The New Meadows “Lake” is actually an impounded portion of the River created by three causeways spanning the upper New Meadows River. These causeways restrict tidal exchange between the River and Lake, and recent studies indicate they have degraded water quality and intertidal habitat. The New Meadows Lake is currently included on Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s list of impaired water bodies.
One of the NMWP's goals is to assess the feasibility of increasing tidal exchange between the New Meadows Lake and River. Following two technical feasibility studies (see below), the NMWP conducted a public survey in order to gauge stakeholder views on restoring tidal flow. The NMWP surveyed 99 watershed residents and presented its findings to the community at a public forum in spring 2010. Learn more:
Three causeways across the upper New Meadows River restrict tidal flow between the Lake and the River, causing diminished water quality and a loss of intertidal habitat. To assess the feasibility of restoring tidal flow between the River and Lake, the NMWP helped commission two studies:
New Meadows Lake Tidal Restoration Feasibility Study (2006) : The purpose of this study was to develop and evaluate restoration alternatives for improving water quality and enhancing inter-tidal and salt marsh habitat in the Lake. This was achieved by developing and evaluating technical alternatives to increase tidal flow into the Lake at the site of the initial tidal restriction beneath the State Road causeway. Woodlot Alternatives, Inc. conducted the study and prepared all preliminary and final reports.
Model Analysis of Expected Plant Communities Response to Potential Tidal Restoration Conditions (2007) : This study, prepared by Woodlot Alternatives, used a spatial restoration model to examine expected plant communities’ response to tidal restoration in the New Meadows Lake.
New Meadows Watershed Management Plan
The New Meadows Watershed Management Plan was developed through a comprehensive stakeholder involvement process. It sets forth a wide-ranging approach to protecting water quality in the New Meadows, addressing indicators of water quality, land use patterns, existing sources of pollution, and tools for remediation.
A typical overboard discharge (OBD) system is similar to a household septic system except that the leaching field is replaced by a combination of a sand filter or mechanical aerobic tank and a chlorination unit to disinfect the effluent before it is discharged into a water body. Because the proper maintenance of a household system cannot be guaranteed, the Maine Department of Marine Resources considers each OBD as a potential source of bacteria and permanently closes nearby shellfish flats.
In 1987, Maine enacted the Overboard Discharge Law, which prohibited new systems and established a procedure for replacing existing systems with alternative treatment methods. Since that time, the state has worked with towns and homeowners, providing grant funding to help eliminated overboard discharge systems.
The NMWP has been actively working with towns in the New Meadows watershed, and with the Maine Departments of Marine Resources and Environmental Protection to remove OBDs into the New Meadows River. Learn more:
Friends of Casco Bay, member of the NMWP steering committee, has collected extensive water quality data in the upper sections of the New Meadows River, much of it through their volunteer Citizen Stewards Water Quality Monitoring Program. This data indicates low levels of dissolved oxygen and high levels of nitrogen in portions of the Lake and River. Ongoing water quality data collection and monitoring of invasive species will help the NMWP analyze these trends.
In addition to Friends of Casco Bay’s annual monitoring, Bowdoin College students have periodically collected data in the waterway, as part of the service learning component of courses offered in the Environmental Studies and Geology Departments.
Sewage discharges from recreational boats in the New Meadows can seriously impair water quality by contributing nutrients, bacteria, and pathogens to the water. The NMWP encourages boaters to pump out their marine toilets at the New Meadows Marina pumpout facility, located at the head of the New Meadows River. This facility is not easily accessible to larger vessels, however, and the NMWP is exploring options to help towns install pumpout facilities further south along the River. Learn more: