To the Editor:
The Lincoln County News has been reporting on the conflict between Clary Lake and its association and the owners of the dam, Pleasant Pond Mill LLC and Aquafortis Assoc. LLC, pertaining to the water level in Clary Lake.
The meeting held at the Jefferson Fire Station on Aug. 17, 2012 with DEP and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife was well attended, with the primary focus on the lake level. I personally took elevations of the drop in water level at the fisherman’s landing and concur with others, the lake has dropped 5 to 5.5 feet at one time.
Almost all five hours of hearing concerned Clary Lake. Very little attention was directed to the marsh, which flows westerly from Clary Lake to the dam in question and ultimately into the Sheepscot River.
My expertise, if you wish to call it that, is as follows: I spent eight years as a conservation officer, my primary patrol area consisted of a 5000-acre marsh. I grew up hunting and fishing backwater marshes all my life. At the Clary Lake marsh, 20 years ago, I got permission from Chet Chase to put my canoe in at the dam. After the property was sold, I obtained permission from Alton Boyington to launch my canoe from his property.
I fished and hunted the Clary Lake marsh until water draw down a couple years ago. This article is an attempt to show the public what has been lost or displaced by the drastic draw down of water from Clary Lake.
Clary Lake marsh is extensive. It covers a very large area. What follows are 20 years of personal observations.
A marsh becomes alive after ice-out and shuts down come freeze-up. My primary objective was fishing large mouth bass in warmer months and duck hunting in the fall. There is a main channel that runs from Clary Lake through the marsh to the dam. It varies in width from 5 to 20 feet with an average depth of 5 to 6 feet with some holes as deep as 12 feet. This, of course, was before draw down at the dam.
The fish and wildlife that were affected is extensive. I will try not to give too much detail but it is difficult. There were six species of fish I’ve caught in the marsh and at least four species of turtles that existed, plus various frogs and snakes. Beaver, muskrats, mink and otter were regular inhabitants. Fur bearers, like raccoon, skunk, coyote, fox and many others all used the marsh as feeding grounds, along with deer and moose. Bird life is my specialty and I have saved it for last. Waterfowl use the marsh for resting, feeding and nesting during the spring.
At one time, as a conservation officer, I banded waterfowl. The list of waterfowl on Clary Lark Marsh is lengthy including black duck, wood duck, mallards, snow and canada geese, blue and green wing teal, all three mergansers, golden eye, pintail, buffle head and coots. Wading birds include great blue heron, bitterns, little green heron, snowy egrets, and one glossy ibis. Also, included are fresh water sandpipers, as well as hawks, owls and osprey. I haven’t even touched on the smaller species such as bats, swallows, red wings, and warblers that nest in and around the marsh.
Last but not least, a pair of nesting bald eagles. I watched for years this pair of bald eagles raise their young. They nested in a big pine at the marsh’s edge. Did you ever see a young bald eagle learn to fly? Once he has his flight wings, he does a pretty good job of staying airborne but coming in for a landing, is more like a crash landing and I cringed every time I watched. I was under the impression nothing could be disturbed within a certain distance from an active eagle nest. Guess I was wrong.
In my many years on the marsh, for it to be restored back to a healthy existence, it would need 24 to 30 inches of water over the top of the existing marsh.
Not mentioned at the Aug. 17 hearing, there are three additional marshes that flow into this drainage. One flows into the east end of Clary Lake at Route 215, the other two flow into the marsh, one from Route 126 and the other from the Sennot Road. In my opinion these four marshes are all dead. The beaver houses have gone, the main channels have filled in with marsh grasses. The water that does flow is only temporary, from snow melt or rain fall.
I ask you, what is the price we are willing to pay for such a loss?