YOUTH CONSERVATION CORPS
The Thompson Lake Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) began in 2002 as part of a grant under the Federal Clean Water Act. Its goal is to provide low-cost erosion control solutions on private properties in the watershed. The YCC also receives guidance from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
Federal funding for the YCC program ended in 2004. Since then, its funding has depended on grants from the four towns bordering the lake and from private foundations and contributions from individuals.
As the land surrounding Thompson Lake has been developed, the quality of the water has been jeopardized. Deforestation, driveways, ditches, and recently excavated soil allow soil particles to be carried directly into the lake even during light rain. Those soil particles not only fill in the lake but also carry with them all sorts of chemicals, including phosphorus, an essential nutrient which in excess can cause an algae bloom. Its effects are harmful not only to the environment but also to land values and recreation. Once a lake turns green, the damage is extremely difficult to fix. Shoreline erosion, caused by the action of waves which also move soil into the lake water, is another problem. A third problem occurs with thoughtless landscaping. Those beautiful lawns extending to the edge of the shore are perfect conduits for lawn chemicals, of which phosphorus is the most prevalent.
General policy for the YCC is set by a TLEA Steering Committee. The YCC itself is headed by an adult coordinator who meets with the landowner and assists with the design and permit process when necessary. The crew consists of a crew chief and 2-5 high school age youths whom TLEA employs for 8 weeks in the summer. Typically the YCC completes about 20 erosion projects each year.
The YCC provides a cost-effective solution to many erosion problems. The solution to most nonpoint source pollution involves filtration, or filtering runoff naturally through an expanse of forest duff or mulch to remove most of the chemicals and phosphorus. Other solutions involve slowing down the speed of the runoff and diverting water flow from driveways and paths through installing riprap, razor bars, water filtration steps, and box culverts. The YCC also creates buffer plantings and rain gardens to further filter and direct the water flow.
Other Benefits of the YCC
The YCC work obviously is an invaluable resource for Thompson Lake. It also helps the young people directly by providing a beneficial summer’s employment they can be proud of. While serving as good examples and helping educate the public, the crew members themselves serve as effective environmental ambassadors. In fact, several former YCC crew members have gone on to careers related to erosion control.