Bureau of Parks and Lands asks for ice-out information

Posted March 31, 2011, at 4:36 p.m.

AUGUSTA — Maine residents who eagerly await  “ice out” on Maine’s lakes and ponds now can share it with their friends, neighbors and the rest of the state.

The Boating Facilities Division (BFD) of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, under the Maine Department of Conservation, is compiling ice-out information on its website and is asking Mainers to help out.

The division website already contains historical information for ice-out dates on major lakes going back to 2003. Division officials now would like Mainers to send in the ice-out dates for their lakes or ponds for posting on the website.

The site also contains web cams for several major lakes, including Sebago,  Moosehead at Beaver Cove and Sebec. Any person who knows of other web cams to be included on the website also is invited to share the web links, according to George Powell, BFD director.

“Spring ice out is an important moment for lots of people in Maine…,”  Powell said. “People want to know so they can get out and about, and anglers want to know so they can fish. We think this ice-out list will help people all over the state.”

The Boating Facilities Division and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife manage more than 400 coastal and inland boat access sites around the state. The division also administers the Boating Facility Grant Program, which is funded by a portion of the state gasoline tax attributable to motor boat use. The program is used to finance the acquisition, development and maintenance of public boating facilities on both coastal and inland waters. In addition, the division oversees the placement and maintenance of more than 1,800 navigational aids on 32 inland water bodies throughout Maine.

Powell credited the idea for the ice-out compilation to Tim Thurston, BFD navigational aid supervisor, who, as part of his duties, is responsible for checking on and maintaining buoys on those lakes and ponds. Thurston knew of the general interest and offered to develop the website, Powell said.

Anyone with ice-out information is asked to email the division when ice out occurs on a specific water body so it can be posted on the website. Photos also are welcome, and webcam information also is appreciated, Powell said.

There are roughly 2,800 “great ponds” in Maine, defined as water bodies of 10 acres or more or dammed water bodies of 30 acres or more, the division director said. There are “many, many, many more” smaller lakes and ponds, between 5,000 to 7,000 water bodies, defined as private ponds, he said.

While the exact definition of “ice out” can be a favorite debate in Maine, for the purpose of the web page it is defined as “when you can navigate unimpeded from one end of the water body to the other. There may still be ice in coves or along the shoreline, but when a person can traverse the entire water body without being stopped by ice flows, we will consider the ice to be out,” the website states.

One of the earliest ice-outs occurred last year on March 3 on Sebago Lake, and the “Big Bay” area of the lake did not freeze solid all winter, according to the website. The latest ice out so far recorded in the past eight years was on May 9, 2008, Powell said. Last year’s latest ice out was April 26, while it was April 28 in 2009.

In addition to the ice-out information, website visitors also now can find the approximate locations for navigational-aid buoys on the Google Earth application, Powell said.

“We’ve had a lot of requests from people who want a map of navigational aids,” he said, “but we want them not to use this as a sole source of where water hazards could be. This shouldn’t be used for navigation, but as a general source of information.”

Powell added that the state doesn’t place buoys along shorelines, so water hazards near those locations won’t be marked.

Website visitors also can find the locations for all state-sponsored boat access facilities through the Google Earth application, the division director said. This information has been available for several years and is a benefit to all watercraft owners and users, he noted.

With one last bit of advice – perhaps the most important – Powell stressed that “recreational boaters should be very careful this time of year.” The water in Maine’s lakes and ponds is extremely cold, and anyone who falls in can suffer hypothermia, and even death, very quickly.

“Wear that PFD [personal flotation device],” he warned.

Send all ice-out information to: Timothy.thurston@maine.gov

For the Maine Lake Ice Out Information website, go to: http://www.maine.gov/doc/parks/programs/boating/ice_out11.html

For more information about the Boating Facilities Division and additional web links, go to: http://www.maine.gov/doc/parks/programs/boating/index.html

Or contact George Powell, Boating Facilities Division director, at: (207) 287-4964 or email: george.powell@maine.gov

 

 

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