Big Lake is located in Washington County, and at approximately 4,227 hectares (10,444 acres) in size, is one of the largest lakes in Maine. It supports both warm and coldwater fisheries. The waterbody feeds into the west branch of the Saint Croix River (formerly and also known as the Passamaquoddy River) after passing through Long Lake, Lewy Lake, and the Grand Falls Flowage. The Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township owns land that is located along the shores of Big Lake and is a substantial landholder in that area. In the autumn of 2019, the lake was confirmed to be infested with variable water-milfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum). Big Lake is largely littoral with an average depth of 3.66 meters (12 feet), making the surveying of all potential habitat for the invasive plant a significant undertaking. Lake Stewards of Maine is working with the Passamaquoddy Tribe, Downeast Lakes Landtrust, Big Lake Milfoil Coalition, Maine DEP, local guides, businesses and residents, and a large and growing team of LSM Invasive Plant Patrollers to complete a comprehensive (Level 3) survey of the lake this summer (2021) to determine the full extent of the Big Lake infestation.
Photo credit: Dennis Roberge
Variable water-milfoil (M. heterophyllum) is the most abundant invasive aquatic plant in Maine. It is native to parts of the US but is not native to New England. Due to its prolific growth, ability to spread quickly, outcompete native aquatic plant species, and interfere with recreation, this plant is a serious threat to Maine lakes.
The first evidence of M. heterophyllum in Big Lake was found by Brad Richard -- a local warden and camp-owner -- in late September, 2019. To read further about the findings, please see our articles here and here. If you are interested in getting involved with this effort, please contact LSM Invasive Aquatic Species Director, Roberta Hill: [email protected].
The Passamaquoddy are a group of American Indian or First Nations people located primarily in Maine and New Brunswick, Canada, and who trace their ancestry back 12,000+ years. The Passamaquoddy Tribe is represented by the Joint Tribal Council which consists of individual Tribal Councils, one from Indian Township, in Princeton, and one from the Pleasant Point Reservation (Sipayik) in Perry. The tribe is one of the native groups that constitute the Wabanaki Confederacy. The current Chief (or Sakom) of the Passamaquoddy is William J. Nicholas, Sr. The Passamaquoddy who live to the north and east of the St. Croix (Passamaquoddy) River have their own chief and council and are known as the St. Croix/Schoodic Band of Passamaquoddies.
The tribe’s name, according to Vincent Erickson in his book American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America, is said to have developed from their word Peskotomuhkat. This translates to "pollock-spearer" or "those of the place where pollock are plentiful". This connection to a fish reflects the importance of water in their culture. Listed upon their website as one of the six mission tenants is “custodianship of our environment”. In 1993, the nation initiated its Water Resources Planning and Inventory Program. Joe Musante -- a biologist with the Passamaquoddy Environmental Department, LSM Regional Coordinator for the Passamaquoddy tribal lands, and member of LSM’s Board of Directors -- has been working with LSM and its partners in the logistics, surveying, identification, and removal of the invading M. heterophyllum.
The Maine Loon Project has worked for more than three decades to assess the status and safeguard the future of Maine’s loon population. As part of this project, Maine Audubon works with over one thousand residents and partners statewide each year to conduct the Maine Annual Loon Count--a census of the Maine breeding loon population that has taken place on lakes and ponds throughout the state on the third Saturday of July every year for the last 37 years. And 2020 was no exception. Last year, 48 volunteer regional coordinators and 1,347 participants overcame challenges posed by the pandemic to safely survey 308 lakes and ponds across the state--sixteen more lakes than the previous year! The observations recorded by community scientist volunteers provide an annual “snapshot” of Maine’s loon population, which allows Maine Audubon to calculate an annual population estimate and track trends over time.
Click on Show More, and click on the icons, below, to find out more about the loon surveys!
To many aquatic ecologists (and indeed policy-makers) this is one of the most iconic lake photos. It is of Lake 226 in the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) of northwestern Ontario, Canada. It shows a whole-lake experiment demonstrating the influence of phosphorus on water quality. To set the stage, it was the early 1970s; there was a debate raging about the causes of noxious algal blooms and their many effects on lake ecosystems. Detergents and fertilizers were major sources of phosphorus. However, rather than phosphates, the soap industry at the time lay the blame for algal blooms on carbon and nitrogen. While laboratory experiments could readily demonstrate the influence of phosphorus, a larger-scale demonstration was needed to drive home the point to regulatory agencies. So ELA scientists placed a rubber curtain across Lake 226. To one side, they added carbon and nitrogen. To the other, they added phosphates as well as carbon and nitrogen. Within weeks, the phosphate side “exploded into teeming green soup.”
The lead scientist in this study - and much other research on boreal ecosystems - was Minnesotan native David Schindler. Schindler died last month. Read this tribute to find out much more about someone who is considered to be “among the most important and effective ecologists and environmental scientists in history...”
David Schindler (1940-2021)
The Maine DEP Lakes Assessment Section works in a strong partnership with Lake Stewards of Maine/Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program (LSM) in the collection and management of water quality data collected from Lakes throughout Maine. LSM coordinates the initial gathering and quality assurance process for more than 1,300 individuals and many lake associations that monitor individual lakes across the state.
Also included in this undertaking are a number of regional entities, including Lakes Environmental Association, Cobbossee Watershed District, Mid-Coast Conservancy, 30-Mile River Watershed, 7 Lakes Alliance, Belgrade Lakes Association, Acton Wakefield Watershed Alliance, Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Portland Water District, Auburn Water District, Acadia National Park, and Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust. Included are the sovereign nations of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township, and the Penobscot Indian Houlton Band of Maliseets.
Data have also been acquired from private consultants, such as FBE and Lake & Watershed RMA, as well as others collecting lake data as part of regulatory requirements. Additional data are acquired through the DIF&W and through cooperative projects with the University of Maine System, Bates, Colby and Unity Colleges, and County Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Field data are also collected by the Maine DEP Lakes Assessment Section under probability-based studies conducted within EPA Region I, and as part of the National Lakes Assessment Study being conducted by EPA Headquarters.
We apologize if your lake data-gathering organization has been accidentally omitted. Please let us know if that is the case. Additional types of data are also submitted to the Lakes of Maine website, including Annual Loon Count data gathered by volunteers through Maine Audubon Society, and a variety of lake and watershed information provided by The Nature Conservancy.
Click here to view current water quality conditions on a representative sample of Maine lakes during summer, or view which lakes have experienced ice-cover in the fall and ice-out in the spring.
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