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