Vassalboro Conservation Commission minutes January 11th 6:30 pm Town office

Present: Steve Jones, John Reuthe, Peggy Horner (on Zoom), Holly Weidner (chair), Amy Davidoff (Solid Waste Sustainability Committee -SWSC)

Old Business:

1) December meeting minutes: these were reviewed and approved via email in December and submitted to Town Manager for filing
2) PFAS: Peggy reported that Chris Bagley, from Haley Ward Company, contracted by Maine Department of Environmental Protection-DEP , said that they had finished testing soil in Vassalboro for PFAS and there were only “a few home owners that never responded… after 3 attempts. … of the PFAS data received, everything has been below current regulatory thresholds.”
Results will appear on the website as soon as they have been confirmed and landowners notified of results.
Also DEP needs one landowner to sign a form saying that they decline to have their land tested for PFAS.
Action: Holly will alert landowner. Also will update town manager and select board. VCC will continue to watch for any updates from the state.
3) Webber pond water quality and dam: John (as chair of Webber Pond Association-WPA ) reported that the pond is clear of algae as of this week after repeated flushing. The DEP recommends winter levels be set at 12-18 inches below the spill way. (See previous update in December minutes); There have been discussions among the WPA to have the town take over the dam, although there is not yet unity on this among members. The advantage of the town taking it over is that the town has a financial interest in the health of the lake. It gains an average of $20,000/year from sale of alewives. Also, lake front property values are higher than the rest of the town and any drop in lake water quality causes a devaluation of lake front property with a loss in tax revenue. There was a request made by the WPA last fall to the town to help with water quality monitoring equipment that would allow more proactive response to change in water quality and prevent another algae bloom like last summer. There is also some ambiguity as to who owns the fish ladder but it needs to be enlarged given the number of alewives coming through it. Lastly, some lake front property owners on Three Mile Pond (in the China side of the lake) created much damage by moving soil, rocks along the shore and putting in sand. As the WPA pres. , John will have a meeting with town officials to discuss issues on water quality and alewife preservation. Holly will plan to attend as chair of VCC.
Action: John will be taking the new town manager, Aaron Miller, for a tour of the dam tomorrow and update him on issues as above. John and Holly will meet with select board to discuss issues surrounding Webber Pond.
4) Lakes water quality review: China Regional Lake Alliance-CRLA funding review (Not to be confused with the China Lake Association) is the organization who was hired in 2022 to administer water quality preservation programs for the lakes within Vassalboro. Attached is the VCC mid-year review of those programs The town gave the CRLA $11,500 to work on 4 new projects mostly on Webber Pond and to continue doing Courtesy Boat Inspections on all 3 lakes in Vassalboro. VCC helped identify 2 volunteers who were trained by CRLA to do Lake Smart assessments. This was completed by end of August.
Action: See the attached draft interim report to the Select board.

5) Eagle Park. Last month the VCC discussed possibly applying to the Canopy Assistance Grant for permanent plantings at Eagle Park.
Action: Steve will attend the required application workshop and see what types of plantings are allowed and how soon we need to spend the money if accepted.
Work that is planned for the park still to be done from the $20K from the 2022-23 budget includes putting in the parking lot ( the public works department has it stacked out and will work on it as soon as weather and time permit) , a gravel walk way down to the high water mark, 2 picnic tables for close to the high water mark and a pavilion ( the select board had recommended that we wait to implement this until we see what use and location might be desirable) . Most likely this will mean that we won’t be able to spend the $20K before the July1, deadline. Holly brought this to the attention of the town manager.
Action: he will check with the town lawyer to see if we need to resubmit this or how it can be carried over to 2023-24 budget year.
6) Solid Waste Sustainability Committee SWSC (Amy) update. The Municipal Review Committee -MRC is hoping to finalize their contract with Revere capital investment on the sale of the Hampden waste facility. The SWSC is still on hold as an official committee of the town awaiting the interest of the current town manager. There are 3 people currently who have been interested in serving and most have an interest in developing improved recycling in town. There was a discussion about the possibilities of increased recycling in working with China or other towns.
Action: Holly will discuss this with the new Town manager

New Business

1) Solar Ordinance draft from Planning Committee: The VCC discussed the issues presented in the draft. Two VCC members submitted opinions via email. We agree that the ordinance must address any environmental issues regarding end-of –use panels that aren’t addressed by the state ordinances. The draft ordinance appears to do this. The planning board is meeting for public input on their draft on 1/17 6:30pm.
Action: Holly will attend and present the VCC position.
2) Meeting with Town manager Aaron: purpose is to update him on the issues that VCC has been working on.
Action: Holly will meet with him this week.
3) 2023-24 Budget ( We still have about $389 from this year that we can spend on renewing our MCCA annual dues and assisting in Lake Smart projects)
Action: submit $500 for 2023-24 budget year to be able to assist in water quality projects and our annual MCCA dues.
4) Write up the annual summary:
Action: Holly will write up a draft and send around for comments.

Next meeting February 8th 6:30 at Town office

Respectfully submitted, Holly Weidner, chair