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This was received from Maine VLMP; they are supporting the bill described below.
Dear Friends of Maine VLMP's Exceptional Volunteer Citizen Lake Scientists:
Recently, the Maine Legislature Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee conducted a public hearing for LD 178: "An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue to Provide Jobs, Improve Road Infrastructure and Protect Water Resources"
This legislation has the potential to have a positive impact on Maine's lakes by bolstering federal and state funding through the Clean Water Act to undertake water quality protection projects that will reduce phosphorus and sediment in stormwater runoff from lake watersheds throughout Maine. Because the VLMP is apolitical, we generally do not engage in lobbying. However, in this case, we were asked to provide the Maine Legislature with information that could be helpful in their deliberation on this bill. VLMP Executive Director, Scott Williams, submitted testimony that was "neither for, nor against" the legislation, in which the value of Maine's volunteer lake monitors to the health of Maine's lakes was emphasized:
January 9, 2018
Good Morning Senator Hamper, Representative Gattine, and Distinguished Members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you regarding LD 178 and Maine's lakes. I am Scott Williams, Executive Director of the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program (VLMP), which, formed in 1971, and according to the North American Lake Management Society, is the longest-standing statewide citizen lake monitoring program in the nation, as well as one of the largest, currently supporting more than 1,300 individuals throughout Maine who annually monitor the health of approximately 450 Maine lakes.
Because of the nature of our work in the gathering of scientific data, the VLMP is an apolitical organization, and my testimony today is "neither for, nor against" LD 178. Our infrequent appearances before the Maine Legislature are informational in nature, with the hope that the substance of our testimony may be helpful to Committees considering proposed legislation.
VLMP volunteers are trained to assess water quality, conduct screening surveys for invasive aquatic species, and assess watershed health and function. Local, regional, state and national natural resource agencies, research and education institutions, and businesses rely extensively on the information gathered by VLMP volunteers, which has been shown to be on par with data gathered by professional lake scientists. Many of the exceptional individuals who participate in this program have also taken on leadership roles in their lake communities, working to foster a culture of stewardship through their knowledge, commitment and a passion for protecting their lakes.
Without question, much of what has been learned about Maine's lakes during the past half-century has been through the efforts of VLMP volunteers who, year after year, have committed their valuable time, personal resources, and energy to help us better understand the numerous complex factors that influence the health of our lakes.
A growing percentage of Maine's robust cadre of citizen scientist-stewards have been continuously active for two, three, and even four decades - a remarkable, and most unusual achievement. This phenomenon has captured the attention of leaders of similar programs from many other states, and recently from three Canadian Provinces and the Republic of Bolivia. One question that we are often asked is "How do you recruit, secure a commitment from, and retain individuals for such an extended period of time?" While the VLMP may be able to take some of the credit for this phenomenon, through the strong commitment that we make to support our volunteer force, we believe the most significant factor in volunteer retention and commitment is the deep-rooted passion they experience for lakes that they, and their families have often had a strong relationship with for multiple generations. They recognize and deeply value that Maine lakes are among the clearest and cleanest in the nation. Many of them have lived in areas of the country where lakes are far less pristine, often having reached the point of degradation where restoration is either technically impossible, or prohibitively costly. They do not want to see such changes taking place on the lake they have committed their time and resources to monitor and protect, and they are willing to work hard to ensure that future generations will be able to continue to make the claim that Maine's lakes are outstanding.
I would like to share with you the findings of two areas of research relevant to this discussion, in which Maine's volunteer lake monitors have played a key role.
For decades, VLMP volunteers have been trained to perform a simple procedure to measure the water clarity of their lakes. Water clarity (also known as "transparency") is a universally accepted, reliable indicator of lake water quality. We have long known that lake clarity often varies significantly from month to month and year to year, due to multiple influences. However, only within the past several years have we recognized that there is a significant relationship between the annual clarity of Maine lakes as a whole (as well as individually), and annual precipitation. Thanks to information gathered by hundreds of volunteer monitors on more than 1,000 lakes, it has been possible to demonstrate that a significant percentage of Maine's lakes are less clear during years of higher precipitation during the spring and summer period, and are clearer during drier years. The extent to which this phenomenon occurs varies, but the relationship between precipitation and lake clarity is real, and the most likely influence on this phenomenon is watershed stormwater runoff, which transports soil particles, nutrients, and other pollutants to lakes.
Another area in which volunteers have recently played a significant role is in helping refine our understanding of the vulnerability of individual lakes to a decline in water quality. Working in collaboration with both physical and social scientists, volunteer lake monitors have helped clarify the important interaction between physical, biological and chemical forces, and the overarching influence of stewardship, on lake vulnerability.
Historically, Section 319 of the Federal Clean Water Act has been a source of cost-shared funding that has benefited many of Maine's lakes through supporting citizen watershed surveys to identify soil erosion and other runoff-related problems in lake watersheds. This information has then been used to develop watershed-based management plans to mitigate existing issues, and to prevent new ones from occurring. The proposed increase in funding for erosion controls and stormwater management systems will benefit the well-being of our lakes.
In summary, for the past half century, Maine's citizens have demonstrated a very significant commitment to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the many benefits of Maine's exceptional lakes. The investment of public will has, and will continue to provide a substantial positive return for our lakes.
Thank you, again, for this opportunity.
Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program
24 Maple Hill Road Auburn, ME 04210
(207) 783-7733 | email@example.com