Maine’s finest inland beaches were being destroyed, sand bluffs were eroding with 60 to 140 year old trees were falling into the lake, and the nearshore water quality was in decline.
In the late 1980’s the world class natural beaches of Sebago Lake were disappearing and the sand bluffs and glacial till shorelines were eroding after many decades of stability. Some shorefront owners began to investigate why this was happening. They learned that the cause was a change in lake outflow regulation that resulted in a 2 to 3 foot increase in the summer and fall over the historical average.
In 1987 outflows were withheld by the SD Warren Paper Company owned by Scott Paper who made the decision privately to reduce outflows by 40% in the spring, summer, and fall to take advantage of a new State law which allowed private electrical power producers to receive bonus hydropower profits during the winter. SD Warren also stated that it was a “win-win” situation for this change included appeasing boating and real estate interests. Lake levels were held at near full pond levels until the winter months when high outflows were released to maximize hydropower generation.
Camp owners individually began to complain about the resulting ongoing erosion and damage to property occurring in the stormy fall months. Articles in the newspaper about the beach erosion especially at Sebago Lake State Park had an impact and a new plan was agreed upon in 1990 requiring lake levels to follow an 80 year average.
Well organized boating and real estate interests in 1991 successfully lobbied the State government to support an increase in the summer and fall lake levels. This pressure was so overwhelming that the Governor John McKearnan administration ignored the letters and evidence from State Park officials that Maine’s finest inland beach, Songo Beach, at Sebago Lake State Park was flooded and eroding.
Shorefront owners of eroding shorelines realized that an organization was needed with a mission to advocate for a return to the pre-1986 lake management that created a dynamic stability of beaches and shorelines and provided the highest water quality. The Friends of Sebago Lake was formed in 1992 with members from Long Beach, Ward’s Cove and Beach, North Sebago, Sebago, Thompson’s Point, Kettle Cove, Raymond, North Windham, Frye Island, and Standish. The membership also included lake users from other Maine towns and other states.