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About Us > Spruce Creek At Its Tipping Point?

Kittery Quarterly
July 27, 2006

It’s a typical case of death by a thousand cuts: Spruce Creek is gradually losing its ability to support life and function as a healthy watershed as a result of a large number of small impacts on the land’s ability to filter storm water before it reaches the Creek’s edge.

In the past decade Spruce Creek was placed on the Maine Department of Environmental Protection Priority Watershed list due to concerns regarding potential for degrading water quality because of land use practices. Since that time development and landowner practices have continued pretty much as usual. "We found pervasive poor land management practices that threaten to seriously impact the water quality of the Creek," according Tin Smith, Stewardship Coordinator at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, who was at a special workshop June 19 to review the findings of two recent studies with Town Councilors and the public.

The studies concluded that currently 12% of the land within the Spruce Creek watershed is considered developed. Studies have shown that watersheds begin to become noticeably impaired when impervious surfaces exceed 10%. Impervious surfaces are hard surfaces such as roadways, rooftops, and even closely cut grass where water runs off too quickly into the creek carrying with it damaging nutrients and pollutants. Spruce Creek is currently near that tipping point and the 2005 water quality data could be an indication of this decline (see www.sprucecreekassociation.org for more information).

During the survey, over 195 potential NPS pollution (polluted run-off) sites were visually observed and documented. For its size, Spruce Creek has over twice as many pollution sites as did the York, Ogunquit, or Little Rivers. While none of the sites in Spruce Creek were extreme, the large number gives cause for concern – risking a death by a thousand cuts.

When water quality declines so do property values and quality of life for a town's citizens. Spruce Creek is one of Kittery's most valued natural resources where many enjoy fishing, boating, swimming, and viewing the scenery and its wildlife. The solution is not difficult but requires good land use practice; making it a priority to keep and restore planted buffers along the shoreline of Spruce Creek and all of its tributaries; not dumping trash and debris along the water's edge; and limiting impervious surfaces where water cannot soak into the soil. For more information on what you can do in your own yard or to get involved elsewhere in our watershed, please contact the Spruce Creek Association at info@sprucecreekassociation.org.

© 2009 Spruce Creek Association. All rights reserved.info@sprucecreekassociation.org