Conservation Collaborative Announces New Hires to Advance Water Protection in Sebago Lake Region

Portland, ME  Sebago Clean Waters, a new collaborative aiming to conserve forestland that will protect drinking water supply for the Greater Portland area and provide myriad benefits throughout the Sebago Lake watershed, has filled two positions to coordinate the partnership and manage development of a watershed investment fund. Karen Young and Marcy Lyman, two longtime conservationists with backgrounds in community-based water and forest conservation throughout New England, have joined the Sebago Clean Waters team as consultants.

 
 

Young coordinated the successful Mt. Agamenticus to the Sea Conservation Initiative, a regional conservation partnership in southernmost Maine, for the last six years and has served as a Foundation Officer at the Maine Community Foundation for many years. Through her earlier work as Director of the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, she developed a strong foundation in collaborative, watershed- and community-based conservation. She will serve as the Sebago Clean Waters Coordinator, focused on coordinating the partnership, supporting fundraising efforts, facilitating information exchange between partners and the broader community, and supporting land trust partners in community engagement, landowner outreach, and SCW events.

Lyman has been a key leader in the community forest movement in New England along with numerous other creative conservation initiatives, and she served as Vice- Chair of the NH Water Sustainability Commission. As a Bullard Fellow at Harvard Forest, Lyman conducted a feasibility study of a natural infrastructure investment program to compensate forestland owners for conserving and managing forestland for water quality, and helped to identify watersheds that would benefit from this approach.  Lyman’s primary role as Water Fund Developer will be to coordinate and lead a multi-year work plan to design, develop and launch a water fund with a diverse group of business, conservation, and community leaders.

Sebago Clean Waters seeks to protect water quality, community well-being, and the health of fish and wildlife in the Sebago watershed through voluntary forestland protection. Abundant forests and cold-water lakes and streams in the watershed provide a wide range of benefits to Mainers and visitors alike. Sebago Lake is one of only 50 public water supplies in the U.S. that is so pure it requires no artificial filtration. The region’s forests filter the water to produce clean drinking water for 200,000+ users in the Greater Portland area, support local wood products businesses, and offer wide-ranging recreational opportunities like swimming, hiking and fishing. Much of the forest is privately owned and experiencing creeping development pressure. With only 10% of the 282,000-acre region conserved, the U.S. Forest Service identified the Sebago watershed as one of the most vulnerable watersheds in the Northeast for drinking water quality decline.

“Sebago Lake is an ideal water supply in so many ways – enormous, cold, deep, and very clean because of the forested land around it and the ways people have managed and are managing that land. Sebago Clean Waters will help us keep it that way,” said Paul Hunt, environmental manager for the Portland Water District. “Both Lyman and Young will help Sebago Clean Waters fulfill that mission with new capacity in community outreach, connecting landowners with opportunities to protect their land and connecting large water users such as breweries, hospitals and other businesses with opportunities to invest in their future.”

With major support from the Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant Program—a collaborative between the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service—Sebago Clean Waters is now able to take these critical steps forward in community outreach and move toward creation of a “water fund” so businesses, consumers, and others can support private landowners who are interested in conserving their land. The partnership includes the Loon Echo Land Trust, Western Foothills Land Trust, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Portland Water District, Open Space Institute, The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, and the Highstead Foundation.


Sebago Clean Waters Receives Boost to Protect Forests and Water

Posted May 3, 2018

Portland, ME: Clean drinking water and forest conservation in the Sebago Lake watershed received a boost with a $350,000 grant from the Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant Program to help launch a partnership effort to conserve land that feeds and filters Maine’s largest drinking water supply, provides recreational opportunities, supports local economies, and conserves fish and wildlife habitat and working lands.  The partnership, Sebago Clean Waters, includes the Loon Echo Land Trust, Western Foothills Land Trust, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Portland Water District, Open Space Institute, The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, and the Highstead Foundation.

Sebago Lake provides drinking water to 200,000+ users in the Greater Portland area. The region’s forests filter water to produce clean drinking water, support local wood products businesses, and offer wide-ranging recreational opportunities like swimming, hiking and fishing. Much of the forest is privately owned and experiencing creeping development pressure. Abundant forests and cold-water lakes and streams in the Sebago Lake watershed provide myriad benefits to Mainers and visitors alike. With only 10% of the 282,000-acre region conserved, the U.S. Forest Service identified the Sebago watershed as the most vulnerable watershed in the Northeast for drinking water.

“Naturally clean water flows downhill from the forested watershed to customers’ taps,” said Paul Hunt, environmental manager for the Portland Water District. “We want to create a way for downstream water users to contribute to the conservation of those critical upstream forests.”  The primary goal of the Sebago Clean Waters initiative is to create a “water fund” so businesses, consumers, and others can help private landowners who are interested in conserving their land. 

The grant funds will enable Sebago Clean Waters to hire a coordinator to engage with communities on their conservation priorities, launch a water fund that will enable downstream water users to invest in upstream land conservation, and work with land trusts to identify landowners interested in conservation.

Currently, water quality in Sebago Lake is so high that the Portland Water District is exempted from federal filtration requirements. Large water users in the Greater Portland area, such as breweries, hospitals, and manufacturing facilities, all benefit from Sebago Lake’s clean water. The filtering action of the forest minimizes chemical use and reduces filtration costs as well as water user fees.

The grant will be matched by over $1.2 million in cash and in-kind contributions from partners and will be administered by Highstead, a regional conservation organization dedicated to conserving the forested landscape of New England.  

The Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant Program focuses on expanding the pace of proactive watershed protection in the U.S. through conservation and improving stewardship of hundreds of thousands of acres of lands that provide drinking water, flood risk reduction, and an array of economic and environmental benefits. The US Environmental Protection Agency co-funds the program with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U. S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, which manages the partnership.


Maine Coast Heritage Trust Honors Portland Water District with 2018 Espy Land Heritage Award

Sebago Clean Waters partners applaud the Portland Water District for being named the recipient of the 2018 Espy Land Heritage Award by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.  The Espy Award recognizes an individual, organization, agency or coalition for making outstanding contributions to land conservation while inspiring others.  Environmental services manager Paul Hunt and water resource specialist Laurel Jackson accepted the award on behalf of the Portland Water District.

The Portland Water District engages local land trusts, residents, and municipal officials from towns within the Sebago Lake watershed to protect their water resources through forestland conservation.  In addition to the upper watershed towns benefiting from conserved lands, eleven communities in the Greater Portland region benefit from the clean drinking water that Sebago Lake provides – the protective buffer maintains high water quality without requiring costly chemical filtration.  PWD’s emphasis on community outreach – and particular interest in listening to their constituents needs and concerns throughout the watershed – has led to an innovative  education program and partnerships that recognize the many benefits of conserved lands to their customers and all who live in and visit the watershed. 

With the award comes a $5000 donation to the conservation organization of the recipient’s choice; PWD selected Loon Echo Land Trust and Western Foothills Land Trust to share this donation to advance land protection in the Sebago watershed.

Read the MaineBiz story here.


Allagash Brewery Supports Sebago Clean Waters

Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, Maine, understands the importance of clean water to making their award-winning beer. For their first monthly tasting room charity event, they donated all proceeds from beer flights and pours on Black Friday to support Sebago Clean Waters' efforts to protect forest land in the Sebago watershed.. Forests filter water, and Sebago Lake is one of the cleanest water supplies in the nation.  Did you know Allagash beer is made up of 80% Sebago Lake water?! On a recent trip to meet up with the Portland Water District water quality monitoring team,  Allagash staff went out on the lake to learn more about their source water - read about it here on their blog:: The Lake that Makes Allagash.

You can view photos from the event in the Gallery below: