In light of the recent Superior Court decision affirming the Clary Lake Water Level Order [WLO], people are quite justified in asking “What’s next?” regarding the DEP taking enforcement action. The Water Level Order after all was issued over 4 years ago and we have been waiting way too long for the court case to conclude. Winning this hugely important battle was a crucial step towards bringing the Clary Lake dam into compliance with the WLO, but the war isn’t over yet. While I don’t know exactly how things are going to play out, I do firmly believe (and have believed all along) that we will ultimately prevail in our battle to restore Clary Lake, and I will continue to do everything in my power to bring about a satisfactory resolution of our water level crisis as quickly as possible. But what’s next, and how long do we have to wait for a resolution? Continue reading
[dropcap]The[/dropcap] other day I came across the following article about a fine dining establishment called The Lost Kitchen located in the Mill at Freedom Falls, Freedom Maine. I decided to post the article here as an example of how a well thought-out and executed development plan can lead to a wonderful local resource that enriches both the town and the lives of the people that visit it. When juxtaposed with our own Clary Water Mill, it allows us to see just how badly Paul Kelley and his partner Richard Smith botched their own attempted development project. While it is to their credit that these two men saw the historic beauty of the old Clary water mill site and recognized it’s nascent development potential, it is unfortunate that they failed to come up with a viable plan to develop it. It is even more regrettable that they chose to blame their failure not on themselves and their ill-conceived plans but instead on the Town of Whitefield and the Clary Lake Association, and to take their revenge against Clary Lake itself and the People of the State of Maine. Why would they try to destroy that which gives their property it’s value?
Enough of that. Please check out the article. I intend to visit the Mill at Freedom Falls this summer, and to dine at the Lost Kitchen:
There are actually 2 stories here. One is about The Lost Kitchen and the other is about the old mill building that houses it. There is a great site documenting the history of that structure, and it’s restoration:
[dropcap]I[/dropcap] try to keep this news forum factual and informative and not all that speculative. From time to time however I am compelled to offer up some commentary on what has been happening, where we are and where it looks like we are headed. This is one of those times. My goal is to bring some perspective and commonality into our lives where they intersect with Clary Lake and the travails that have assaulted it for so long. Spring is a good time for this kind of musing: it’s a time to wake up, gear up, get in shape, and get ready for another season. I feel this is going to be an important year, that a lot is going to happen. We may not see a resolution of our water level crisis this year but then again we might, the problem being that I really have no idea what a “resolution” might look like. Certainly we’ll see some real progress towards a resolution. Not only am I prepared to be surprised, I expect to be. If one thing has been proven time and time again it is that we have no idea what lies around the next corner. Continue reading
As 2016 draws to a close it is a good time to reflect on what has (hasn’t) been accomplished this year. In many ways it has been a banner year for the Clary Lake Association: with 116 current members, our membership is at an all-time high and community involvement in and support of the Association and it’s activities has never been higher. Even during the height of the water level petition process in 2012 and 2013 we only had at most 70 members, and last year we had 82 members. Furthermore, our current membership is engaged and informed like never before and willing to step up and participate when the need arises (see picture above!).
2016 was the 5th full year that we’ve been engaged in our battle to restore Clary Lake which fact in and of itself, is rather sobering. Who would have thought this problem would take so long to resolve? The fact that after all this time we’re still waiting for the Water Level Order to be enforced is simply hard to believe, and even harder to accept. Through it all the Clary Lake Association Board has steadfastly remained diligent, attentive, and responsive, and 2016 was no exception. We officially met 12 times this past year to conduct Association business, discuss strategy, and make decisions, not to mention the piles of emails sent and phone calls made. It has literally been a full time job for some of us, and I’m deeply grateful for the dedication and commitment of all our Board members. It’s a great group of people and I’m proud to count myself among them. That said, I feel like we have not done Continue reading
[dropcap]With[/dropcap] 2015 behind us, now is a good time to look back and reflect on the year past, what has happened, and what we have, and have not managed to get done. It was a landmark year in a lot of ways, one that saw a level of activity and engagement on the part of the Clary Lake Association and Board that resulted in some significant accomplishments. That said, our primary goal of reaching an equitable settlement with Mr. Kelley and Mr. Smith and resolving the Clary Lake water level crisis has so far eluded us, but certainly not for lack of trying. The Board met 15 times over the course of the past year and spent a considerable amount of time and money pursuing a settlement, so far to no avail. We’re still trying, and while there remains the slightest chance of an equitable settlement, will continue to try, because settling represents the fastest way of resolving the current crisis and restoring Clary Lake and it’s water level to its former status.
While remaining engaged in settlement efforts this past year, we have also been doing everything we could to support the State and the DEP in their legal defense of the Water Level Order (WLO) which has been under concerted attack by the dam and mill owners since it was issued in late January 2014. While I’m confident that the State will ultimately prevail in their battle, the process will take a long time and it will not be pretty. Going forward, simply sitting back and watching the show may not be possible: even with the State doing the heavy legal lifting, the situation may arise in the future where the Association is called upon to play a more active role in the proceedings either by intervening in the anticipated appeal of enforcement action, or in some other manner. Such involvement will not be without costs. The cost of litigation avoided must therefore be considered in any negotiation. Continue reading
I don’t need to tell anyone that the lake level is low, that much is obvious. However the lake is now lower than anyone has seen it in more than 54 years judging from a picture taken back in the summer of 1961, and that seems like something worth telling people about. On April 21, 2012 the lake fell to a then-record low of -62.53″ but as of the other day, the lake level had fallen even lower than that, to -62.64″ below the top of the dam, where it sits now. I went over to the State boat launch with my camera to take yet another picture of how useless it is and found the water level had fallen off the end of the ramp. Continue reading
Last week I noticed some large and extensive mats of a green pond weed over by my shoreline in about 2′-3′ of water, thick enough to foul my trolling motor and bring my boat to a halt. I collected a sample and identified it as Elodea or American water weed (or Common Pond Weed). I was therefore not particularly surprised when Thomas Gillette showed up at my house yesterday with a shopping bag full of this plant, concerned that Clary Lake might have an invasive plant infestation underway. Thomas told me that Butch Duncan had brought it to him, saying that there were thick mats of it over in the cove on the north side of the lake by Duncan Road.
I reassured Thomas that this was not an invasive species. We’ve had this plant growing in Clary Lake forever but it’s always remained under control. You’d see a few pieces of it wash ashore from time to time or you might see patches of it up in the channel. Recently however, conditions around the lake have become quite conducive to this plant’s rapid growth in areas where it was not found before. Elodea is not a recognized invasive plant species but under the right conditions it can and does become a nuisance, clogging shallow water areas with thick mats of vegetation. Elodea likes nutrient-rich water down to several meters (5′-7′) in depth, plenty of sunlight, water temperatures between 10° C and 25° C and a soft, silty or muddy bottom where it’s thin wiry roots can get a good foot hold. You won’t find Elodea on a rocky or gravel bottom. With the water level down 5′ and 50% of the volume of the lake gone, conditions around Clary Lake are near perfect for this plant’s growth to explode: the reduced lake volume increases the concentration of nutrients in the water and the lowered lake level allows sunlight to reach down to silty/muddy areas that would normally be under 7′ to 10′ of water where Elodea wouldn’t normally be found, or be able to survive. Now our shallow water areas are a perfect habitat for Elodea.
I’ve archived the June 2015 water level chart. The lake level remained in a fairly tight range for the whole month, fluctuating only ± 3.7″ and ending up the month a little off its lows at -57.36″ below the top of the dam. It fell to 62″ below the top of the dam on June 20th, only the second time in 4 years it has gotten that low. In comparison, during the month of May the lake level fell precipitously at over 1″ per day, for the entire month. Despite the above average amount of rain we received in June (5.46″ compared to an average of 0nly 3.54″) the lake level remained largely unaffected because so much of the precipitation soaked into the ground rather than running off into the lake. As a result, the runoff multiplier was closer to 1X to 1.5X rather than the normal 4X multiplier. May’s rainfall total was so far below average (only 0.60″ compared to an average of 3.7″) that even with all the rain we received in June, we’re still several inches below normal.
The state boat launch remains largely unusable except for carry-in traffic and small boats if you’re able to manhandle them on and off their trailers and are willing to drag them across the rocks and shallows to get to and from deeper water; not many people are. I’ve seen a number of vehicles pull into the launch area with boats on trailers only to leave after seeing exposed rocks off the end of the ramp. Can’t blame them. As a result, boat traffic on Clary Lake this summer is noticeably below normal. Anyone who does manage to get their boat launched has to contend with shallow water and rocks where you least expect them. Only a few of the hazards are marked, leaving vast areas too shallow for safe boating to surprise the unfamiliar boater.
There is ample evidence around the lake of the impact of the ongoing severely low lake levels besides an unusable boat launch, and rocks sticking out of the water. As a result of fluctuating water levels, the loons that call Clary Lake home have not even bothered to try nesting this year, or last. Their last successful nesting attempt was back in 2008. Even more damaging to the ecosystem is the loss of 350+ acres of sensitive, high-value wetlands and the shallow-water littoral zone around the edge of the lake so important for lake health and for bird, fish, and animal habitat. Gone.
The lake has fallen to 61″ below the top of the dam, a level we’ve seen only 3 other times in the last 4 years. As I was updating the water level chart this afternoon I noted that the level had reached the elevation of the end of the boat launch and so I decided to go over and take a picture. Even though I knew what I was going to find because I’ve seen it before, it was still surprising, and sad, seeing the ramp fully exposed like this. It was a beautiful day on Clary Lake with loads of sun and a light breeze, but there was nobody at the launch, no kids swimming, and no parked boat trailers. This was not surprising. The water level had indeed fallen to the end of the ramp; that condition and the exposed rocks beyond the end of it would no doubt discourage anyone from even trying to launch a boat here, or go swimming for that matter. The launch was designed to have a minimum of 2.3′ of water over the foot of the ramp and believe me, you need all of that to launch a boat. I’ve seen people struggle to get their boats on and off trailers when there wasn’t enough water to float them off, and I’ve done it myself. I’ve seen people pull in, survey the situation, and leave without attempting to launch their boat. And then I’ve see this.
I was talking this morning with someone at the store and the age-old question of how low can the lake fall came up. The lake level is currently at -61″ and falling about 1/4″ per day; Without rain, I think it can fall another couple of inches. You can’t get a kayak or canoe into the channel now, if you can even find it. So the lake is about bottomed out. I wrote about this back on 03 October 2014.
Here’s my Letter to the Editor which appeared in this week’s Lincoln County News. It is pretty much the same as what I already posted except this of course has been published:
Mr. Kelley is going to have to start coming to terms with the reality of his situation. From what I’ve heard lately, it doesn’t appear he’s begun that process.