While the water level at Lake Beseck remains drawn down mostly to the mud to facilitate a dam repair project, the town of Middlefield has applied for a state STEAP grant to monitor and improve the lake environment when the water returns.
Middlefield has requested $395,000. The maximum possible for a STEAP grant, which stands for Small Town Economic Assistance Program, is $500,000.
Selectman Ed Bailey, who also serves on the Lake Beseck Ad Hoc Committee, told the Town Times he was “pretty confident” in Middlefield’s chances. Lake Beseck is a state-owned lake, but “unless the town gets involved, not much happens,” Bailey recently said.
According to the grant application, the money would go to control phosphorous levels and invasive aquatic plants, as well the funding of a limnologist, or lake scientist.
“The decline in the water quality of Lake Beseck threatens recreational, economic, and social activities ... Because Lake Beseck is such a valuable local asset, it is important that water quality is managed and plant populations are controlled,” reads the grant application.
High phosphorous levels create problems in the lake. “Algae responds directly to phosphorous in the water column,” said Mark June-Wells in an interview with the Town Times. June-Wells wrote the grant application and is the limnologist currently studying Lake Beseck for the town.
Runoff of fertilizer from the entire watershed area, the contents of the storm drains, and decaying plant mass in the water have contributed to high levels of phosphorous.
According to the application, Middlefield could use an alum treatment to deal with the phosphorous. June-Wells said that aluminum sulfate “binds directly to the phosphorous and holds it strongly to the bottom of the lake ... It essentially harvests the phosphorous.”
The alum treatment is non-toxic, according to June-Wells, but risks of an alum treatment include pH swings in the lake water. “That can be mitigated through responsible practices,” said June-Wells, including staggered applications.
STEAP grants are aimed to help small towns make capital improvements and Middlefield has included the purchase of a $150,000 aquatic plant harvester in the application.
The plant harvester is a boat with a cutter and conveyer belt to remove weeds from the water. “We could go out there and manage our own weeds,” said Amy Poturnicki, chair of the Lake Beseck Ad Hoc Committee.
The grant also requests $30,000 for maintenance and operation of the harvester. The harvester would likely be operated by a town employee, according to both June-Wells and Poturnicki.
Where to store the harvester when not in use is still a question.
The third part of the STEAP grant application would provide $50,000 of funding for five years of a Lake Manager. This would fund June-Wells as a town consultant, replacing his current contract with the town.
The third part also requests $35,000 for five years of water quality equipment and monitoring. “The purpose of that is so I can always have my finger on what I call the heartbeat of the lake,” said June-Wells.
The state will announce the grant recipients in waves until Sept. 15.