A little rain will make big difference

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

fIre daNGer has been quite high throughout the Lake region this spring. This recent woods fire in Lovell, of unde- termined origin, was spotted by alert neighbors in Sweden and suppressed by local fire crews before it had burned more than an acre. anticipated rains in the next week should help to damp down the danger. Get a permit before you burn. (Laura Chadbourne Photo)

NAPLES — Dan Craffey, owner of Moose Landing Marina, joked that the dry weather has netted him a new client.

“Noah is storing his ark here until the rain starts,” he said.

After a winter with little snowfall and a void of spring rain, the water levels in Maine’s rivers and lakes are visibly lower than normal. That is clear to anyone who has been near a body of water recently.

Despite the rain that entered the forecast last week, those sporadic sprinklings did not raise the water levels. In addition, this week’s humidity-free and gusty conditions have contributed to the current dry spell.

However, it won’t take much rain to turn that trend around, according to both the locals who work and live around the lakes and the officials from the National Weather Service (NWS) stationed in Gray.

“We are down about three feet right now,” Naples businessman Craffey said referring to Brandy Pond. He said the Songo River appears to be running lower, too.

“All it takes is a one-to two-inch rainfall, and the lake levels will be back up. An inch or two of rain can bring it up by a foot,” he said. “Am I concerned? Maybe a little, but not really. As soon as we get our first great rainstorm we will be coming into order.”

According to NWS Meteorologist Chris Kimble, there is a chance that “a more persistent rain” will grace the region in the latter part of the weekend. This week “the best rain chances are farther to the north of Bridgton at this time. It doesn’t look like it is going to be a heavy rain,” he said.

“But, later in the weekend or early next week, if we get a long period of rain, we’ll see it come down the rivers,” Kimble said.

According to Meteorologist Cempa, the rainfall for the months of February and March is about 500% lower than normal precipitation amounts.

The NWS considers December through January to be the “winter months,” he said. This winter the total precipitation was measured at 9.27 inches, while the normal snowfall is 10.65 inches, he said.

Getting to nine inches was a balancing act for Mother Nature this winter.

“In December, we were pretty close. January was above normal by about an inch. February we were below normal,” he said.

For February the rain/snowfall total was 1.7 inches; and the normal is 3.25 inches. During March, the area received 2.05 inches of rain; and the normal is recorded at 4.24 inches.

“So, if you look at February and March combined (the Lake Region is) pretty dry,” Cempa said.

The rainy days during the second week of April did not add up with less than three-quarters inch of total precipitation, he said.

“We need a good soaking rain — a good inch of steady rain,” Cempa said.

Another NWS employee, who monitors the rivers in southern New Hampshire, confirmed that levels are down there, he said. That applies to rivers, streams and lakes in Maine, he said.

“The rivers are running fairly low. Right now, they should be fairly high, and they are running low,” Cempa said.

According to Lakes Environmental Association (LEA) Executive Director Peter Lowell, the lower rivers mean less sediment is being washed away or washed into the lakes. But, while water quality has benefited from low levels, the conditions might also allow invasive plants to spread.

“There is less shoreline for milfoil to grow, which means it might go into deeper water. It definitely could go into deeper water,” he said. “With a foot or two of less water, the light would penetrate deeper,” allowing the sun-loving milfoil to grow in areas it had not previously thrived.

“It is unusual. April and November around here are usually the big rain months. For the past two years, that hasn’t been the case. We have virtually no rain in April so that is not good. Maybe, May is the rainy month now,” he said.

The preferred rain occurrence would be a “less concentrated” one, he said.

“You have the boating interests that are impacted. You have the water quality that benefits because of less runoff,” Lowell said. “Ideally, we will all get some rain in spread out patterns soon.”

According to Scott Davis, a field biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, rumors of good fishing might be true, but the low water levels won’t be beneficial for the next generation of fish.

“Yes, the fish are biting because they have a smaller space to swim in,” Davis said.

On the other hand, the exposed shorelines have put fish eggs in jeopardy and may result in a higher mortality rate for some species, he said.

Dan Allen, owner of Causeway Marina, said April’s low water levels have put a damper on productivity at his business. But, he agreed those water levels could change quickly.

With Memorial Day as a target day to get recreational boats into the water, a consistent rain is likely to do the trick between now and then.

“I am not letting any customers use their boats just yet,” Allen said. “Some people are early boaters; and they have been having a hard time finding good spots to launch their boats. I saw a 30-footer the other day in Sebago; and it was pretty low.”

Obviously, Allen hasn’t been standing on the shore watching everyone else struggle with the low water levels. He has had to work around the conditions as well.

“How does this affect me? It slows me up. I just put my docks in, and I’m unable to put in the big boats. I cannot get things out of my way,” he said. “And, that slows the process down because of what we cannot do because of the water.”

Despite minor frustration, Allen won’t be turning to divine intervention for help.

“I prayed for rain last year ’cause we were in kind of the same situation. After I prayed, it started raining, and it didn’t seem to stop until after the Fourth of July,” he said. “So, I am not praying for rain this year.”

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