Water Quality is the single most import issue for lake users, property owners, and Morgan residents. Without excellent water quality, the benefits of Seymour Lake are greatly diminished. Property values, swimming, boating, fishing, and beautiful views are all impacted by water quality. That is why it is so important.
We are blessed at Seymour because of several factors: It is a large, deep and cold water lake. It is one of the five highest water quality lakes in Vermont, and as a result is characterized as oligotrophic, meaning measurements of phosphorus, chlorophyll–a, and clarity are excellent. Also Seymour has almost no known invasive species, in particular, no Eurasian watermilfoil.
Seymour, though, has suffered because of two reasons: One was lack of a shoreland zoning law like other states which have had these in effect since the early 1970s. An attempt has been made to rectify this situation last summer by the passing of the Vermont Shoreland Protection Act of 2014. While controversial, we believe this legislation has the possibility to help improve water quality in Seymour and other lakes in Vermont.
The second reason, due to the attractiveness of the lake, is the high density of land development close to the lakeshore. This results in lakeshore disturbance which includes impervious surfaces such as roofs and driveways in addition to lawn in place of native plant areas. It is one of several lakes in Vermont exhibiting this characteristic and as a result, has insufficient natural lakeshore to limit sediment and chemical runoff. This disturbance of the lakeshore also has a damaging impact on the littoral or shallow water areas, which are so important to habitat structure supporting plants and fish. Because Seymour is largely already developed, we are limited in what can be done to restore a more natural lakeshore. Lakeshore property owners can follow best practices to minimize the impact of lakeshore disturbance by implementing these practices as outlined in many places on this web site.
Understanding Lake Evolution: In their original condition, lakes have no shore land development and hence have their highest water quality. Seymour was this way in 1799. As people recognize the beauty of lakes, they naturally want to build homes on the lakeshore. This started in earnest on Seymour in 1920 and since that time 366 homes have been built on the lake or have right-of-way rights and each has an impact upon water quality. Development did not affect water quality until the impact of this building development became a greater portion of the lakeshore, but is now the most serious threat to the lake’s water quality. This was shown by a change in the data starting around 1990. When people develop property on the lake, major changes occur to the native state, including increased impervious surfaces such as houses and their roofs, roads and driveways, and lawns. The loss of native trees, shrubs, groundcover and duff further disturb the natural balance of life on the lakeshore. About 50 percent of the shore of Seymour has been cleared of native vegetation and many lawns extend down to the water. State scientists explain that the lack of natural buffer means that most of the runoff which includes sediment and phosphorus, runs quicker and more directly into the lake. Both the increased amount of phosphorus and the loss of habitat at the water’s edge are the primary sources of lowered water quality and clarity: to quote Pogo, “we have met the enemy and he is us.” The only known solution is to restore natural shore land as much as possible. Studies have shown that this can be accomplished while lakeshore property owners still maintain enjoyable use of their lake shore.
From an historical perspective, there are two interesting reports:
A Doctoral dissertation on the Seymour Lake watershed by Professor Donald Meals of UVM in 1977. This will be available soon.