Loons, berries, clams at mercy of relentless rain

Posted June 22, 2009, at 10:22 p.m.

CAMDEN, Maine — As the National Weather Service issued a flood advisory Monday for much of the state’s coast, Camden dam agent Ken Bailey could only monitor, measure and hope for the best.

Bailey is keeping an eye on the water level on Lake Megunticook, which has risen a foot since Friday, and on loons whose nests are endangered by the high water.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we don’t get any more heavy rain,” Bailey said Monday afternoon. “Even a quick rainstorm of an inch or an inch and a half could wreak havoc with the system.”

The inclement weather already had flooded out three of the area’s loon nests, Bailey said, as well as prompted the state Department of Marine Resources to ban most shellfish harvesting in the state.

The ban extends from Cape Neddick in York County all the way to the Maine-Canada border because of concerns about pollution from runoff due to the heavy rains. Officials said it is illegal to harvest clams, quahogs, oysters and mussels in the affected areas during the closure.

Bailey said the stretch of relentlessly rainy weather has dumped nearly 5 inches in the midcoast area since Friday. A forecast of a 10-day stretch of rainy weather has him nervous.

“Lots of rain equates into lots of work, especially at this time of year,” he said. “We’re worried about the flooding and downstream damages that might occur.”

According to Bailey, water is streaming over the tops of the dams, but there is still a “foot of leeway” before he gets too worried.

“We’re not in panic mode,” he said.

The rain has caused some boats to break loose from their moorings on Lake Megunticook and is a particular worry because of its timing.

“We’re only about a week away from the Fourth of July here. Cottages are being occupied,” he said. “It opens up some issues.”

This time of year, Bailey usually works to keep the lake’s water level very steady to make a comfortable environment for the nesting loons. But two nesting pairs on the lake and one on the Megunticook River had their nests flooded out, he said. Three other nesting pairs hatched chicks before the flooding.

“The loon population in our area has been remarkably stable,” Bailey said. “You’d like to have all the nest sites successful. But even in good years, there’s some that don’t make it for whatever reason.”

Strawberry farmers in Maine also are concerned about the unrelenting wet weather and what it will mean for the coming crop.

Jodie Jordan of Alewives Brook Farm in Cape Elizabeth told WMTW-TV that too much rain makes strawberries mushy and susceptible to mold.

Through Sunday, Portland and Bangor each had received more than 4½ inches of rain in June — nearly three times the average. The National Weather Service said rain had fallen on Portland 13 of the past 15 days, while Bangor had precipitation on 12 of the past 13 days.

The flood advisory for minor flooding or splash-over in low areas along the shore was in effect Monday evening for Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Waldo counties through 1 a.m. Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

acurtis@bangordailynews.net

338-3034

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