SEBAGO LAKE STATE PARK SOILS AND
NATURAL RESOURCE WORKSHOP
By David Rocque
If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to mark your calendar for the annual MAPSS, MAWS,
MASE and SSSNNE soils and natural resource workshop. The workshop will be held on Wednesday,
September 9, 2015 at Sebago Lake State Park in the south western Maine town of Casco, from 9:00 am
until 3:30 pm. As in the past, this workshop combines soil evaluation with natural resource identification
and regulation issues. Unlike the past couple of years which have had very wet springs, this year we had
an exceptionally dry spring which will add another level of challenge to making determinations. This
year’s workshop will feature 7 sites including:
1. A sandy spodosol that transitions from an upland to a wetland with deep organic soils. Even
2. A sandy non-spodosol soil, in a low lying area adjacent to the Saco River. Determinations
3. A lacustrine sediment with spodic development in some of the soil pits. This site is in a
4. A very complex area consisting of ground water seeps creating an apparent vernal pool, a
5. A drainageway that could be a stream, a wetland, a series of vernal pools or all of the
experienced soil scientists find it a challenge to determine whether color patterns observed
in wetter sandy spodosols are due to the podsolization process or redoximorphic features.
Sometimes, both are present. Whether you are a soil scientist, a site evaluator, a wetland
scientist or a regulator, you occasionally find yourself having to make these calls. Because
sandy soils lack capillary pores, vegetation can be less dependable as an indicator of
hydrology, particularly the herbaceous layer. See what the experts determined at this
challenging site and compare it to your determination.
you should make at this site include; is it in a flood plain, is it a wetland, where is the normal
high water mark, where is the starting point for shoreland zoning setback measurements
and is the waterbody a river or the lake (at high water)? This site should generate
wooded area of pit and mound topography with little vegetation change until you reach an
obvious wetland area. You will be asked to determine where the actual wetland boundary is
and to distinguish between low chroma soil colors due to reduction as compared to the
boulder field in a low lying area and a boulder field in an upland area. What are these areas
and are they protected natural resources? How should they be identified on a soils map?
Can houses or septic systems be designed on/over them? How should they be identified
when mapping wetland boundaries? This site also has an observation point on a wetland
adjacent to the lake, or is it part of the lake?
above. This complex likely contains features that are identified differently by the various
6. A stream/wetland complex that has been altered by man; a road crosses it now with a
7. A stream that flows into the lake when lake levels are down but is flooded during high
regulatory agencies/departments. Differing interpretations would mean differing
regulations for those interested in land use activities near them. This site should generate
some interesting discussion.
culvert. You will need to determine if the alteration activity has changed the complex from
what it originally was (was it a wetland or a stream or both and does it contain significant
vernal pools). How should it now be classified? Where do begin measuring from for
setbacks? What kind of setbacks are required and from where? Are there variable setbacks
due to variable features?
water. Sebago Lake water levels are very carefully controlled by a dam. The lake is drawn
down by exactly 5.5 feet every year in the late summer and early fall from high water levels
in the spring. This flux makes it difficult to determine the normal high water mark of the lake
or the Songo River and to determine where to begin measuring for setbacks in the
For those of you not familiar with Sebago Lake State Park, it is one of Maine’s original 5 State Parks,
opened in 1938. Located on the north end of the state’s second largest and deepest lake, on both sides
of the Songo River, the park is 1500 acres in size. It includes Songo Lock State Historic Site. Songo Lock is
the lone remaining lock, from a total of 28, on a 50 mile long canal system constructed in 1830.
Originally constructed to transport 65 foot long canal boats back and forth from Harrison on Long Lake
to Portland harbor, it was discontinued in 1872, replaced by the railroad. Today, Songo Lock is used lift
pleasure boaters so they can travel upriver to Brandy Pond or Long Lake or lower them so they can
travel down river to Sebago Lake. The locks large wooden doors and cast-iron sluice gears are still
operated by hand. For lunch, you can stop by Songo Beach to use picnic tables beside a sand beach or
travel to Songo Lock which also has a couple of picnic tables. Lunch is not provided so bring your own.
There are limited opportunities to buy lunch nearby so I suggest packing your own or buying it on the
way to the park.
As in the past, we will have a team of expert soil professionals evaluating and describing soils pits
including Greg Granger, Dave Wilkinson and Nick Butler from the NRCS; State Site Evaluator Glenn
Angell, consultants; Jim Logan and Chris Dorion; former MASE President, Dale Knapp and myself. We will
also have Mike Mullen, Chris Coppi and Colin Clark from the DEP; Karen Bolstridge from LUPC (formerly
LURC); Glenn Angel from the State Septic System Program, Jay Clement from the Army Corps of
Engineers, Town of Casco Code Enforcement Officer Don Murphy and Portland Drinking Water Program
representative, Nate Whalen to address regulatory issues. MAWS will provide a couple of botanists to
evaluate the sites wetland status and be present during the day of the workshop. Tom Danielson a
biologist from DEP will be present to show how to sample waterbodies for aquatic insects and how to
identify them. The hand dug soil pits were located and excavated last summer and are being monitored
for depth to seasonal groundwater table by Sebago Lake State Park staff so there should be some data
to compare with seasonal groundwater table determinations made on the basis of soil morphology.
Along with soil profile descriptions, the soils team will provide soil drainage class determinations, hydric
soil determinations (both New England Field Indicators and National Indicators) and subsurface
wastewater disposal rules classification using the SSWWD drainage key. Regulators will provide
regulatory interpretations for protected natural resources including freshwater wetlands, streams and
vernal pools. There will also be a discussion of shoreland zoning issues for sites near Sebago Lake and
the Songo River. Since Sebago Lake is the drinking water supply for the Portland area, the Portland
Water District has special rules for some activities within the Sebago Lake Watershed. A representative
from the Portland Water District will discuss those special regulations. There are also local rules and
regulations consultants need to be aware of. The Town of Casco Code Enforcement Officer will discuss
local regulations adopted by his town.
Registration will be at the Park Headquarters on the Park Access Road, from 8:30 am to 9:00 am. The
Park Headquarters is the first right off the Park Access Road, just past the intersection with State Park
Road. Participants will be given a map showing the locations of the 7 sites they are to visit. Please bring
with you a Munsell color book and copies of any keys you wish to use at the sites (NE Hydric Soil Field
Indicators, National Hydric Soil Field Indicators, SSWWD Rules Drainage Key, MAPSS Drainage Key,
Wetland Plant List etc.). You will have until 12:30 pm to visit the sites. Unlike the workshop at Mt. Blue
State Park, these sites are relatively near each other. Each of the sites will have at least one monitor to
show you the points of interest and answer general questions. They will also have copies of the soil pit
evaluations and other determinations which they will share with you after you have made your own
At the conclusion of the field portion of the workshop, participants will gather at the Songo Beach picnic
area at 1:30 pm for a group discussion of. Each of the sites will be discussed with participation from soil
pit evaluators, other experts and regulators and I will do my best to keep things lively (as usual).
In keeping with tradition, I have chosen some challenging sites and soils. These are conditions you all see
in the field and struggle with. Not all site assessments are straight forward or black and white. The
purpose of this workshop is to bring consultants and regulators together to discuss difficult sites and
attempt to come to a consensus on how to classify them. This will be a good opportunity to use the
MASE Drainage Key on some difficult soils, with assistance from experts including the State Site
Evaluator, and make stream setback determinations within the shoreland zone (tributary require a 75
This workshop should have broad appeal to soil scientists, wetland scientists, site evaluators, code
enforcement officers, planners, municipal officials, regulators, lake association members, foresters and
the general public. You can participate at whatever level is appropriate for your background and
knowledge level (the experts stationed at each site will provide the level of assistance you require).
It should be a fun, interesting and informative day of camaraderie for all in a very scenic location.