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Job #1, Water Quality, May 13

Dear Members, Neighbors and Lake Lovers:

The SLA has long worked to protect the quality for the waters of our beautiful lake.  Volunteer teams have, for more than 20 years, plied the waters during the summer taking samples at multiple locations.  In 2018, the core sediment analysis report noted some worrisome conclusions including steadily declining dissolved oxygen.  At several tributaries draining into the Lake, “high” to “excessive” levels of phosphorous, and “chronic” levels of chloride are regularly detected.  E. coli bacteria, which can be harmful to humans and animals at high concentrations, has reared its head from time to time.  And in 2020 and 2021 cyanobacteria appeared.  The Lake is changing.

Understanding the importance of Spofford Lake to the economic well-being of the Town, the Chesterfield Board of Selectmen (BOS) established in November 2021, a “Watershed Committee,” the purpose of which is to make recommendations to safeguard and improve the watershed of Spofford Lake.  Bayard Tracy and Dan Syvertsen, SLA President and Vice President, respectively, are two of the six members.  Other members are:  Ron Coburn, Charlie Paquette, Brad Roscoe, and BOS representative Judy Idlekope. 

One early conclusion of the Watershed Committee is that more needs to be learned about the source(s), volume, and seasonality of contaminants entering the Lake.  With the agreement of the BOS, the Watershed Committee requested the SLA Board of Directors to expand its existing Water Quality Monitoring Program (WQMP).  The BoD heartily agreed.  

To prepare for 2022 (and by the way also respond to the number one concern of members), the SLA engaged FB Environmental (FBE) to work with  the SLA’s water quality team, led by Chris Oot, a Spofford Lake resident and career environmental engineer.  Specifically, FBE was tasked with making recommendations to ensure the SLA's 2022 WQMP would provide the data needed to support the "Lake Loading Response Model" (LLRM) that FBE developed as part of the 2018 Spofford Lake Watershed Management Plan.  FBE is also tasked with updating the the LLRM with the more recent water quality data collected from 2018-2022.  The LLRM predicts the impact on the Lake of future development scenarios in the watershed, and is a powerful planning tool for the Town.   With that in mind, here's what this year's WQMP will encompass:

  • Winter:  Six stations were tested once per month, during the months of January, February and March for chloride and conductivity.  Chloride, and associated levels of conductivity, are typically attributed to the use of road salt.  Previously, tests were not conducted in the winter.
  • Spring and Fall:  For the first time, the SLA is testing the levels of total phosphorous during “turnover” i.e., when the lake water is in a mixed condition.  Turnover occurs twice a year in lakes that are “stratified” meaning there are three distinct thermal layers during most of the year.  In the Spring, shortly after ice-out, the colder water at the top of the lake sinks, and the warmer water at the bottom rises.  In the Fall, as the surface waters of the lake cool, the process repeats itself.  During these periods of turnover, the lake water is largely homogeneous, and the water quality parameters are similar at all depths. Testing for total phosphorous, in the Spring and the Fall during turnover, provides valuable information about the amount of phosphorous loading that occurs over the summer months. Spring testing for total phosphorous was conducted by NH DES on April 6, and the Fall testing will be scheduled in October once temperature measurements confirm that the lake water is mixed.   Samples are taken at three different depths across three separate locations in the deepest areas of the Lake.
  • Summer:  Testing has typically been conducted three times during the summer months.  In 2022, samples will be taken four times--May, July, August, and September.  And while tests have typically been taken in fair weather, this year one of the tests will also be taken at several stations during storm flow conditions.
  • Locations: Samples will be taken at 30 stations (compared to +/- 20 stations in past years).  Twenty two of the stations are along tributaries to the lake, both at the shoreline and, for the first time, at upstream locations in the watershed, and eight beaches are also sampled and tested for E. coli bacteria.  The results of this sampling will illuminate the sources of bacteria (E. coli), phosphorous, chloride, conductivity, and turbidity, all of which affect the water quality of the lake.  Samples will also be taken at the “Deep Spot” to measure the same parameters as on-shore, but also other important parameters including dissolved oxygen, temperature, chlorophyll-a, alkalinity, pH and water clarity.  For the first time, phytoplankton, an indicator of general lake quality, will be tested regularly as part of SLA’s WQMP. 

So why the focus on total phosphorous?  Phosphorous is essential for plant growth.  Too much phosphorous in the water promotes excessive plant and algal growth, which in turn absorbs oxygen from the water.  Reduced oxygen levels, called anoxia, stress fish populations, for example, trout.  Phosphorous comes from many sources including faulty septic systems, lawn fertilizers, road salt, and decaying plant matter. 

All the additional data collected in 2022 will add to a better and more robust understanding of the chemical, bacteriological, and physical underpinnings of the Lake, which in turn will undergird any recommendations made by the Watershed Committee to the BOS.

Who is paying for all this testing?  The SLA has for years used member dues to underwrite testing.  In 2022, the Town of Chesterfield will also chip in to fund these vital efforts to assure the longterm health, economic and recreational, of the Lake and the continuing desirability and value of lakeshore properties.  The total estimated tab for this year’s efforts is about $7,000.  Please consider joining the SLA or increasing your membership dues level to help us cover this increased expense.  

And as if the above were not enough, the State is also doing its part.  The 2021 Volunteer Lake Assessment Program report is now available.  The State will soon conduct a new bathometric (i.e., depth) survey of Spofford Lake and produce an updated map.  The current map can be found here. This will provide yet more information on the ways in which the Lake is changing. 

In others news…

  • SLA Store has added a 4th of July design.  Created with children of all ages in mind, the boat parade theme captures the usual antics around the Lake on Independence Day.  The design can be applied to items of all types e.g., T-shirts, baby bibs, magnets, hoodies, caps, and even aprons.  Buy something for all the visitors who come to celebrate.  Many thanks to designer, Hannah Rand, for fashioning all three of the Store’s new images.
  •  Loons:  They’re back!  The adult loons have returned.  Hopefully, there will be new chicks in June.  Remember the SLA Store has loon themed items too. 
  • Eagles:  A local eagle was spotted fending off a raven.  It’s no joke, check the video!
  • Bass: Spofford is home to 10 bass tournaments, April-September.  Check the calendar for dates.
  • Rainbow trout:  Spofford will be receiving less than 50% of its ‘normal’ share of yearlings.  For more information visit our Fishing & Boating page or our new Fish page.
  • NH Lakes, Lake Congress 2022: After a hiatus, the next Congress will be held on Thursday, June 2 and Friday, June 3 at Meredith Landing.  To register, and get information, visit the NH LAKES website.
  • Annual Meeting: We are currently planning to return to a live, in person, annual meeting this summer.  Be sure to watch the SLA website for save the date information, which should be posted soon.

The Spofford Lake Association


Spofford Lake Association

PO Box 177
Spofford, NH 03462

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