Monday, December 11, 2017

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Camp Roads Impact On Water Quality



Pollution from storm-water runoff and soil erosion is one of the most significant contributors to the decline of water quality in our lakes. Soil erosion is the single largest pollutant (by volume) to our surface waters, and up to 85% of all erosion and sedimentation problems in lake watersheds originate from improper construction and maintenance of camp roads. Proper camp road construction and maintenance is one of the biggest contributions you can make to the quality of your lake's waters.

Camp roads affect our lakes and streams by changing the natural storm-water drainage patterns. Most of these changes increase the potential for soil erosion. These changes include:

  • stripping away the protective vegetative cover
  • creating a pathway that erodes and exposes soils in the watershed
  • collecting drainage in ditches, which increases the overall volume and speed of surface water runoff

The most obvious effect of erosion is the brown color that results from suspended soil particles in the water. Less obvious is the fact that these suspended solids irritate the gills of fish, making them prone to disease. Soil particles can smother spawning and feeding grounds a well. Other effects include:

  • gradual filling and the resulting loss of desirable shoreline (due to encroaching weeds, for instance)
  • obnoxious algae blooms, which result from excess phosphorus in the suspended soil particles flushed into the lake
  • depleted levels of dissolved oxygen resulting in fewer cold-water fish (i.e. salmon and trout)
  • diminished recreational and aesthetic values of the lake due to the decline in water quality
  • decreased property values resulting from poor water quality

Although there is no single cause for all camp road problems, poor management of surface or groundwater is the most common cause. These problems include:

  • washouts
  • tire rutting
  • potholes
  • soil erosion


Many camp roads were not properly constructed and are not properly maintained or both. As a result the surface and groundwater is not properly diverted away from the road and the road is not withstanding the wear and tear of the erosion and traffic. Poor identification of the cause of a particular problem requires a careful evaluation of conditions specific to your road. If the cause is different,what works for one road, may not necessarily work for another!

This information was taken from the "Camp Road Maintenance Manual... A Guide for Landowners, which is a publication of the Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Department Of Environmental Protection Bureau of Land & Water Quality. For additional information on camp road maintenance visit http://www.maine.gov/dep/land/watershed/camp/road/gravel_road_manual.pdf for their camp road manual.  And of course, remember our LakeSmart Program.

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