Latest News About Highland Lake


posted Oct 7, 2018, 9:48 AM by Joseph Bickard   [ updated Oct 7, 2018, 9:50 AM ]


Moss Animals

Who knew there was such a thing as a “Moss Animal” but one was discovered in 
Highland Lake on a dock support in August.  These creatures are freshwater 
Bryozoans.  They look a bit like an alien pod and are so biologically unique that they 
have been difficult to classify.  They are colonial, feed like coral and have been around
 for about 500,000,000 years.  Bryozoans are generally a good sign in water bodies as 
they filter feed on microscopic food such as plankton, algae and bacteria.  Check out 
this blog in Scientific American about this fascinating creature.


Highland Lake Association Annual Meeting

posted Oct 7, 2018, 9:46 AM by Joseph Bickard   [ updated Oct 7, 2018, 9:47 AM ]

Highland Lake Association Annual Meeting

July 19, 2018 - 5:15-7:30

Cornerstone Church - Cottage Road

Rosie Hartzler, President of HLA welcomed about 85 members to the HLA annual meeting. 

Stressing the activism of the HLA board and its members, she thanked all for their contributions to our cause and called on continued vigilance and volunteerism to protect our lake.

Dr. Karen Wilson, key note speaker, informed the members of her on going study of Highland Lake and her team's initial findings. (see full powerpoint presentation)

Karen and team of interns and volunteers from HLA are in the middle of discovery process to find out what is causing the bloom.  This summer’s monitoring program is most in depth program to date. 

Karen and her students  are taking samples during May and June every other week;  sampling schedule during July and August will be conducted  every week.  In September, sampling schedule goes back to every other week. In addition the HLA water quality volunteers are testing and sampling every week at 11 select sites on Highland Lake.

Initial Findings:  

Lake in clear water phase (as is evident in many lakes in Maine), due to daphnia eating algae.   In the life cycle of HL, when alewives come into lake and their larva fish hatch, the diet of these small fish is the zooplankton – they eat a lot of zooplankton. (The larva alewives cannot eat the daphnia because the daphnia are too large)   When the zooplankton get depleted, there is a hole in predation cycle, which causes the algae to multiply. This depletion of the zooplankton may be one of the contributing factors to the “bloom” that HL is entering into its 5th season of occurrence. Many types of  zooplankton exist and they are abundant during day and night.

Alewife counts – a good year for alewives.  A preliminary count shows about 62,000 entered HL.  A significant number exhibited a fungus – caused by stress of migration from the ocean to HL. Fungus projected to disappear when Alewives return to the ocean. 

Collection of environmental DNA to take place to determine the variety of species in HL. Also to determine what alewives are consuming.

Sensors utilized to measure Dissolved Oxygen (DO) and Temperature meter by meter from Epilimnion (top layer of the lake), through the Metalimnion (middle layer of the lake) and down to the deepest strata of the lake (Hypolimnion)  

Graph on power point depicts changes in these two parameters from May to mid  July.

Rosie Hartzler –  presented the preliminary results from May 19 Watershed Survey  (see full powerpoint presentation)

Purpose of survey was to identify site that are having the most damaging effects on the lake.

Preliminary results… from approximately 900 sites surveyed, 140 sites were determined to be damaging the lake.   64 were residential sites. 10 boat launches.  27 private road sites.   All sites were given a priority rating high, medium, low.

 Next steps: 

Record data

Send letters to residents and road associations notifying them of results of the survey

Write Final report – goal to have this report completed by Dec, 2018


Peter Simonson informed the crowd about the Watershed Survey Grant .

HLA awarded grant of $10,000 by the Town of Windham for purposes of mitigating most egregious private road and boat launch sites (as identified by the Water shed Survey) , as having  the highest negative impact in terms of erosion on the lake.  Windham $$ must be matched by private road funds.   

Top 4 sites have been identified: 

      Highland Shore Road

      Overlook Road

Swan Road ROW

      Cottage Road ROW.

Timeline: meetings going on now with road associations.  Hope to get the work done in the fall. Grant money to be appropriated  by 12/18

John MacKinnon and Dennis Brown gave the audiance an update on a number of issues including an explanation of the Highland lake Leadership Team, the new Windham surface water protection ordinance and the new point system used for residential development in the Highland Lake Watershed. ( see full powerpoint presentation)

Dennis Brown presented a financial report. ( see full report )

$27,800 raised from grants from Windham, Falmouth, VLMP, donations by residents of the watershed toward original fund raising goal of $28,000. New  goal is $30,000 because of additional expenses expected this season.  Plea for more contributions.

Nominees to the HLA Board of Directors were presented to the membership. The following individuals were elected to a two year term to the board.

Joe Bickard, Dennis Brown, Rosie Hartzler, Peter Simonson, Tom Verlee, Gretchen Anderson, Addie Waters.

Highland Lake Watershed Survey

posted Sep 18, 2018, 4:17 PM by Joseph Bickard


Highland Lake survey seeks erosion sites

WINDHAM — A group of about 35 volunteers and technical support staff sacrificed most of their day on May 19 to help pinpoint possible sources of erosion in Highland Lake, which could be playing a role in the lake’s mysterious bloom.  See entire article by Matt Junker

The watershed survey of Highland Lake will include eight different sectors around the lake.

Want to read an excellent account of the excitement of a writer focused on "ice out ? "

posted Apr 25, 2018, 12:42 PM by Joseph Bickard

Check out this article from DownEast by Jane Crosen:

Questions loom with Highland Lake bloom

posted Apr 8, 2018, 5:56 AM by Joseph Bickard

an article from KEEPMAINECURRENT.COM by Matt Junker

The Windham Eagle features the Highland Lake public forum

posted Apr 7, 2018, 11:29 AM by Joseph Bickard   [ updated Apr 7, 2018, 11:30 AM ]

Grants Awarded to Highland Lake Association

posted Mar 30, 2018, 3:14 PM by Joseph Bickard

The Highland Lake Association has become the recipient of significant grants from the Towns of Falmouth and Windham. 


The Town of Falmouth awarded a $5000 grant to be applied to the extensive and in-depth water quality testing program that will be enacted at Highland Lake this summer.   Nathan Poore, Town Manager for Falmouth, indicated in his letter to the Highland Lake Association, “Thank you again for your continued passion and stewardship.”


The water quality testing program was devised through a collaborative effort that included multiple scientists from DEP, USM, UMO, UNH, Bigelow Labs, and members of the HLA water quality committee.  The testing effort led by Karen Wilson will focus of a variety of factors thought to be major contributors to the bloom that has occurred in Highland Lake for the past 4 seasons. 


In addition to the grant to the HLA from the Town of Falmouth, on Tuesday, March 27, the Windham Town Council approved the grant award of $10,000 to the Highland Lake Association. These funds will be utilized to mitigate high-priority sites on private roads In the Highland Lake watershed as Identified in the Watershed Survey, to be conducted May 19, 2018.


In contrast to the grant that was given by the town of Falmouth, the funds appropriated by the Town of Windham will be utilized as pass-through funds by the HLA.


This funding from the Town of Windham will become available to road associations who demonstrate the ability to provide matching funds (cash and in-kind match funds) toward fixing road issues that are contributing high levels of non-point source pollution (NPS) into Highland Lake.   Thus, the $10,00 award to the HLA, in effect becomes a total of $20,000 to be applied toward mitigating high-priority sites within the Highland Lake Watershed.


A Steering Committee, that will include HLA members, along with community representatives to oversee the allocation of the grant funds. 


The Highland Lake Association thanks the towns of Windham and Falmouth for this clear demonstration of their commitment to protect and revitalize Highland Lake.   

HIGHLAND LAKE PUBLIC FORUM - MARCH 7, 7PM, 2018, Windham High School Auditorium

posted Feb 20, 2018, 7:21 AM by Joseph Bickard   [ updated Feb 20, 2018, 10:52 AM ]


HIGHLAND LAKE PUBLIC FORUM March 7, 2018 | 7:00PM, Windham High School Auditorium 

Join your neighbors and friends at this discussion about the health of Highland Lake.

Learn about the mysterious bacterial bloom happening at the Lake.

Get involved! Learn how you can make a difference by being a steward of the Lake!

March 7, 2018 | 7:00 pm Windham High School Auditorium

This event is organized by the Highland Lake Leadership Team, a partnership between the Highland Lake Association, Town of Windham, Town of Falmouth, Maine DEP and the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District.

The Science Behind The Bloom

posted Feb 2, 2018, 3:02 PM by Joseph Bickard

“The Science Behind The Bloom”

Lorraine Glowczak and Rosie Hartzler

Published in Windham Eagle, February 2, 2018

The Windham Town Council held a special meeting on Tuesday, focused on the Picocyanobacteria (Pcy ) bloom that has recurred in Highland Lake for the past 4 summers. 

Don Kretchmer, DK Water Resource Consulting (Wolf boro, NH) presented an overview of how lakes work, and then launched into the topic “Why the picocyanobacteria bloom in Highland Lake, and Why now?

Kretchmer explained that there have been no other documented instances of this type of bloom in New England.  Many factors are believed to contribute to the bloom including:  lake chemistry, food chain dynamics, erratic weather , climate change, agriculture, erosion and runoff from properties and roads within the water shed.

The primary driver of the Pcy  bloom is Phosphorus (P).  While P is a naturally occurring element in the soil, when soil is disturbed during development, P is released.  Then when it rains,  P is transported via runoff into Highland Lake.  P has been accumulating in HL for decades.  In the late 90’s P levels in HL were increasing as water clarity was decreasing, causing the DEP to list HL as impaired.  A massive effort and almost a $1 million was invested in a variety of projects around HL to reduce runoff and thereby reduce the P in HL. 

In 2010, the lake showed signs of recovery, yet, P levels were hovering around the 10 Parts per billion mark – a measure by which the DEP determines the level that a lake is able to handle P without turning eutrophic (decreasing water quality often characterized by algae, increased plant growth, and lowered oxygen).  

However, in 2014, the Pcy appeared,  and scientists are still working on figuring out what this new and very troubling phenomenon means.  Some of the questions that are on the front burner:

1.     Does the Pcy take up Phosphorus from the sediments in the lake and then rise to the top creating the cloudy (under 2 meter Secchi disk) conditions?

2.    Are there dynamics in the food chain that accelerate the Pcy  bloom?

3.    Does the increasing numbers of alewives in HL contribute to the bloom?

4.    What is the specific species (genetics) of the Pcy?

It is a very perplexing issue.  But there is a developing concerted effort being organized for the testing protocol that will occur in HL during the 2018 season.  This effort will potentially include scientists from UMO, UNH, USM, Lakes Environmental Association in collaboration with the HLA.

Kretchmer emphasized that everyone in the water shed needs to step up to the plate in the effort to reduce P in HL.  “There are no scenarios  where increased P will make the situation better at HL.” Shoreline property owners obviously need to be very aware of the capacity for their property to buffer potential runoff.  However property owners located a distance from the lake need to also take a look at how their property may contribute to P runoff.

Finally, Kretchmer affirmed the  WTC for engaging with this information – for being proactive in responding to the challenges inherent in the bloom .  Due to all the previous work of the HLA water quality team,  there is a significant bank of data that shows what the lake used to be like, and what folks want to return to. 

Kretchmer was joined by DEP, Jeff Dennis in a lively interactive question and answer period with the council regarding specifics of the situation at HL.  It is clear that there is much more to learn, and much more to digest in the every developing process of discovery at HL.  

Highland Lake Leadership Team

posted Jan 25, 2018, 6:53 AM by Joseph Bickard

This collaborative working group that includes representatives from the Towns of Windham and Falmouth, the Highland Lake Association, and as required, input from MDEP and the CCSWCD, continues its work toward becoming a force for coordinating ongoing efforts to protect Highland Lake. For more information click here

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