Highland Lake team asks Falmouth, Windham to adopt new rules

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FALMOUTH — The town is being asked to consider recommendations from the Highland Lake Leadership Team to protect the lake and improve its water quality.

Among the new rules would be a requirement for third-party, expert review of any development within the watershed areas of the lake, excluding single lots, and new manure management requirements for large farm animals such as horses or cattle.

Dennis Brown, chairman of the lake leadership team, said this week that none of the new regulations being proposed are unreasonable and he hopes both Falmouth and Windham will adopt them over the course of the winter.

“We want to make sure we (address the) vulnerabilities and put in safeguards to protect the water quality,” Brown said. “These are basic practices that can have a significant impact and mitigate issues.”

Falmouth’s Community Development Committee, a subcommittee of the Town Council, was scheduled to discuss the recommendations Tuesday, Nov. 13, after The Forecaster’s deadline.

An additional ordinance change would reduce the total amount of phosphorous that can be exported from any development site to 0.020 pounds per acre per year, something that Windham has already adopted.

Along with the new ordinances, the Highland Lake Leadership Team is also suggesting the towns cooperate on a shoreline photography project to help code enforcement officers approve site work and monitor the shoreline.

The Falmouth Town Council approved the creation of the lake leadership team a year ago. Among its duties are updating the 2005 Highland Lake Watershed Management Plan and the 2003 Phosphorus Control Action Plan.

In addition, the team’s goals include creating a plan to monitor, assist and coordinate scientific efforts to further understand the watershed and completing a review of existing zoning and ordinances in Falmouth and Windham to test their effectiveness in protecting the lake.

Brown, a Falmouth resident, said it makes sense for the two towns to work together to help protect the lake, which he said is “50 percent in Falmouth and 50 percent in Windham. It’s one lake, so it’s important we work together on (providing) the same level of protection.”

“We have not brought anything forward that we think is unreasonable and we have relied on some real expertise and good science” in making the recommendations, he said.

Brown said with oversight from the Highland Lake Leadership Team and an infusion of funds from both Falmouth and Windham, as well as the Highland Lake Association, the most extensive water testing to date took place over this past summer.

He said the results should better help identify sources of phosphorus, which are primarily runoff from yards, roads and driveways. “At the end of the day, reducing the phosphorus export to the lake remains the most important issue that we will have to address,” Brown said last winter.

Part of the effort to reduce the amount of phosphorus includes education and outreach to people who live not just on the lake shore, but within the watershed. That’s why the leadership team is planning a special forum this coming spring.

And Brown said there would be a bigger push this spring and summer to encourage people near the lake to better buffer their property and take into consideration best practices when it comes to environmentally friendly yardscaping.

“We need to get ahead of the problem,” he said. “The sooner we have (the new rules) in place, the better we can stop the flow of phosphorus. Man is greatly accelerating the change (in the lake) and it’s in our collective interests to keep it viable.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

New rules being weighed by Falmouth and Windham would protect the quality of Highland Lake, according to a team tasked with making recommendations for lake management.

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