UNITY — Two conservation groups will hold a public meeting Thursday, Oct. 27, to discuss water quality restoration efforts with residents living in the Unity Pond watershed and people who use the lake.

The meeting will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Community Center, 32 School St., and distributed online via Zoom.

Representatives of Friends of Lake Winnecook and the Waldo County Soil & Water Conservation District will brief watershed residents living in Troy, Unity, Burnham and Thorndike, lake users, and all interested parties about the ongoing issue of summer algal blooms and current efforts to restore water quality in Unity Pond. The lake association and its partners are in the process of completing a two-year study to update the Unity Pond Watershed-Based Management Plan. The last watershed plan was completed in 2007 and expired in 2017.

Attendees will hear from project scientists, including Jennifer Jespersen of Ecological Instincts and Dr. Ken Wagner of Water Resource Services, about the current state of water quality and management strategies for improving the water quality of Unity Pond over the next 10 years.

The meeting will include a Q&A session to allow the public time to ask questions about the plan. Public feedback is needed to help inform the plan and to successfully carry out restoration efforts. Interested stakeholders are encouraged to preregister to attend the meeting by emailing friendsoflakewinnecook1@gmail.com, or visiting the Friends’ website or Facebook page for a direct link to register for the online webinar and to preview a draft of the 10-year action plan.

Unity Pond is a 2,569-acre lake with a 30-square mile watershed located in the towns of Unity, Troy, Burnham and Thorndike. Unity Pond’s outlet, Sandy Stream, flows into Twenty-five Mile Stream which flows into the Sebasticook River in Burnham and then into the Kennebec River in Winslow.

Unity Pond is on Maine DEP’s 303(d) list of impaired waters that have shown changes in water quality over time, and specifically because of persistent, nuisance summer-time algal blooms that occur almost annually. Water quality data collected in Unity Pond since 1977 indicates a decrease in water clarity starting in the middle to late 1980s that persisted into the 1990s before leveling off.

In 2021, Friends of Lake Winnecook led a watershed survey which identified 109 sites where pollution (primarily soil erosion) is entering the pond. The updated management plan is the next step in the process to allow local conservation partners to access state and federal grants to improve water quality.

In addition to FOLW, the project steering committee and technical advisory committees include representatives from the Waldo County Soil & Water Conservation District, USDA/Natural Resource Conservation Services, the towns of Unity and Burnham, Center for Wildlife Studies, Maine DEP, Ecological Instincts, and Water Resource Services.

Funding for this project, in part, was provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Section 604(b) of the Clean Water Act. The funding is administered by Maine DEP in partnership with the EPA.

The public’s participation will help experts protect this resource through the sharing of knowledge and by helping to shape the plan.