.    Petition (see attached )

To date, volunteers have gathered about 600 signatures from registered Windham voters.  The effort to collect signatures continues through the weekend of December 15 – 18 with the goal of collecting 1200 signatures.

There will be more information at the BOD meeting on Monday, December 18. 

3.    Highland Lake Leadership Team (HLLT)

This collaborative working group that includes representatives from the Towns of Windham and Falmouth, the HLA, and as required, input from DEP and the CCSWCD, continues its work toward becoming a force for coordinating ongoing efforts to protect HL . 

HLA representatives – Dennis Brown, Chantal Scott, John MacKinnon, Rosie Hartzler, Kim White

T of Windham Representatives – Tony Plante, Donna Chapman, Tom Peterson

T of Falmouth Representatives – Nathan Poore, Kimberly Darling, Nancy Lightbody (Conservation Commission)

An official charge has been adopted (attached ) and three subcommittees determined:

Public Forum, Road Associations, Ordinance Review

4.    Public Forum – Date to be confirmed

A subcommittee of the HLLT has been formed to plan a public forum which will inform the community regarding the most updated Science on Highland Lake, plus a discussion of how the community needs to respond to the bacterial outbreaks in HL.  The group  includes:   Wendy Garland (DEP), Donna Chapman (WTC), Rosie Hartzler, (HLA ), Gretchen Anderson (Stormwater Compliance Officer for Windham and Gorham), Heather True (CCSWCD), and Chantal Scott (HLA ). 


1.    HLLT becoming part of the HLA Website

 Based on an idea that Tom Verlee floated with several BOD’s, a new focus will be developed on the HLA web site which highlights the role of the HLA in the ongoing work of the HLLT. Here is the gist of what will be developed: 

Over the next few months and beyond, this group (The HLLT)  will be addressing many factors that will affect residents of the Highland Lake Watershed. To educate and answer questions, a suggestion was made to have a central location, a library, that would be accessible to the public. This library would have historical information, water quality data and reports, copies of current applicable town ordinances, meeting minutes, and other relevant information.

This library would ideally be a website, either as a new site with a new domain name, or as a subsection of a current website/domain.

 It was agreed that Highland Lake Association is in the best position to host this website. Other entities (towns, agencies, groups, individuals) could then link to this site to easily access any and all information relative to Highland Lake.

Much of the information is already a part of the Highland Lake Association Site, but it is not organized in a readily accessible form. The goal is to have an INDEX or TABLE OF CONTENTS page, which would give an organized summary of information about Highland Lake and the HLLT. This page would be updated frequently as new information comes in.

2.     HLA Facebook page – under development – Rich Bicknell and Corey Hollowell

November Update

posted Jan 28, 2018, 6:08 PM by Joseph Bickard

What happened at the Windham Town Council on November 14:

At the November 14 meeting of the Windham Town Council, one major agenda item focused on some revisions to the Surface Water Protection Ordinance specific for the Highland Lake watershed. These revisions are proposed for all development in the water shed that are not subject to subdivision or site plan review. In order to be eligible for a Stormwater and Phosphorus Management Control Permit, a builder must meet or exceed 50 points based on a point schedule as outlined in the proposal. 

For more detail on this point system, go to :  file:///C:/Users/Rosie%20H/Downloads/TC%20packet_surface%20water%20protection_10-27-2017%20(2).pdf

John MacKinnon gave a detailed critique of the proposals – and his comments are available at :



In addition the Town Council decided to delay the approval of the changes to the Surface Water Protection Ordinance, until members of the HLA had opportunity to meet with Windham Town Officials to discuss concerns related to land use ordinances.  This meeting will be scheduled as soon as possible, as the WTC plans to vote on the Surface Water Protection Ordinance on December 12. 


Updates on HLA Committees:

Water Quality

Updated results from 2017

I am including here a chart of results from UNH lab reflecting testing results from this summer season


Highland Lake Data Listing - 2017

Site ID Total

                                                            Phos                Nitrogen          Total Chl    Diss.Color

                                                            Ug/L                 ug/L                 ug/L                 CPU


Deep 0-7.0 meters       2/19/17            8.7                  254                  2.9                   29.3

Deep 18.0 meters        2/19/17            10.9                 337

Deep 0-7.0 meters       3/5/17              8.7                    233                 3.4                   30.2

Deep 18.0 meters        3/5/17              9.7                   308

Deep 0-7.0 meters       5/13/17            7.7                   198                  4.9                   35.3

Deep 19.0 meters        5/13/17            8.0                   255

Deep 0-7.0 meters       6/4/17              14.2                 208                 4.6                   32.8

Deep 18.0 meters        6/4/17              10.6                 390

Deep 0-4.0 meters       6/18/17            8.9                                          2.3                   33.3

Deep 0-5.0 meters       7/1/17              9.3                  422                 2.5                   25.4

Deep 0-5.0 meters       7/1/17              Dup 10.0

Deep 0-5.0 meters       7/16/17            10.2                 475                  4.0                   24.6

Deep 0-5.0 meters       7/16/17            Dup 4.1

Deep 0-4.0 meters       7/22/17            11.6                 375                  4.4                   26.4

Deep 0-5.0 meters       7/30/17            11.0                 406                  10.1                 21.3

Deep 0-5.0 meters       8/5/17              12.8                336                  6.0                   17.7

Deep 18.0 meters        8/5/17              10.4                 441

Deep 0-5.0 meters       8/13/17            14.7                 389                  6.4                   17.7

Deep 0-3.0 meters       8/19/17            11.4                 347                  4.0                   16.8

Deep 0-3.0 meters       8/29/17             9.9                  386                  3.1                   15.9

Deep 0-7.0 meters       9/17/17             8.5                  301                  5.3                   15.7


Note that during the Bloom period (mid July to mid August ), the highest P reading of 14.7 PPB  occurred on 8/13/17

Nitrogen levels as recorded are within the average range for Maine lakes


Science Round table – December 1,2017


NOTE:  This meeting is closed to the public.  The list of participants in this roundtable is listed here. 


Draft schedule for the Roundtable


Morning: “Patterns in Highland Lake”

Coffee, etc provided by HLA


1. Review existing data

2. Review other case studies (i.e., experience from researchers) that might provide hints

Lunch (always important) – provided by HLA


Afternoon: Moving forward


1. Review knowns and unknowns as determined from the morning's discussions [maybe this happens during lunch]

2. Develop working models of what we think might be going on (might be multiple hypotheses)

3. Develop guidance for the surrounding towns/HLA/other partners including:

a. work plan for sampling/analyses to gather data to test hypotheses (Spring/Summer/Fall 2018)

      b. statement of probable causes [??]


List of participants, as of November 1, 2017


Karen Wilson – USM  - Facilitator of the Roundtable

Jeff Dennis – DEP

Keith Williams – HLA  - expected back in Maine by the end of November…

Linda Bacon – DEP

Aria Amerbahman – UMO

Steve Norton – UMO

Pete Countway – Bigelow Labs

Curtis Bohlen – Casco Bay

Holly Ewing – afternoon only, perhaps by Skype

Jim Haney – UNH

Don Kretchmer – Consultant that will contract with HLA to write up summary of the Science Forum and be part of a conversation with the HLA BOD following the roundtable, focused on a summary  and discussion of the major findings from the roundtable. 

Gail Wippelhauser- DMR

Gretchen Anderson – representing Town of Windham

Kimberly Darling – representing Town of Falmouth

Contacted, but have not yet talked to

Jasmine Saros (unlikely, has not returned calls)

Will contact

Jim Pellerin . 


Public Forum

Planning is getting underway for the public forum to be held in February, 2018, subsequent to the Science Roundtable.  The purpose of the public forum will be to inform, educate, and guide policy as the  community and town staff interact with several key speakers tasked with interpreting the major findings from the Science Roundtable. 

Stream sampling

The water quality team met on October 26, and decided that it would be best to wait until after the Science Round table to better determine the focus and parameters for the stream sampling. This does not mean that the HLA does not consider an ongoing an intensive stream sampling program to be very important,  but we want to be clear and focused in terms of how we best utilize resources to gain the information that will be most helpful. 


Watershed Survey

Kim White and Rosie Hartzler, co chairs of this committee are refining the terms of the contract by which the details of the water shed survey will be conducted at HL during the spring of 2018.  There are multiple moving parts in this contract and  we are researching all of our options in order to contain the overall cost to the HLA.


Civic affairs committee


There is a petition currently circulating that is focused on asking citizens in Windham to sign and support the elimination of all high density housing within the Highland lake watershed.


We the citizens of Windham, Maine petition the Town to change all the zoning within the Highland Lake watershed to Farm and Residential (FR) with no cluster housing, MHP Overlay Zones or funnel developments (eg. three or more houses sharing a 25 foot wide right of way to the lake).  Properties that had fully approved permits prior to the start of this change are allowed to continue to even if the current use is outside the FR zone allowances.

The goal of this petition drive is to acquire at least 1200 signatures of registered Windham Voters.  Once this goal is reached and the signatures are verified by the Town Clerk (Windham) the petition is brought before the WTC, who may decide to approve the terms of the petition, or to hold a special election for the town to vote on the petition.  If you would like to help us with this signature drive, please contact Kim White or Rosie Hartzler.  

Appeal to DEP

In addition, the Civic Affairs Committee is continuing to pursue its appeal to the DEP regarding the permit that was issued for the Chase development. 


Moratorium on all development in HL watershed

The Moratorium on all development within the HL watershed has been in effect since September 5, 2017, and at this point will extend for 180 days.  


Highland Lake Leadership Team

Kim White, Dennis Brown, Chantal Scott and Rosie Hartzler have been participating in this team, that is developing its “charge” (organizational document – that will be brought to the next HLA meeting for approval) and also developing its Scope of Work. 


The initial work of a subcommittee with in the Leadership Team includes:

            Review of land use ordinances

Coordination in the planning and implementation of the Science Roundtable and the subsequent Public Forum




Cathy Costa is soliciting volunteers to help her with developing an online newsletter. 



This committee is still being defined




Budget is under review. 


Next Meeting of the BOD – will be scheduled in December to follow the Science Roundtable.  This meeting will be held at a home of a BOD, and will feature, Don Kretchmer as he interacts with the BOD regarding the summary of the Science Roundtable.  Stay tuned for details regarding place and time for this meeting . This meeting promises to be most enlightening and engaging as the BOD learns more about what is going on in Highland Lake. 

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