By Susan Pratt
Chair of Eastman Lakes & Streams Committee
For those of us who live in Eastman, the lake is a waterbody highly prized for its clean water, abundant wildlife, year-round recreational opportunities, and its beautiful, forested setting. Many of us would not have come to call Eastman home if there was no lake or if the lake was filling in with weeds and invasive species. Not just our enjoyment of life in Eastman but our property values depend on the health of the water in our lake and the watershed feeding the lake.
Why are Eastman residents concerned about Eastman Lake?
Eastman Lake, like many New Hampshire lakes, is threatened by road salt runoff, accidental introduction of invasive species, and the increased stormwater runoff due to more extreme weather patterns associated with global warming. Members of the Lakes and Streams Committee have been working with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services for over 30 years to collect and analyze water samples from Eastman Lake.
Our lake primarily relies on water flowing in from its tributaries. The majority of the water flowing into the lake comes from a single source, the Stoney Brook, on the west side of the lake paralleling Route 10. Recent water quality testing has revealed increasing levels of chlorides (salt) and turbidity (decrease in water clarity due to particles suspended in water) in Stoney Brook as well as the lake itself. Chloride levels are directly related to the use of road salts on routes 10 and 89, and on Eastman roads and properties. Data collected from the ongoing Eastman Management Watershed Study, mandated by the state to receive funding, will support a request to the NH Department of Transportation to consider making the area on Route 89 between exits 13 and 14 a low-salt zone or provide another approach to reduce salt runoff.
Almost half of New Hampshire’s 1,000 lakes are polluted with salt, but Eastman’s levels are six times higher than the NH state median. High salt levels favor invasive species, which crowd out native plants and eventually kill fish and amphibians. Increased turbidity means that sediment is building up in Mill Pond and the lake itself, slowly filling the lake in and causing the water to become discolored. Increased turbidity also contributes to oxygen depletion and phosphorus release into the water. Higher phosphorus levels in turn can trigger algal blooms, including harmful cyanobacteria.
How can you help?
The LakeSmart program is an initiative of the New Hampshire Lakes Association (NH Lakes), which was formed in 1992 by combining the advocacy-focused New Hampshire Lakes Legislative Coalition from the Lake Sunapee Region and the education-focused New Hampshire Lakes Federation. The mission is to keep our lakes clean and healthy, now and in the future. The Eastman Community Association is a long-standing member of the NH Lakes, and our Lakes and Streams Committee has worked hand-in-hand with NH Lakes through programs such as Lake Hosts, Lake Appreciation Day, and the Youth Conservation Corps.
LakeSmart is an education, evaluation, and certification program that is free, voluntary, and non-regulatory. It includes an evaluation to determine how lake-friendly your property and activities are. The evaluation covers driveway and parking areas, pathways, structures, wastewater treatment systems, and yard and play areas. For properties along the water, shoreline and shallow areas are included. Those properties certified to be “lake smart” will receive the coveted LakeSmart Award.
What is the process to find out if your property is “lake smart”?
The first step is to take the online self-assessment survey, which takes about 30 minutes and consists mainly of true and false questions. The survey provides information on how to handle your property in a lake-friendly way.
You can then request to have an optional and confidential follow-up visit from a trained LakeSmart evaluator from Eastman, who will be a member of the Lakes and Streams or Sustainable Eastman Committees, or from the NH Lakes. This visit is free and will not take more than one hour. If you choose not to have an onsite evaluation, you submit photographs of designated areas of your property with your survey. You, of course, have the additional option of taking the survey for your own personal use to identify issues on your property that might affect lake water quality. The survey is available on the NH Lakes website nhlakes.org listed under programs and LakeSmart. Also on the website is the LakeSmart book, a free, comprehensive guide to clean and healthy lakes, which includes lake basics, landscaping, boating, and recreation.
Would you like to volunteer?
We are looking for volunteer homeowners to participate in our inaugural program this summer. Initially, we hope to recruit some lakefront properties, as they have the greater potential to affect the lake. However, every property in the watershed has an impact on the lake’s water quality, so to be effective the survey needs to include a wide range of properties over the next few years. We already have some residents anxious to look at issues on their property. Educated and proactive residents can be an enormous force in protecting the quality of water in Eastman Lake.
On May 20, The Center Presents will be about the LakeSmart program and will be presented by Andrea LaMoreaux, vice president of NH Lakes, and hosted by the Lakes and Streams and Sustainable Eastman Committees. Remember, The Center Presents programs are now held at 7 p.m.
Susan Pratt is a retired educator who has had a home in Eastman since 1986. A longtime member of the Lakes and Streams Committee, she is a conservation advocate and, in addition to volunteering at Eastman, volunteers at the Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Historical Park, the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, and as an environmental educator for school field trips and Eastman’s Summer Youth Programs.