Minutes of Lake Beseck Environment Committee October 24, 2018
1. Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:05 PM.
2. Members Present
Amy Poturnicki, Robert Poturnicki, Hannah Malcolm, Melissa Kowal, Cathy Kukowski, Rebecca Adams, Rick Santos, John Lindner, James Irish, Craig Lundell. Randy Bernotas joined the meeting at 7:07. Len Suzio and Buddy Altobello were also present. Ed Bailey joined the meeting at 7:16.
3. Approval of Minutes
Motion to approve the minutes of July 25, 2018 without amendments by Melissa Kowal; seconded by Rick Santos. Passed unanimously.
4. Public Comment
No members of the public were present.
5. Lake Vegetation
Amy Poturnicki passed around photos of parts of the lake with heavy amounts of vegetation and described how this year saw dramatically increased amounts of vegetation. Amy read parts of a memo from Mark June-Wells indicating that the plant community was reflective of that prior to the dam repair. Mark’s memo also indicated benthic barriers and/or a harvester would be good options for Lake Beseck.
Amy noted that the current State Inland Wetlands permit allow for vegetation management in the beach swim area through April 2024, and CT NDDB Determination is good through December 2021. In response to a question from Jim Irish, Amy confirmed that only benthic barriers are allowed; we just have to re-submit the land rights application. Use of rakes was not previously submitted for the beach.
Amy reported that she has had three meetings with DEEP, along with Len Suzio and Buddy Altobello, about vegetation control measures for lakeside homeowners, many of whom are having trouble with their boat docks or swimming areas getting clogged with vegetation. However, the presence of the potamogeton vaseyi, a protected native species, has indefinitely blocked any additional progress with DEEP, which leaves us with permits only for the beach swim area. Committee members discussed other options we could raise with DEEP, including permits to control invasives in the areas where no potamogeton vaseyi has been found. James Irish asked about the possibility of challenging the identification of potamogeton vaseyi. Amy replied the plant has been positively identified by a UConn expert, so a challenge is not possible unless we pursue genetic testing. She was advised that it would be expensive and risky if, for example, the comparison sample the testers use is a hybridized sample of potamogeton vaseyi.
Amy pointed out that DEEP has actually identified two protected species in the lake, so the situation is even more problematic with the newly discovered abundance of the protected native plants; grass carp, therefore are not currently an option since they would eat protected and invasive plants alike.
Ed Bailey asked about the selective use of herbicides; Amy said herbicides were an option, but that Mark June-Wells has warned that herbicides might increase algae levels over time, are an annual expensive endeavor, they are also challenging to deploy in terms of public opinion.
Members discussed whether harvesting is still an option, whether done at a specific time of year or at a height level that would avoid the protected plants. Amy Poturnicki pointed out that you can now purchase harvesters for $60,000. When discussing sharing a harvester with other towns, Ed Bailey noted that he has heard recommendations against sharing such machines with other lakes, since it is very difficult to fully clean out all plant bits and thus there is a risk of cross-contamination. Amy said she will ask Mark June-Wells for his further thoughts on a harvester option.
The committee discussed the purchasing and installation of the benthic mats; Jim Irish suggested that, if the mats should be installed during the early spring prior to the refill in March, we would need to purchase the mats by January. Amy indicated most of the data on mat types and cost have already been collected. Amy also mentioned that one strategy being tested is to have the mats down for just one month, which knocks back the vegetation enough to keep it away for the rest of the summer.
6. Funding for Lakes
Amy called Connie Trolle, CT Federation of Lakes, on speaker phone so she could tell the committee about funding opportunities for lakes. Connie mentioned she had recently had a discussion with a staffer in Chris Murphy’s office about funds available through the EPA. Another idea she was recently able to get approved is license plates, starting in 2020, that include the motto “Save the Lakes;” funding from their sale will be earmarked for lake projects.
Connie also described a recent meeting with state representatives, including Craig Miner, in which the CT Federation of Lakes lobbied for sustainable sources of funding for lake projects, particularly invasives control. She felt the meeting was productive; ideas to raise new revenue included the sale of boat stickers for non-CT residents using CT lakes. Connie said she also pushed the DEEP to speed up the permitting process for projects, and to start encouraging inland wetlands commissions to push for low-impact development and projects like rain gardens and buffer zones.
Randy Bernotas wondered about the possible political clout of the largest lakes if they joined together. Connie mentioned that the biggest lakes, including Bantam and Waramaug, are privately funded. She said the general attitude, based on experience, seems to be “we will have to do this ourselves.” In response to a question from Len Suzio, Connie further stated the funding sources vary from 501c(3) organizations to lake authorities (Candlewood); Len Suzio noted the federal tax-deductible nature of some organizations might be useful for encouraging contributions for Lake Beseck, and mulled over if such tax deduction could be implemented at the state level as well.
Ed Bailey said it’s been mentioned to him that one way to raise funds is to create a stormwater taxing district and wondered whether Connie knew of any successful ones. She did not and suggested that in the current political climate an additional tax would be difficult to implement.
Members asked Connie about harvesting; she indicated that Bantam uses chemical treatments because harvesting is “like mowing the lawn.” However, she believes she knows about some lakes that own harvesters and may be looking to sell them. She described the success her lake has had with chemical treatments, which they now only have to do on a portion of the lake every year, and she said several invasive species have been eliminated via chemical treatments.
After the call ended, committee members discussed what was learned from Connie; Ed Bailey noted that herbicide applications are cost-effective and proven to work. Amy indicated she would revisit the issue with Mark June-Wells, since apparently some new products have become available. John Lindner said he wasn’t crazy about the use of chemicals but wondered about a better legislative fix for the delay in the permitting process. Rebecca mentioned it takes a concerted effort by a dedicated group to bring the permitting delays to light and press to get them resolved.
Committee members agreed with John Lindner’s assertion that at a minimum, we should get moving on the benthic barriers. Amy Poturnicki mentioned that Mark June-Wells is working on a barrier use plan with Larry Marsicano already. Suggestions were made for a spring workshop to educate residents, perhaps including a presentation by a benthic mat manufacturer.
Amy suggested the Committee join the CT Federation of Lakes as a group.
Motion for the Committee to purchase an annual membership in the CT Federation of Lakes made by John Lindner; seconded by Rebecca Adams. Passed unanimously.
7. Selectman Report
Ed Bailey told the committee that at a recent meeting of the Lower CT River Congress of Governments, he learned about hydrilla, an invasive that is becoming a problem in the southern part of the CT river. Introduced in 2008 in the Croton Reservoir in NY State, it has rapidly spread throughout NY. DEEP has taken no action so far on this threat.
Ed reiterated that state funding continues to be tight, and the upcoming budget negotiations will be difficult. He elaborated on the concept of the stormwater taxing district, initiated by the town and perhaps levied on residents of the Lake Beseck watershed, which could be a strong source of funding for the lake. Rebecca Adams offered some legal and political insights about how such a district might be set up. Other examples, such as lake associations that function like a homeowner’s association, were also discussed as ways to raise funds from the residents and then control those funds.
Hannah Malcolm reported that the wall at the beach is holding up beautifully, except for one spot to the north end, where there is no wall and some ruts are appearing after heavy rain. There is one area, where there is apparently hardpan underneath the sand, where water pushes up to the surface and then ponds or creates ruts. This area may be a good candidate for a drainage project. The plantings are also doing well. Hannah also discussed the pipe at the north end and the state of the hedgerow near it. Ed Bailey indicated repair of the pipe was “on the list” and could be performed next spring.
Motion to adjourn the meeting made by Rebecca Adams; seconded by Craig Lundell. Passed unanimously. The meeting adjourned at 8:50 PM.