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Frequently Asked Questions

Maine currently has 6 confirmed invasive aquatic plant species in our lakes. These, and 5 others, are on a list of aquatic plants that are illegal to buy, sell, or possess in the state. You can learn more about these plants by clicking here. Or visit the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Invasives Page on their website. If you have a suspicious plant and would like LEA to identify it please grab a sample and send a photo to Mary. Keep the sample in the refrigerator until we get an ID.
There are two species of invasive milfoil in Maine. Variable-leaf milfoil is the most widespread, found in about 40 lakes, ponds, and rivers. Eurasian milfoil is found in two water bodies in Maine. In our area, we have variable milfoil, which can be found in Sebago Lake, the Songo River, Brandy Pond, and Long Lake. If you think you have found milfoil or another invasive plant, please take a sample and send a photo to Mary.
LEA manages several trail systems in our service area: the Highland Research Forest, Stevens Brook Trail, Pinehaven Trail in Bridgton, and the Holt Pond Preserve, located in both Bridgton and Naples. For more information, including trail maps, click here.
If you find an injured bird please contact Avian Haven, a bird rehabilitation center in Maine. They will be able to help you figure out the best course of action. Their phone number is 207-382-6761 If you encounter an injured deer, bear, moose, or turkey, please contact an MDIFW biologist or game warden. For all other species, please contact local licensed wildlife rehabilitator. You can find a list, broken down by county, here.
The LEA staff has a wide knowledge base about the flora and fauna in our lakes and the surrounding watersheds. If you have a photo of your specimen please send it to Mary.
If your lake (or prospective property) falls within LEA’s service area then please visit our lake information page on our website to view last year’s water quality report. Please contact Maggie with any questions about the water testing report or about water quality in your lake! If your lake or prospective property is outside of LEA’s service area, please visit the Lakes of Maine website for water quality information.
Water level control and management are different for each waterbody in the state and depend largely on who owns and manages the dam. On larger waterbodies, there may be a water level management plan, a water level committee, or multiple stakeholders. However, on the vast majority of water bodies in the state, the level is controlled by the dam owner and there is little regulation. Information about water level management and dam regulation can be found at the following links:  information about dam regulationinformation about water level managementwater level management FAQs
LEA does routine monitoring on lakes in ponds in our service area throughout the year. One component of water quality that we look at is concentrations of a pigment called phycocyanin. Phycocyanin is a pigment found in blue-green algae (aka cyanobacteria). Thankfully we have very low levels of phycocyanin in the Lakes Region and so we are unlikely to have health issues related to blue-green algae in our area right now. LEA’s water testing team visits many lakes within our service area bi-weekly and we visit the other lakes in our service area annually. Our familiarity with lakes and ponds within the Lakes Region enables us to notice if a concerning algae bloom is occurring. If we observed or found a concern, we would notify the public and our members. Often, algae blooms turn out to be metaphyton, which looks like green cotton candy-like clouds floating under the water. Metaphyton is not considered a health issue. However, if you are near water that looks visibly green from algae, you should be cautious about swimming in it or allowing your pets near the water. The blue-green algae that we are most concerned about is usually well mixed in the water column and does not look like small green clouds of floating cotton candy. To help you determine if the algae in front of your property is blue-green algae or not, scoop some up in a jar, put the lid on, and let it settle for several hours. Harmful algae (cyanobacteria/ blue-green algae) will often float to the top after settling. If you are concerned that you are seeing a blue-green algae bloom on your lake or pond, please contact our offices at 207-647-8580 or report your algae bloom to the Maine DEP. Further information about algae blooms can be found on the Maine DEP’s Algae Webpage.
Gloeotrichia echinulata (“Gloeo”) is a colonial cyanobacteria that dominates some low-nutrient lake systems in late July and early August. Gloeo is able to thrive despite low nutrient levels because it collects phosphorus from sediments before floating up into the water column. Each Gloeotrichia colony is made up of numerous hair-like filaments that radiate outward, creating the characteristic “fuzzy ball” appearance of this species. The colonies are approximately 1-3 mm in diameter and tend to be free-floating in the water column, only forming surface scums at extremely high concentrations. Cyanobacteria, also known as blue green algae, can cause harmful algal blooms in freshwater. Several cyanobacterial species, including Gloeo, are capable of producing toxins that are harmful to animals and humans. They are more persistent than other types of algae and outcompete other species when nutrient levels are high. LEA’s 2016 Gloeotrichia monitoring report contains great background and discussion information about the presence of gloeo in LEA’s service area.
Foam on the shoreline can often look concerning however, most of the time, it is naturally occurring. Foam occurs when air is mixed in with natural organic matter found in the water. The types of debris which can lead to foam include compounds produced by decomposing algae and fish, among other things. Large amounts of foam can be found in coves, eddies, or on windward shores and often smells earthy or fishy. In contrast, the foam produced by detergents will often have a perfumed smell. A quick test you can conduct to determine if the foam on your property is naturally occurring or detergent-based would be to scoop up some foam and water in a jar, put on the lid, and shake the closed jar. If the foam is naturally occurring, it will dissipate however if the foam is detergent based more bubbles will form.
LEA deploys two types of buoys onto select lakes within our service area- large, yellow buoys and smaller white and orange ones. The long white “Test Site” buoys support a string of temperature sensors. These sensors are used to provide a detailed record of temperature fluctuations. This type of temperature profile allows us to better understand a lake’s thermal structure, water quality, and extent and impact of climate change and weather patterns on the waterbody. Each year, we attempt to capture information between ice-out (when the lake begins to divide into temperature-based layers) and ice-in (when the distinct temperature layers within the lake mix back together). A water body’s temperature has important implications for that lake’s water quality and ecology. LEA also deploys two large yellow fully automated monitoring buoys – one on Highland Lake and one on the north basin of Long Lake. These buoys collect water quality information at 15-minute intervals throughout the spring, summer, and fall; the data is transmitted to us in real-time. You can view this projected data on LEA’s live buoy page. More information about temperature monitoring and our automated buoys can be found in LEA’s annual water testing reports.
There are many laws protecting waterfront property. We are happy to help you figure out what’s legal and what requires permitting. Reach out for a Clean Lake Check Up or just some advice.
LEA can help with permit by rule applications in some situations. Check out this resource from the Maine DEP.
Yes! LEA offers the Clean Lake Check-Up service. A Check-Up involves a site visit to analyze erosion problems (or other water quality issues) and to design measures to fix them. Often these measures result in planting plans, runoff diverters, or some other form of property enhancement.
If you’re worried about someone doing something illegal, contact your code enforcement officer or call LEA and we can go over the rules and regulations with you.
If you are concerned that a proposed development project may impact water quality, please call LEA. While we cannot review all plans in this area, we review many and frequently weigh in on big projects. However, we are not a regulatory agency and we encourage you as a landowner to also let review boards know your concerns. If you are a developer or landowner proposing a project and want to make sure your project does not harm water quality, please contact us before your plans are set in stone! We are happy to provide advice and guidance to mitigate a project’s impact and help keep our lakes clean and clear.
LEA is not a regulatory organization - however, we can help you determine if you should report them to the code enforcement office of your town and/or file a complaint with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection here. Please know that there are many scenarios where cutting trees is legal.
Local Shoreland Zoning regulations and the Natural Resources Protection Act prohibit the cutting of vegetation under 3 feet in height within 100 feet of lakes and ponds and 75 feet of streams. A six-foot wide winding footpath to the water is the one exception to this rule. Also, note that some towns have a 100-foot setback on streams. In general, vegetation cutting is regulated within 250 feet of lakes, ponds, rivers, and wetlands. Within 100 feet, it is highly regulated. If you don’t know the rules, don’t cut until you do! LEA staff are happy to provide guidance regarding cutting standards and help you navigate zoning ordinances. When you are ready to start work, hire a professional with a good reputation and let the code enforcement officer know prior to cutting! Check out this summary page for lakefront homeowners.
Contact Lauren or give LEA call at 207-647-8580.
The vast majority of LEA’s programs are supported by membership donations from individuals and families. Our second largest income source is grants from private foundations. We also receive revenue from area towns, state and federal grants, and by providing direct services. You can support our work by becoming a member today.
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