August 02, 2020

Task force slates public hearings on lakes, ponds > Access, water quality among topics

A task force studying public use of Maine lakes and ponds wants to hear suggestions on how to preserve access, protect water quality and resolve conflicts among users.

The Great Pond Task Force will hold public hearings at three locations in northern Maine: today at the Community House in Greenville; Wednesday, Sept. 11, in Room 101 of Neville Hall, University of Maine, Orono; and Thursday, Sept. 12, in Room 105 of Folsom Hall, University of Maine at Presque Isle.

The 22-member task force was established by the Legislature last year to develop a strategy for managing Maine’s 2,787 great ponds, which are defined as natural lakes larger than 10 acres or dammed water bodies larger than 30 acres.

Boating, swimming, fishing and hunting draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to the ponds. Conflicts are inevitable.

In its preliminary recommendations, the task force suggests a number of controversial ways to limit the problems, including:

Restrictions on watercraft types and horsepower for a number of medium-sized and large lakes.

Limiting motors to 10 horsepower on ponds of less than 200 acres.

Prohibiting the operation of jet skis and other “personal watercraft” on great ponds in the unorganized townships.

Expanding the water safety zone (headway speed limit) around ponds to 300 feet for the operators of personal watercraft, and banning “wake jumping” with such crafts.

Establishing a maximum sound level for motorized watercraft.

Mandating water safety education for children ages 12 to 16 who operate watercraft with more than 10 horsepower. Children younger than 16 would not be allowed to operate personal watercraft.

Creating a program to control pollution on great ponds.

Increasing registration fees for watercraft, and boosting fines for violations of Maine law by boaters.

“The 35 preliminary recommendations represent consensus among a wide diversity of citizens who have devoted a considerable amount of time to solving problems facing Maine’s great ponds,” said Evan Richert, chairman of the task force and director of the State Planning Office.

The group will review public comments on its recommendations before sending a final report to Gov. Angus King and the Legislature by January 1997.

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