Ambitious Lakes Initiative Shaping Up


Peter Lowell, the long-time leader of the Lakes Environmental Association, is leading an ambitious project to expand our protection of Maine waters. I attended one of their meetings and was impressed with the participants and discussion. During that meeting, which focused mostly on invasive plants, I raised the issue of invasive fish, and asked the group to consider making this a part of their new initiative.

Peter recently sent me the latest project report and I am going to share it with you. As you’ll see, this is an ambitious initiative, although it does not address problems with invasive fish. I am helping them line up candidates for governor for an event this fall.

Peter’s Report

After an initial planning session, four regional roundtables, and an evaluation workshop, LEA retained Carol Kelly to help assimilate our joint work into an action plan for advancing lake policy in Maine. I have attached her plan to share with a few of the key people and organizations who participated.

The plan is a mix of state, regional, and local action steps that we should discuss in depth at a Lake Leaders meeting in late summer or early fall. But, our more immediate need is to insert lake issues into the gubernatorial race. We are hoping to organize a forum for all candidates in September atU Maine Lewiston-Auburn, because of its central location. If any of you have a point of contact/influence with Moody or Mills, please let me know as soon as possible.

Thanks for your time and dedication to this initiative.

Lakes Environmental Association: Lakes Policy Collaborative

Planning Retreat Notes

June 26, 2018


  • Alyson Smith, Lakes Environmental Association
  • Colin Holme, Lakes Environmental Association
  • Dennis Brown, Highland Lake Association
  • Eliza Donoghue, Maine Audubon
  • Lidie Robbins, 30 Mile River Watershed Association
  • Nick Bennett (by phone), Natural Resources Council of Maine
  • Peter Lowell, Lakes Environmental Association

Foundational Agreements

  • Group process

o   “Lake Leaders” + Maine Audubon + Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) is the decision-making body for this collaborative work

  • Lake Leaders is composed of all lake association plus Maine Lakes Society
  • A standing agenda item will be added to Lake Leaders’ biannual meetings to
  • create space for ongoing and regular planning, assessment, and refinement of this collaborative plan
  • will include/invite Maine Audubon and NRCM for this portion of the agenda

o   Decision-making system: consensus or modified consensus (consensus minus one), if necessary

o   Prioritization

  • Consider ease and impact when setting priorities
  • Tiers
  • Tier One: the easiest and most impactful – these priorities are planned proactively
  • Tier Two: these are planned for proactively, but strategies may not be implemented until resources become available or circumstances create strategic opportunities
  • Tier Three: these are only planned for and undertaken when resources or circumstances change significantly
  • Don’t forget about work previously started but not completed (or done well)


o   Goals and objectives = what do we want to accomplish, generally and specifically

o   Strategies and actions = how will we achieve our goals and objectives, generally and specifically

o   Planning timeframes

  • Short-term = 2 years
  • Medium-term = 4 years
  • Longer-term = 5+ years
  • Core functions

o   Identify and promote shared policy objectives

o   Strategic (campaign) planning

o   Coordination of strategy implementation

  • Decision-making bodies we engage and how we approach/prioritize policies for each

o   Local policy – municipal and county/regional (proactive and responsive)

  • can also be a strategy to create momentum for state policy
  • can also be a “Plan B” objective if state policy change fails

o   Organizational/business policy (proactive and responsive)

o   State policy – legislative and rule-making (proactive and responsive)

o   Federal policy (monitoring and responsive only)

Policy Priorities, by decision-making bodies

  • Shoreland Zoning

o   Town Select Boards and City Councils

  • Provide the menu of Lakes Environmental Association shoreland zoning upgrades as options for individual towns
  • Adopt the Town of Naples milfoil ordinance

o   Local lake associations (provide guidance)

  • Obtain and inventory shoreline photos

o   Maine Legislature

  • Lighten the burden on Code Enforcement Officers (CEOs). (This may need to revert to a municipal policy priority.)
  • building dimensions computed by engineers
  • tree cutting marked by foresters
  • third parties for development review, construction oversight, and long-term maintenance
  • pre and post permit photos

 Staffing & Infrastructure

o   Town Select Boards and City Councils

  • Provide more and diverse training opportunities for CEOs and Planning Boards

o   Maine Legislature

  • Re-establish the State Planning Office
  • Provide more staff resources to DEP to reduce caseloads
  • Provide more staff resources to DEP to adequately carry out their mission and provide core functions/services
  • Provide more and diverse training opportunities for DEP staff, CEOs, and Planning Boards

 Effective Protections

o   Maine Legislature (Some of these may need to revert to a municipal policy priority.)

  • Require pre- and post-permit/construction photos
  • Provide better protection for tributaries
  • Increase the milfoil sticker fee
  • Adopt the Town of Naples milfoil ordinance statewide
  • Enforce home rental occupancy to septic system capacity
  • Treat lake watersheds with the same respect that coastal watersheds receive, including requiring septic inspection at time of sale

o   DEP/Maine Legislature rule-making

  • Eliminate sliding scale for phosphorous compensation fees
  • Encourage simpler, lower maintenance BMPs (Best Management Practices)
  • Revise/overhaul processes that are not functioning as intended or based on valid science


o   Re-introduce water bond (LD 178) or an improved version


o   University of Maine (may include asking Maine Legislature to allocate funding and/or assign project to a quasi-governmental group)

  • Study lakes’ contribution to state and local economies
  • Study the economic benefits of open space


  • Promotion

o   Maine Lakes Society

  • Expand LakeSmart and create a unified public education message

o   Maine Legislature

  • Fund the promotion of LakeSmart and other public education messages


  • Infrastructure – groups and people to help us

o   Maine Lakes Society very engaged

o   Lakes Leaders/Associations + regional hubs + local networks of people who care

  • We don’t have many hubs or networks north of Waterville/Bangor
  • We could overlay what we have onto legislative districts and assess strategic needs/gaps

o   Ad hoc allies and volunteers

Overarching legislative strategy

  • Omnibus vs. individual bills

o   We always want to ask for more than we expect to get

o   One of the keys to successfully passing bills is being able to tell the best stories, but sometimes these get lost in an omnibus

  • We need to capture the most attention
  • One option is to cluster/group items that naturally fit, but not include everything (“minibuses”)
  • IMPORTANT NOTE: legislative action requires a turnout of 30 people or more to a public hearing

 Specific strategy ideas

  • Grassroots/Grasstops

o   Real estate professionals

o   Road associations, including Maine Alliance of Road Associations (educate about links to lakes)

o   Sporting camp owners

o   Sportsman’s Alliance

o   Maine Guides

o   Summer camp owners

o   Chambers of Commerce

o   Town Select Boards and City Councils (including local resolves re: lakes at risk of development)

o   Maine Municipal Association

  • Messages/Messengers & Media

o   Brand the campaign (e.g. “rubber” [non-toxic] loons)

o   “Aging infrastructure” – tied to use of public resource

o   Economic, tourism, property values

o   Promote lakes most at risk of development

o   Linkages to seacoast (loons)

o   Messengers

  • Convert/recruit grasstops as spokespeople
  • Certified contractors
  • Real estate professionals
  • Business leaders
  • Local elected officials
  • Decision-maker education

o   Spend more time with both sides of the aisle

o   Questions for candidates (forums, doors, etc.)

o   Hubs invite candidates and municipal officials to forums and field trips (e.g. Songo River Queen)

o   Collaborate with other statewide conservation groups to host candidate forums, or plug in to forums already being planned

  • Research

o   Make sure we have an overarching story plus problem/solution statements for each element

  • Funding

o   Possible funders to offset staff and other costs

  • Onion Foundation
  • Environmental Funders Network
  • Individuals
  • Sandy Buck

o   What can partners contribute?

  • Funding
  • In-kind (e.g. time, postage, materials, toolkits)
  • Management

o   Document plan with a budget

o   Task master – person keeping effort underway

Next Steps

  • Finalize our legislative strategy (omnibus vs. minibuses vs. single bills)
  • Prioritize all other strategies/actions, considering ease and impact
  • Overlay our lake associations, local networks, and other infrastructure assets onto legislative districts and assess strategic needs/gaps
  • Develop a plan and budget outline, including in-kind resources
  • Develop an overview of our recommendations for funders, candidates, grasstops/roots, and reporters
  • Explore funders’ interests
  • Create and disseminate checklist to inventory partner capacities (communications, research, grasstops/roots) and relationships with decision-makers and opinion leaders



George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.