2018-01-04 / Front Page

Thatcher Brook to be focus of effort

By Grant McPherson Staff Writer


Biddeford High School students helped take water samples from Thatcher Brook in October at two locations, near Kohl’s and Walmart, the latter pictured in the background. The Biddeford Conservation Commission will continue education and outreach programs in the school department this semester. Twenty-seven percent of the Thatcher Brook Watershed, which spans 4,525 acres, has roads on it, about half of which see over 20,000 vehicles per day. (Grant McPherson photo) Biddeford High School students helped take water samples from Thatcher Brook in October at two locations, near Kohl’s and Walmart, the latter pictured in the background. The Biddeford Conservation Commission will continue education and outreach programs in the school department this semester. Twenty-seven percent of the Thatcher Brook Watershed, which spans 4,525 acres, has roads on it, about half of which see over 20,000 vehicles per day. (Grant McPherson photo) BIDDEFORD – The city will continue its efforts to clean and restore the Thatcher Brook Watershed with the help of the federal and state government, as well as a local nonprofit.

The council voted unanimously Tuesday, Dec. 2 to accept $139,790 from the Environmental Protection Agency for phase one of the Thatcher Brook Restoration Implementation.The money is administered through the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The city will match the EPA funding with $99,521 from the capital improvements fund. York County Soil and Water Conservation District, a nonprofit that receives some funding from York County, will help administer the EPA funds and serve as project manager for the restoration project.

Thatcher Brook does not meet standards for aquatic life use according to the state of Maine. State officials said the river’s stressors include a lack of vegetation along its banks, decreased oxygen levels and increased amounts of phosphorus and chloride. Thatcher Brook Watershed extends from the Saco River to the Arundel and Kennebunkport town lines. According to the city website there are approximately 1,100 residents and property owners within the watershed.

Theresa Galvin, project manager for York County Soil and Water Conservation District, said applications for federal funding began in March 2017. Under the watershed restoration project, Galvin will help the city update storm water infrastructure, improve the habitat that surrounds the stream and provide commercial property owners with recommendations to help protect Thatcher Brook.

For property owners located in and around the brook, Galvin said native plantings can act as a natural buffer. She said rain barrels underneath gutter spouts would help keep runoff from flowing into the brook as well. Galvin will work directly with 10 property owners on education/action projects that will benefit the watershed. The property owners have not yet been chosen.

“Even if we see slight improvement we’ll consider the project a success,” Galvin said. “When more people know about it and are aware of water quality and how it affects every day living in the watershed, we’ll have done our part to help with clean water. As time goes on, new impacts to the stream could cause other issues. It’s never an easy fix. There are definitely urban impaired streams that have gotten taken off the list the department of environmental protection puts together. There absolutely are success stories for those projects but they took at least a decade.”

Thomas Craven, chairman of the Biddeford Conservation Commission, has helped local students learn about the watershed. He and fellow commissioners brought a threedimensional model of a watershed to students at the high school and middle school in fall 2016. Commission members borrowed the model from Portland Water District. Kelsey Johnson of Biddeford High School and Emily Greene of the University of New England helped the commission organize the presentations. Commission members also helped draft the Thatcher Brook Watershed Management Plan, completed January 2015, which is the guiding document for funding and implementation work.

“We don’t have any authority,” Craven said. “We are advisors to the city. In that capacity the conservation commission typically helps raise awareness in the community if there are environmental problems or environmental things to celebrate. That’s our part of the management plan execution.”

Craven said this semester, Johnson’s high school students will visit the middle school and teach students about the work being done to improve the watershed.

“(The brook) empties in the Saco River where we get our drinking water,” Craven said. “Generally, it’s just good practice to be aware of how we affect water quality. The Conservation Commission has a program called Biddeford Yard Smart, which encourages private property owners to reduce the amount of chemicals they use on their lawns and gardens on the conservation commission city webpage. That’s what the conservation commission will be talking about as far as teaching students about best management practices in the hopes they bring that information home to their families.”

Contact Staff Writer Grant McPherson at news@inthecourier.com

Return to top