2017-08-31 / Community News

Students learn about watershed

The Biddeford Conservation Commission in partnership with the University of New England kicked off an early summer with a visit to Saint James School in Biddeford.

Ken Buechs, vice chairman of the commission, and Emily Greene, a UNE alum who now works with the University of New England Saco Watershed Collaborative, spoke with Jennifer LaFrance’s sixth and seventh graders about Thatcher Brook Watershed. Thatcher Brook Watershed is 7.7 square miles and is located in the city of Biddeford and town of Arundel on the southern coast of the state. Thatcher Brook is on Maine’s 303(d) list signifying that the stream is not meeting one or more of its designated uses. Although Thatcher Brook is not yet listed as an impaired stream, the most important goal of the conservation commission is to work with state and local agencies to improve the water quality to meet state water quality standards.

During their visit with the Saint James students, Buechs and Greene introduced different ways in which the city of Biddeford has helped Thatcher Brook Watershed restores its natural functions. Storm water retrofits help reduce pollutants, restore habitat and stabilize stream morphology. It is all to restore the natural flow and function of the stream. Habitat restoration such as invasive plant species removal and native plantings are a way to restore the natural flora of the watershed. Changing the size of culverts to improve stream flow is important as well. Buffer restoration allows slower filtration of runoff. Bank stabilization prevents areas of erosion on rivers and streams. Proper use of fertilizers, herbicides and weed killers is critical to the effort. Some of the community outreach and education occurs through storm drain stenciling and providing tutorials and presentations to Biddeford High School, Biddeford Middle School and St. James School.

The commission has begun work with other science teachers, integrating watershed knowledge in the curriculum of students. One emphasis the commission brings into classrooms is that Thatcher Brook Watershed is a tributary of the Saco River Watershed. The Saco Watershed provides drinking water for thousands of residents in Maine. So far, the visits have brought positive feedback from teachers such as Jennifer LaFrance from St. James School, and Chelsea Brittain from Biddeford Middle School.

“I thought it was great to reinforce the concepts that we had studied in the classroom with the real-world example that (Biddeford Conservation Commission) presented,” LaFrance said.

“Some of the students mentioned to me that they went home and had discussions with their parents, so that’s a good sign,” Brittain said.

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