July 28, 2017

Highland Lake community energized and engaged as they meet to discuss the issue of Cyanobacteria

This past Thursday, over 80 Highland Lake residents attended the 2017 annual meeting of the Highland Lake Association (HLA).

Community members learned about recent efforts to impact future development around Highland Lake and expand their understanding of a recently completed research project by USM Graduate students that focused on the issue of Cyanobacteria in Highland Lake.

The business meeting focused on “What is going on in Highland Lake?” – A power point
presentation by Rosie Hartzler, VP of the Highland Lake Association. This presentation highlighted how the emergence of a Pico Cyanobacteria bloom, with its precipitating negative effect on water clarity, was seriously impacting the very essence of what the lake means to its residents.

Attendees keyed into the seriousness of this phenomenon, which has occurred with shocking regularity for about 4 weeks from mid-July through mid-August, since 2014.  As if right on cue, the lake took a decided turn just this past Saturday, July 22 for the fourth year in a row.  

Residents woke up to radically reduced water clarity.  One resident commented “Here it comes!” 
There is an ongoing effort to more accurately determine why this is happening and what the causes are.  “It’s complicated”, said Hartzler. In her discussion of the issue, “Highland Lake may be at a tipping point,” she pointed out the many factors that may precipitate a lake turning from clear to turbid.  “Erratic weather is the wild card.”  

One of the recurring themes in this presentation revolved around data that confirms that Highland Lake contains a high level of nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen). Phosphorous enters the lake primarily when runoff occurs from the surrounding watershed. High nutrients are definitely related to the outbreak of Pico Cyanobacteria in Highland Lake. The HLA received a grant of $4,000 from the Town of Windham to study why this outbreak is occurring.  

Highland Lake is currently designated by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as a “lake at risk, due to over development.”  A 2003 study by the DEP indicated 883 residential structures in the water shed area, with 243 residential structures on the immediate shoreline of Highland Lake.  

In addition, a group of Highland Lake residents are engaged with members of the HLA board to more carefully scrutinize proposed development in the Highland Lake watershed.  This effort is seen as critical, particularly with the continuing outbreak of Pico Cyanobacteria in the lake.

The HLA invites residents in the watershed to engage in the ongoing efforts to preserve and protect Highland Lake. We all need to become more engaged in the ongoing effort to safeguard Highland Lake from further degradation and learn how individual efforts can contribute in defending the social and economic benefits of this beautiful lake and surrounding land.  

The HLA board thanks all those who participated in the annual meeting as well as the myriad of watershed residents, who by purchasing raffle tickets, raised over $2,000.    

The event was a total success and the HLA looks forward to ongoing engagement with the greater Highland Lake Community. 

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