First Selectman Jon Brayshaw introduces panel of experts
Referencing the lake as a cherished body of water that many grew up with, First Selectman Jon Brayshaw opens up the public information meeting with a brief of what has brought everyone together, “Activities of the dam have brought about a change in ecology and we don’t quite know what to do, so we need help”. We have brought together a group of folks that can help us understand what we are facing so we can make good decisions.
Senator Dante Bartolomeo
Addressing the large crowd that came out, Senator Dante Bartolomeo spoke of how closely she and Representative Buddy Altobello have been working with the Town, the Lake Association, and CTDEEP on lake projects. Bartolomeo acknowledges that part of the challenge is that the dam had to be fixed, but we also want to bring life back to the lake that is not just good for the short term fix, but also good for the long term health of the lake. Getting work done on the dam is one thing, but getting it done in a way and at a pace, which allows the lake to come back to life is very important.
Representative Buddy Altobello
Representative Buddy Altobello stated that he has learned a lot about weeds and dam repair in the past two years but advises that we don’t have the exact answers and feels fortunate to have all of the experts at the meeting for information, squelching some of the rumors that have been circulating. He has been at the dam about 25 times and admits that it is coming along very nicely, despite some additional structural deficiencies found along the way.
Robert Klee Commissioner of DEEP
I am happy to be here and glad for the opportunity of exchange in communication, which is really the most important thing to me – bringing the experts that actually know the day to day details and the details on the ground. The one thing that is most interesting that was highlighted by Buddy and Dante are issues that cut across multiple parts of our agency. Anytime you are dealing with lakes and dams that always does happen…so, from an internal perspective it is about bringing together the Inland Water folks, the Dam folks, the Fisheries folks, the Lakes folks, the Water Quality folks to make sure the solutions we are working on meet the very wide array of needs and environmental concerns that our agency has. I’ve learned a lot more about this dam and the efforts that have been made here. I know that there have been a lot of smaller repairs, but this repair, a 2 Million dollar project, is really about having a sustainable and long lasting solution that will be good for the next 50 years or more, that you can be proud of having for a long time.
Schedule is always a challenge, for those that have been involved with even home repairs –construction schedule is always something that comes up as an issue but we are holding the contractor to their Dec 14 2014 deadline, but we are hopeful that they will be done soon. They are in fact done with the structure that is needed to fill up the lake that we have been trying to fill since the beginning of July.of course Mother Nature is in charge of the rain. We will have our folks from fisheries talking about why when we are waiting for rain and hoping for the lake to fill as fast as it can, we don’t want to kill all the fish in the river downstream. That again is part of our agencies mission, to protect those parts of our natural environment.
We always knew that there would be one summer season impacted that was this summer season but we are working very hard, very diligently that that is the limits of it. There has also been an interest expressed on the lake bottom, and the weeds that are now growing in this exposed land. We are talking internally with our folks and are comfortable with some rules that we are going to outline with having folks go and remove some of those if they would like to. The science of it, I actually do have a PhD in environmental science - and it is sort of a mass balance, the weeds were growing there in soils taking up the nutrients and if they go back into the lake the nutrient will stay in the lake so it would be kind of a net zero. We are not sure that it would cause much of an impact, but if folks still want to go out and remove some of those materials, we are okay, but not with heavy equipment – we don’t want people driving out in to the muck getting stuck or injured.
Again I want to express that we want to make sure that communication is open; that people feel that they have had a chance to ask questions, they get answers and keep aware of the project. I think that Ted has been doing a good job as our ground person to do the best that he can to make that communication to flow freely, but obviously keep asking questions and keep asking us how we can better communicate with you.
Ted Rybak DEEP
The concrete work is done on the project now, they have been trying to bring the water up for about 3 months now, have put weir boards in the old structure, the new structure is complete, they are going to start working their way back out to the left side of the road - they have until the end of the year to complete. Need rain for cooperation to fill the lake.
Dwight Q: How many inches of rain do we predict that it will take to fill the lake?
A: I don’t know how many inches, it is over time. I have to let water go downstream while were refilling.
Q: I just want to know why you are standing out to the end of the year?
A: That is their time on the existing contract.
Sue Q: Do we know why it is taking so long to get the dam repair done, we were talking that it was going to be earlier in the course of events?
Ted A: We had some change orders that was additional time but we are still within the contract limits, they were working when they could be working, they have other commitments, we had a month delay because we couldn’t get the gate in and stopped the work,
Alexandra Q: When you say they have other commitments, does that mean that they are not working full time on this project?
Ted A: No, they are on and off but most of the time, it is full time.
Sue Q: We are seeing people working on the weekends, so I’m thinking of the overtime.
Ted A: It is not overtime or anything else, they can work their schedule as it is.
Sue Q: So it will be piece meal from what we can see from across the lake?
Ted A: Like I said they have been working pretty regular, from a couple people to 4-5 people, it depends on what the work is.
Sue Q: So just to clarify at this point in time, it is the end of the year?
Ted A: That is the contract limits, they want to be out of here in another month or so, but they still have grass to grow, they have to run a pump to lead water downstream, they have to get rid of the old intake structure and put water to the new one there is still stuff to do.
Marv Q: The gate is open or closed?
Ted A: The gate is open, but I have weir boards in a slot inside, they leak a little bit just enough to keep the water going down the stream – it is not gushing out. If you look downstream where the old structure is, it is leaking.
Marv Q: In other words, if there is rain, it is going to rise?
Ted A: Yes. We received maybe a half an inch of rain the other day and it looks like it came up a little bit, but everything is dry.
Brian Murphy DEEP
I have spoke on the phone a few times with Amy and have also exchanged emails, there were several questions that she had been received from residents that I will go over. First,
Is there insight on fish survival in the lake?
We have received information from angler reports, postings on CTFishermen, of anglers catching bass, we know that fish were caught in the ice and cold of last winter. We did document a spawning of sunfish in the springtime. This population is going to be pretty resilient. If there is enough area there, you are going to see reproduction going on, although it is going to be in a parcel of limited space.
Will the decaying terrestrial plants result in a fish kill next year?
We don’t expect to see a fish kill due to decomposition of plant material. We have observed other drawdowns that have lasted longer than this, Wyassup lake was over 2 years and Higganum Reservoir was down quite a long time before the dam repair occurred. In need of those situations, we did not see any type of fish kills when the water level was allowed to go back up, so we don’t expect anything to happen.
Will any of the fish be restocked? Which varieties?
The lake will be sampled, assuming that the water level is back up in the springtime. We typically sample the lake at nighttime by boat, electrofishing in April. We will compare to 2010 and 2013 samples and will make that determination if we really need to do restocking. We typically don’t restock warm water fish, but you can’t say never because we will assess what actually happens at that time. So if we see a situation where a desirable fish species is no longer present in that lake, they we will consider restocking, but typically we have never had to do that because we have seen the fish populations rebound.
If DEEP will not be restocking, how long do you anticipate it to take for the fish to actually repopulate the lake?
We see fish that are pretty resilient and repopulate at an accelerated rate because it is almost vacant habitat. We have lost some fish to downstream, we have had additional predation, so what we do see is good natural reproduction, good survival, and accelerated growth rates because you have less competition between the species and within species.
I heard that Pike have been illegally stocked in the lake and DEEP does not want them in the lake? Why? What do we do if we catch one?
Yes, Northern Pike have been illegally stocked and it is illegal for anglers to catch fish, transport them live to restock them in another water body in the state. There are reasons for that, you can transport fish that may have disease, you can transport invasive plant species – there are laws against that, you cannot do that and oftentimes you may see an actual impact on fish population if your bringing in another fish species. The Pike are protected by the statewide regulation of 2 fish 26” minimum length. So if you catch pike you can release them back or harvest as long as it is within state regulation. A rumor was circulating that fisheries was telling people to harvest the fish and cut off their heads, we would never recommend something like that – again if you catch fish, you can put them back or remove them based on state regulations.
Are the lake fish safe to eat?
Yes they are, there is no reason just because the lake has been drawn down that the condition of the fish would be impacted where they would not be safe to eat. The existing state regulations have consumption advisories would pertain to Beseck Lake, the same that they do for other lakes statewide.
Will there be catch limits placed on Beseck Lake fish populations until they repopulate?
Based on past experience and until we do our analysis next year, there probably isn’t going to be a need for special regulations, we don’t expect a need for added protection.
Lake Recovery and Terrestrials
Greg Bugbee CT AG Experiment Station
I am from the CT Agricultural Station, I run the invasive aquatic plant program there. We have conducted surveys of Beseck lake (showing 2004 and 2011 maps that are available online) The purpose is to see how the lake is changing over the years, we know all the plants that are there, they are recorded, we have transects in the lake, we can back to these exact spots where we can take samples and determine the vegetation and see how things are changing. We will be able to se how things are changing after this has all occurred, by going back and doing another survey and let us know has this hurt or helped, especially with invasive species. My personal feeling is that it could help you a lot with your invasive species issues. Most of the areas have been exposed and are dried and now have wetland, terrestrial or wet/terrestrial vegetation growing there. I think once the water level comes up, the vegetation will die back and at least for a while it will give you a bio-barrier to protect with re-infestation from some of these invasives that’s my thinking on it, we’ll see that works but we will be out there in a year or so after it fills back up and doing more survey work to help to determine how things have changed. During the last two years we have offered workshops at this very spot on Earth Day to help to learn how to identify invasive species and particularly look for new ones in an effort to solve a lot of problems, so education can help.
Mark June-Wells All Habitat Services
Acting as the advisor to the Lake Ad Hoc Advisory Committee, a committee dedicated to conserving this lake. As you can imagine, the drawdown of this magnitude to repair the dam structure is a significant disturbance to the lake ecosystem. What your elected officials have been doing is monitoring that lake before and after this entire initiative. We have water quality data ranging back historically that has been summarized as well as water quality data that has been occurring during the drawdown that will continue after this project is complete. Additionally we have been conducting vegetation survey’s, as Greg has mentioned and we have initiated a research program of our own to understand how the plant community is going to shift – the relevant abundance of each species. Additionally we’ve been looking for grant funding, to fund future initiatives in Lake Beseck management. The purpose of all of this is so we are able to respond as a town and committee to manage this lake, to conserve its recreational value as well as the ecological value and ensure that it is there for the future generations.
Chuck Lee, CT DEEP
I want to speak about the history that I have been involved with or the agency has been involved with Beseck Lake. The first time I came out was 1995, the lake was drawn down in the winter and the lake wasn’t coming back up and people were disappointed that it wasn’t coming back up to the summer level by the time recreation began. One of the things we know about Beseck lake is that it doesn’t fill up quickly. With average rainfall we would expect to see it refill – it could fill up twice in one year but sometimes we don’t have average rainfall and we have to deal with the lake not flowing as quickly as we would like or as quickly as the calculations tell us it would be. We have been involved with the lake in a number of different ways, In 1999 or so when the sanitary sewer lines were placed – that was a big project. Att the same time, we provided a little bit of money so that storm water sewers could be put in as well which was a real foresight in doing that while th etwon had all the contractors on site, all the engineering, and surveyors, it was a lot less expensive to do the storm water sewers at that time then to do it at another time. The former selectman had good insight in trying to do that. Around the same time, back in 2000 we were able to do a quick study of the lake through the Lakes Grant Program and look at the water quality, although in my opinion it was still an abbreviated study – we would still like to collect more data on the lake. It did show that the sanitary sewers at that time [if you believe in those one-shot data points] were showing improvement. We have liked to have more robust data to show our assessments, but that’s what we were working with. I know people have a lot of questions about plants that are growing up and what is going to happen with that. I think the best example I can give you from our experience is Lake Williams in Lebanon. It was a similar lake because it was more of a wetland or a pasture or meadow before it was a lake. It was down maybe 5 years or more – [it was not a state owned lake] we were involved with the Town of Lebanon, when that lake came back up, it came back to being a lake, it did not come back as the emergent wetland that they were seeing when the lake was down, it came back up as a lake again. I think you are right in being concerned, anytime you make a drastic change to an ecosystem especially a lake ecosystem, what’s going to happen - our experience is telling us that is going to come back up and we are going to have the lake that we had before in about a year, once we get the water back up. My concern and probably your concern too is that the lake we had before, we would like to improve. We know we have algae blooms at Beseck Lake, we know we have invasive plants that we would like to control and that has been an ongoing battle and we are going to continue to work with that as we have funding and as we work with the Town. I’m glad the town is showing a strong commitment by hiring Mark to do work for the town – I think that is a very important first step. We will be working with Mark and we will be working with the town to keep that information going. I know Mark has some information that looks at internal nutrients causing the algae problems; we could also look at a better assessment of what is going on in the watershed. We need to start looking at that, what it really takes to control the nutrients in the lake and in the watershed. We are not going to be leaving after the dam is up, we will still be around coming to meeting and talking about water quality. Again, I think the weeds we are seeing now are not going to be an issue, we are going to have the lake we had before and again, the lake we had before we still want to improve.
Elizabeth McAuliffe, DEEP liaison
I think someone had mentioned it that this was 2 million dollar investment to make in repairing the dam and we understand it is like living in your house when your kitchen is under construction. It is an inconvenience, but I think the payback will be not having the leakage over the next many years. Not all communities that have dams that need repair have that investment from the state right away, so I think it is a good thing even though it is very inconvenient right now. I know people had some comment about the boat launch and the individual from boating was unable to be here tonight but the group that is working on the dam is also working on the boat ramp. Buddy: The “hump” at the boat launch is gone, it is all graded out and it looks terrific. It was something that Ted did as an adjunct to the dam, it wasn’t part of the original contact and somehow he snuck some guys over there and got it for us and we thank him for that. Liz: I think I heard someone whisper in the front row that I still see construction trucks, I think it is important to stress that the parts of the dam that are critical to getting the water to come up are done, there is additional work that is being done at the dam but it is not related to the ability of the water to come back up, is that right, Ted? Ted: That is correct. And I think that is where some confusion is coming in, people are seeing concrete trucks – do you know?...You know, you watch contractors, it is interesting. Ted: We finished this week the cap, so the top of the dam is complete, the only concrete trucks we will have now will be at the end of this week or beginning of next week, we should be able to get the old intake structure taken down and I have to fill the pipe that runs through there with concrete and there will be no more concrete trucks.
Amy Poturnicki, Lake Advisory Committee Chairman
I would like to thank everyone for coming this evening. Momentarily you guys will get a chance to ask questions to all of our scientists, so I would like to thank our scientists and CTDEEP, I want to thank you guys for coming to answer everybody’s questions, there are lots of questions that people have so I think we are going to do that, so thanks everybody for being here.
Randy Q: Back in the 90’s Tom Luby took a nice walk in the snow and that spring they were a lot higher that they are this year, I don’t know why or what didn’t take place but they were over my head and they had the DOT come in and clean them up. And I want to know if we can get the nutrients out of the lake why don’t we, we have the opportunity now- let’s get them out!
Chuck A: Back in the 1990’s or thereabouts when the dam was down before, I don’t think it was DOT that came in, I think it was DEP that came in at that time. I could be wrong but I know we sent a crew down to harvest those plants under the request of Rep Tom Luby. It wasn’t our endorsement, but it was something that was needed that Tom Luby asked and we did at that time. At that time, we were a much larger agency. We are a much smaller agency now, we don’t have those people anymore. It wasn’t our endorsement but we start looking at that and say that we can removed the nutrients, it is always about removing the nutrients but the question is how much of the nutrients are you really removing by that effort, given the whole bio-mass down to that lake, we don’t think it is significant.
Randy Q: At the south end of the lake, the trolley – there was a huge breach, my concern is the silt that collects at the south end that will run right back into the lake. That was almost like containment.
Ted A: The only thing we got rid of was the old trestle and wood that was a boating hazard.
Randy Q: Ted, when they fixed the dam the last time the spillway was down about 4”. I have a high water mark on my wall and when the water is going over that spillway it hasn’t gotten up to that water mark and I want to make sure that they have the elevation right this time.
Ted A: I haven’t touched the front part of the spillway so it is the same elevation as it was when I started.
Randy Q: So it is still going to be down 3-4”? That was a mistake that was made back then.
Ted A: I didn’t do it in the 90’s. I didn’t happen to make the spillway any larger - it is a high hazard dam due to the roads downstream, your buildings. I didn’t change the front of that because of a lot of the stone work on the dam was starting to unravel. It was not even, it is still not even, it had dips and I followed what was existing with the section that we put back. There is a low float toward the center and it comes up on each side.
Kathy Q: Mr. Lee, I spoke to you on Thursday or Friday. I am new at lake Beseck, I just bought a home that we are remodeling and I could maybe fill a thimble with what I know about lakes. Coming from home from my home last week as I see the plant growing higher and higher, I think who do I call for this? It’s got to be DEP, so I go into work and I make the calls, dialing the numbers and hoping to be transferred to the right person. I want to thank you all tonight – I’ve gotten a different opinion than what I had on Thursday. Thursday I was ripped. I had started a letter to the commissioner and the governor and let me tell you a little bit about the way my conversation went. Do you have any information of Lake Beseck? (I spoke to Dan at the Dam Repair) Dan said, basically quoting him “you people”…which immediately made the hair raise at the back of my neck “you people should be very appreciative of the grant money that you got for that work that you didn’t pay for that the State of CT taxpayers payed for” I took a second, breathed deep and said would that be the same way I paid my taxes for roads that I never go on, or the people that live on the shore that had the homes washed away that my tax money went for – so yeh, I guess “we people” maybe should be grateful to you. Then I was told “give me a dollar, and the State of CT would be happy to sell you Lake Beseck because it costs us hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, we’d be glad to get it off our back” this man may have amnesia when you talk to him and say this crazy lady stood up and quoted you but I can tell you that conversation happened. He repeatedly spoke about the people at Lake Beseck as “you people” and then said that “You people never had a good lake to begin with” and then I spoke to him about the plants, he then said “what do you want me to tell you about the plants?...you should have went for more money – go and find someone to give you more grant money” Needless to say, something came up on the computer about this meeting and I knew that I had to attend but I thank you all because I do see that there is a vested interest and there is light after this Dan, and do you know who I am talking about?
Chuck A: I know the person.
Kathy Q: well, I have his name at work that is on the Governor’s and Commissioners letter.
Commissioner Klee: I would still like to encourage you to write me that letter, because I do appreciate that type of feedback. That is something that we are working on and some places need a little more help than others but we are trying to improve our customer relations, and I apologize.
Kathy Q: One more thing I am glad and I hope that what I see a positive step in the right direction for Lake Beseck but I do have a little bit of a concern, I spoke to a couple of environmental engineers (who I don’t profess that they know everything) but they were very concerned about oxygen and the plants which brings me to a think what this gentleman said, “If we know it can be a problem” – so far I have heard “I expect”, “it should”, no one has said definitively that it won’t hurt, so if they are there, what should we have to do outside of me going out on a Saturday afternoon, (which I am willing to do) but if you know it could be a problem, why not do something like you have in the past to make sure they are taken out?
Liz: I just want to make a comment because I had the same concern when I was hearing about these issues, and I think that the point Greg made about the invasives and that it creates a barrier is an important thing to consider because there are now so many lakes that have issues with invasives. I’m not a scientist, but it did strike me as something that was important. You don’t want to create space for them, you don’t want to give them an opportunity. Someone else was mentioned, can we cut down the trees by the boat launch because people want to fish there. I think when you start removing material, then you start having issues with erosion.
Dante: Permission for Greg to speak more to that question from Kathy about terrestrials.
Greg: Again, this is a biological system. I wish any of us could say this is exactly what will happen, and we just can’t do that. We do know a lot of things. The plants you see will are mostly water, not nutrients, and they will eventually die back. There will be some nutrients involved, but the question is are these nutrients going to increase the level of nutrients in the water above what they would normally be, and I don’t think that is the case. I have map with colors marking aquatic plants growing in those areas that are now vegetation that would normally be Eurasian watermilfoil and other plants, many of them do die back. Some of them, like the curly leaf pondweed dies back every year in the summer right at the time when you don’t want nutrients in the water, because it is a plant which has its natural cycle of die-back as it gets warm. You are having that occurring naturally and any addition you would have of these plants is really going to be minimal and like DEEP has said this isn’t the first lake that has been filled with a lot of vegetation. Do you see major algal blooms, that you can attribute to the vegetation?…
Chuck A: After the following year, well, I would say we have or we haven’t. I’m not going to say that I have assessed all the data bases.
Q: What about the example of the lake in Lebanon, the example that you gave?...you said they it came back with a stronger, healthier quality of water? Did they remove all of the terrestrials?
Chuck A: No, and you would not have known that that lake was drawn down. If you went to the shores of that lake, you would not have known that there were wetland plants there the year before.
Marv Q: So the plants simply vanished?
Chuck A: The habitat was too wet for the plants to exist. So once the winter came, the plants never came back the following spring that is how that worked.
Kathy Q: I am wondering about the depths, I mean we are trying to make the lake a lake but we have had a very shallow lake to begin with and I am wondering with the other lake s that you are referring to if there was a depth perspective here that you are taking into consideration?
Chuck A: Right. That’s why I referred to Lake Willams as a comparison - we could talk about Wyasuup Lake but that was a deeper bonier lake with a lot more stones. Lake Williams was a lake more a wetland and before they were flooded, they were similar habitats. We have several lake that we have drawn down without a problem, Lake Williams just came off the top of my head.
Brad Q: I would like to comment about an earlier comment about trying to fill the lake. We endure a year of trying to get rid of a leaky dam and now you are in control of the dam, and the water level seems to be going down. One weekend I was very excited that the weeds went away, the weeds were under water - we were going in the right direction and boom, it went down as quickly as it came up. So, I’m wondering if we can reverse that trend a little and let the downstream water fill up a little at the same rate that our lake needs to fill up so we will have a lake next year ‘cause I am really concerned that we are not going to have a lake.
Ted A: I have the weir boards in there, it is a very dry season right now. We are below normal for rainfall.
Brad Q: I understand that evaporation takes it away, but it seems as though there is enough of a leak to be concerned.
Commissioner Klee A: Brian may be able to answer that question a more specifically, but there are requirements of the flow that must go down the stream.
Brian Murphy A: It is typical that we do have a down flow stream even when you have normal 3 ft and 6 ft winter drawdowns. It is always at a level that we are not completely shutting off the valve, when we do that we have a stream fish and natural resources in the Ellen Doyle Brook that would basically end up in a fish kill there because we don’t have the flow going downstream. Really, the amount of flow we have going downstream isn’t significant but yes, that would help the water come up a little bit - but not significantly enough. The bottom line is we just need rain and we need to have a balance between protecting our natural resources and bringing up the lake.
Alexandra Q: I just have a quick question, we keep referring to rain and it seems that summer is not normally a rainy time, so when do the rains come, November?
Ted A: We have had significant rains in Sept/Oct before because of hurricanes or bypassing whatever but it’s just a very, very dry summer.
Brian Murphy A: If you look at map of the state, and look at the gauges of streams that are on the website, you can see that a significant part of CT is really way under normal rainfall conditions and normal stream flow conditions. We have some major streams in CT that are really now flowing. In eastern CT we are holding off from stocking some of our streams because there is not enough water to put the trout in, so we are stocking more of the lakes and pond areas.
John Q: I’d like to know what your definition of a trickle is to let water go downstream, because if I go over to the Blackbird and sit on the porch and look down, it is more like a babbling brook – that is our water going down Lake Beseck into the Ellen Doyle. Why is there so much water going out?
Jon Brayshaw A: Maybe I can answer that. A lot of the water that comes by Blackbird comes down from Toad Ridge, High St and not from Lake Beseck, but north of way Rd.
Brad Q: The point is that if we are getting flow, why can’t we shut off the source from Lake Beseck?
Dwight Q: Can I just suggest that someone look into this and adjust it the way it need to be adjusted make sure it is right?
Ted A: When you look at the outfalls, there is just a little bit coming out.\ and that’s all. I have boards in the slots, and I have plastic in there, I have beet pulp in there and I have all kinds of stuff. It leaks just a little around the edge and that’s what I got for the flow.
Is it a measurement that is done or do you just take a finger in the air approach?
Ted A: You can measure it at the outfalls, but I’m letting a little bit out, it’s probably not as much as I should be but I just can’t stop it all of the way.
Q: Are there any plans on putting sand where the muck used to be and in the beach area?
Jon Brayshaw A: we put sand in the beach area every year that I have been around. We bring a truckload or two of nice clean sand. (That one area just for you folks, when you were not looking, we took a machine and made some improvements to the beach.) So, yes we will be getting some sand.
Q: Can you bring sand in front of our properties so our kids can walk in the sand and not the muck?
Chuck Lee A: Bringing sand in was not a part of the request.
Mark June-Wells A: We recently filled out permits to allow for a maintenance area around the perimeter of the lake. The reason for that was, is that if there was a concern of terrestrial plants remaining like the smartweed or the cat tails or some of the other species that are able to deal with being inundated with water, we would be able to remove those plants so there would be access to the lake. However, we did not at that time include the sand to put into those areas. I don’t know if that is an option in some of those areas, it wasn’t part of our initial permit.
Chuck A: What Mark did was as the town’s consultant was put in a request for activities that could be done on the exposed lake bed for removing the plants, not including putting sand in. I’m not saying that that can’t happen, but the town can make that request and we can review it. It’s really not a permit actually, it is permission from the agency because the state of CT is the owner of the bottom. So as far as regulating that activity, it would be the local wetland commission. Just because you get permission from them as a property owner, doesn’t mean you have permission from the agency and visa versa.
Randy Q: We have had a hard time getting anything from the State DEEP. People have wanted to repair their walls this year, it was back and forth, we didn’t know what direction to go in. We told them that if they got permission from the state it would be alright with us, we regulate everything up to the lake.
Chuck A: Thankfully, you could regulate in the lake, if you chose to.
Randy: I don’t know if we want to.
Chuck : You could, it is Inland wetland and Watercourses permission.
Randy: The problems with had with people this year, is inspecting the walls after the fact. What do you tell someone that put up a $30,000 wall that they have to tear it down? We told them to go back to the state to get some confirming information that it was okay to do that. When they came back to the board we would say that we hadn’t received a definite answer from the state.
Chuck: Well, I didn’t receive any of that but if you have a paper trail you can follow, that would be helpful.
Ed bailey A: The town did deal with Lee Vito – the Land Acquisitions dept there was a lot of communication with them. That’s how that was handled.
Rep. Buddy Altobello: Did you get anywhere?
Second selectman, Ed Bailey: There was some feedback so that is what Randy is referring to.
Chuck Lee: Well, the Town went through the Land Acquisition to do the dredging, remove the plants, the turions but you are talking about individual which would go to the same agency, the Land Acquisition and Property management, they would be the ones that would review that type of request. 1) Find out if they really did 2) If they are not getting a response, we want to know so we can figure out why.
Jim Q: I want to try the weed discussion one more time from a different angle. I understand Greg’s point about bio-cover and that being a barrier of the invasive weeds, but Chuck had mentioned both the invasive weeds and also the algae bloom. The algae bloom seems like it is responsive to the amount of the material in the bottom of the lake that is de-grading. If we are going to have an amount of material in the bottom of the lake degrading that it is at least five times what we have with invasives. So, it seems like perhaps it might have some positive influence to your point on invasives, but the algae bloom toward the end of the summer as the temperature goes up could be significantly worse if my logic is correct and I’m just wondering if you all could perhaps comment on that might be another consideration in regard to removal of all of that bio-mass.
Chuck A: I don’t think there is actually a significant amount of bio-mass in that vegetation. Those nutrients were already there that was available for aquatic or terrestrial plant growth. I don’t think we are going to see a change. I think the algae blooms at Beseck Lake were bad before- unacceptable for most swimmers, I think. I think we are going to have the same situation when we get it back. It’s not going to make the matter worse is my belief, but it’s not going to make the matter better either but I do think basically it is a balance, we have nutrients that were in the system, we are not adding any nutrients into the system by letting the plants grow.
Marv Q: I would ask this question, if you owned property on the lake, and you had all of the weeds in front of you, would you pull them out or would you leave them there?
Chuck A: I don’t know, I haven’t even thought about what I would do if that were mine. I would probably leave it there but if you were to look at my lawn, you wouldn’t want me to be your neighbor. I’m not a good person to ask.
Rob Q: Well, if you lived on the lake you thought it was unacceptable for most swimmers, what would you do about that?
Chuck Q: If I were a swimmer?
Rob Q: Yeh, if you lived on the lake you thought it was unacceptable, what would you do to correct it?
Chuck Q: The water or vegetation?
Rob: The water quality- you said the water quality is unacceptable.
Chuck A: Oh yeh, I hear that question and that is probably a bigger question than an individual because you are talking about algae bloom throughout the whole lake, how one individual would handle that problem.
Rob Q: Let’s say you are in charge of the lakes for the State of CT, what would you do to help them?
Chuck A: That is a good question, well what I think needs to be done is pretty hard to study when we have to take it so far, one that would really look at both all of the nutrient budget of the lake comprehensively, and look at internal loading and we would have to come up with some answers and I think that stormwater infrastructure needs reviewed, the one that went in during the early 90’s to see how effective it has been working, it may not be I heard some reason it may not be. I think all of that needs to be reviewed. I think we need to maybe be doing more educating with homeowners and how they can keep more water on their property with rain gardens and I think we need to look more at what we can do in the lake. Options for in the lake would probably be aeration, dredging or alum. My preference, if I had all the money in the world, would probably be to dredge first and then let’s measure the water quality and see what would happen from that point. The reason we are not talking about dredging is we are probably talking about a 10 Million dollar project – if I had all the money in the world, that is maybe how I would approach it.
Rob Q: I am looking for a realistic evaluation, not if I had all the money in the world.
Chuck A: I gave you that answer. So realistically, we need to be looking at the stormwater and look at what type of internal loading is going in in that lake and see what we can do about it but I’m afraid that you all saw very clearly when the lake was drawn down that it was a former meadow that was filled up it wasn’t a glacial dug out lake, so geologically, it was an old lake to begin with and that’s what we are dealing with.
Rob Q: So, when you say we, you mean the Town of Middlefield?
Chuck A: No, I mean the State of Ct and Citizens and the Town of Middlefield. I have been working on the lake for over 20 years and I am not planning on leaving anytime soon so if money became available to that it would be a pleasure for me to be able to administer that toward this project.
Marv Q: Is aeration a possibility?
Chuck A: Regarding aeration, there are a lot more questions that need to be answered first like what is the oxygen demand in the lake and what kind of air would we have to put in the lake to overcome that oxygen demand. What kind of system would need to be put in, how much would it cost to manage and run that system, and would we get the intended results with that. We don’t have all of that information right now and what you would want to do is compare that with an alum treatment - an aluminum salt that you would put in the bottom of the lake to lock the Phosphorus to the bottom of the lake. What we do with aeration, we try to keep it so Phosphorus does not become available – that is the nutrient that causes all the algae blooms. So we put in oxygen, so we keep it at a state that precipitates at the bottom of the lake. Aluminum will hold that Phosphorus at an anoxic state and sometimes you can look at putting in an aluminum salt that will lock that up but I don’t know if tat would work or not – we tried that around 2001 or so at Lake Pocotopaug and what we found is that we had fairly acceptable water qualities ‘til mid-August and then we started having algae blooms again and after looking at it a little bit closer it was stormwater that was causing the algae blooms and it wasn’t as much internal nutrient loading as we initially anticipated. That alum treatment was about a $200,000 investment.
Randy Q: The Town is going in a good direction by hiring Mark. Mark is doing a lot of studies, we’re actually looking, we looked at a couple aeration systems. Is the State willing to support that?
Chuck A: I think Mark’s work is advancing what we know, and the management of Beseck Lake quite a bit. We are willing to look at it but we don’t have all the information on it.
Mark A: Just to give you guys a little more information about what we have going on through the advisory committee, we have two initiatives that are important for this discussion that is going on. First is a watershed study, being conducted by Milone and MacBroom. Those data that are being collected, we are waiting on them and they are summarizing those and we will understand what the total nutrient loading is, including Phosphorus and Nitrogen that are entering the lake throughout the season given wet and dry conditions. Additionally, though all of the water quality sampling, that we have been doing, it’s a little difficult to tell given the state of the lake however, through the historical data sets that we have looked into, what that is telling us at this point is given a square meter of soil, or roughly 3 ft x 3 ft, it is giving off somewhere in the range of 200 – 300 mcg of Phosphorus – which is a significant amount and the reason for that is exactly as Chuck has mentioned, this is old pasture land, and this is old farmland, it was naturally rich, it was used for those kinds of agricultural activities. Additionally, given the state of the plant community, as you can see from these recent maps, and I also have a significant amount of data that supports this, showing that there is roughly 20 acres or more of species in this lake. Those species are highly productive, and the cause is that the soil is so rich. However what happens in the plant community this productive is it cycles those nutrients to the surface of the lake bottom and ultimately, the majority of that plant material dies in a relatively shallow region. However, there is a portion of that that migrates to the deeper water and as Chuck has mentioned, under de-oxygenated conditions, those nutrient that are available in that plant material, which is now in the deeper water, is released leading to the algal blooms that you guys have seen. And if fact, those data that we have collected this year under a relatively stressed condition, show that the algal problem does not arrive until hopefully August when you start getting the blue-green algae. Now there is a reason for that, I won’t go too brutally into depth but it is a Nitrogen/Phosphorous balance. When Nitrogen is present in the system, you tend to have green algae, they are common, they are the base of the food chain, they are important for the lake’s ecology and they are generally not viewed as a problem. However, when Nitrogen becomes depleted from the system which is what happens around August/September, and Phosphorus is then enriched do to the limited oxygen content in the lake, you now get blue-green algae. And why is that? Because blue-green algae can fix their own atmospheric Nitrogen. However, while that is important from an ecological standpoint, to some extent from a recreational standpoint is it a problem and the reason that is, is because those particular genera of algae have what are called cyanotoxins. They are intracellular chemicals that are produced by those species of algae and as the population booms, the cell count goes way up then those cells die and release all of those cyanotoxins to the water which for a grown adult is not a big deal. Pets and children we can run into some issues and the state is currently working on their risk assessment measures for that particular event. So, ultimately to sum up what we are doing is getting out mind around the oxygen demand of this lake. While we are doing that, we are also beginning to understand what the watershed influences are. What is the purpose of all of this? It is to lead to a directed management plan, which will include watershed, infrastructure improvements, and will also include in-lake management protocals, potentially alum, aeration and things of that nature to get a grip on the Phosophorus problem, which isn’t just a problem in Beseck Lake. Lake Erie, about a month ago, which provides water to about a half a million people was completely shut down because of blue-green algae. They could not produce water for their populace. Throughout CT, there’s also many lake that have internal nutrient loading like this. The question is why? And you have to only look in the mirror to see why, it’s us so we have to figure out ways to improve that. That is what the advisory committee and the state are working together to do.
Q: If the weeds that are there now are bothering residents, do they have permission to cut them down or pull them up?
Jon A: That is what we are working on right now with DEEP. There are a few different options that they will let people do if they want to.
Q: Once they get rid of the weeds, if they want to put sand in front of their property can they?
Jon A: I don’t know about the sand, we are dealing with the weeds.
Chuck A: I think what I am hearing tonight is done. If the town wants to make a request to the agency, we will consider it along with the other options.
Q: Would putting sand in the muck area, would that help anything, the invasives from growing up?
Chuck A: I don’t think so. I think you will lose a lot of that sand in the muck.
Jon: I think what the real problem is the state has so many lakes (Chuck- 3,600 lakes named lakes) and there is very little research, no one has conquered the issue. So, I would say we are an experiment. So the state is going to give us these few things to do because we don’t want to just sit there and watch t.v. we want to get out there and do something they are going to give us several things that we can plug into. If everyone in the room were to do their properties that average about 50 ft,
Q: You are saying that leaving the weeds there are not going to change the nutrient content of the lake, however if you are asking all of these people to take the weeds out of the lake, would it then change the nutrient content of the lake, would it be a benefit?
Chuck A: No doubt about it, you would be harvesting nutrients out of the lake, would it be a significant amount that would be measurable in the lake in the next year, I don’t think you will see that.
Dwight Q: How about lawn fertilizers and such?
Greg Bugbee A: I run the soil test lab at the Agricultural Station, that is my other charge. A couple things about lawn fertilizers, Phosphorus is a key element that Mark and I have been talking about that create the algal blooms, that has been banned from fertilizers 2 January’s ago. Whwn you look at lawn fertilizer there will be 3 numbers Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. That middle number is going to be zero. So you are not going to have Phosphorus in the lan fertilizer however you are going to have a lot of Nitrogen and I think a lot need to be learned about what Nitrogen lawn fertilizers might do. The key is that you have to make sure that the fertilizers don’t get into the lake. That is done making sure you have a buffer zone between the lake and your lawn that’s unfertilized vegetation that can maybe utilize any nutrients that might be moving downward to the lake. One of the key things is keeping the lawn fertilizers off of paved areas. On most of these lakes, our drains go right into the lake. If a good rain comes, that will be in the waterbody in no time.
We do soil test at the Agricultural Station, it is a free service. You can go on the website for more information, we can give you suggestions on exactly what you need. It is important to realize what lawn fertilizers are and what they are not. Right now there is not a lot of Phosphorus in them, but there is a lot of Nitrogen, there is also pesticides – in many cases, weed controls, insecticides and that sort of thing that you don’t want in your lake.
Marv Q: How about lime?
Greg A: The question is on limestone, you need to determine whether you need to lime your lawn. The good thing about lime is that it activates nutrients that naturally occur, so you don’t have to utilize as much fertilizer. In the case of lawns, you would like to see the PH around 6.0, which will maximize existing nutrients. There is some thinking that using lime on laws could increase the PH of the lake, in many cases is not an issue, but you have a plant called curlyleaf pond weed which likes high Ph water, I don’t think it is a big deal though. I think timing is important, I don’t think it is something that leaches heavily, and should be done according to the soil tests.
Q: I have a question about weeds that I have been pulling and I have to bring them to the dump, this is where you come in. Can we pile them up at the end of our driveways so the town can pick them up?
Jon Brayshaw A: We have to come up with a game plan, a multi-faceted game plan. One that addresses the catch basin pollution – that we use to take our water tests from, fertilizers, animal waste, washing your car. And yes, we’ll have to get something going if you folks are going to harvest the weeds, then we need to be able to put them at the beach, put them at the north end, and put them somewhere so we can pick them up. First, we need to get DEEP’s approval.
Q: How will we learn about the approval?
Chuck Lee A: I understand that is still under review, Mark have you heard anything since last week?
Mark June-Wells A: No, I haven’t.
Q: So is it okay to pull the roots?
Craig A: I think it is best to leave the roots.
Amy: Perhaps Greg can address that answer.
Greg Bugbee: If it was me, I would leave the roots. The worst thing I would want to see you do is pull the roots, have sort of tilled soil – the water is going to come up and maybe erode it a little bit, you will have silt in the water and now a place for invasive species to get a foot hold. If it was me, and you wanted to get rid of the weeds, I would cut them and leave the roots. Weed-whack, then get rid of the material. The other question which is one that came up is can you burn them? And I’m not sure what DEEP thinks about that one. As I mentioned, I run the soil testing lab and we do suggest wood ash as a fertilizer. So what exactly is a fertilizer, ash is a fertilizer. Now, I don’t know if they are going to allow you to do it ((crowd laughs)) but for that reason alone, I would not do that.
Amy: We left that option off the application, we didn’t apply for burning.
Lenny Q: Can we somehow get a positive out of this drawdown, do something so these weeds don’t grow so fast? Hopefully with the lake being drawn down we will get a good freeze that will freeze some of these out.
Mark A: During the turion project, we collected turions (a reproductive bud of the curlleaf pond weed) To determine what kind of impact the drawdown would have on that particular species, we collected a number of those turions – we then planted them in pots and put them at the Agricultural Experiment Station and have allowed them to persist in the water. You guys have a bit of good news, which I didn’t expect to see. None of those turions produced a new individual. That was from one season, relatively cold winter, not a lot of precipitation that winter, and none of them came back. It is good news for the drawdown.
Alexandra Q: were they frozen
Mark A: Yes, they were frozen all winter, they were collected right at the surface of the soi. So, my hope is that the curlyleaf pondweed will be knocked back. I have not seen it in the lake this summer, so there is a hope that it will be – we will see what happen when the lake returns. Now you have another invasive species of concern which is the Eurasian Watermilfoil. That is a species which is known a s a stem plant, essentially it grows from fragments of itself. It aslo grows as underground stem known as rhizomes. My hope is that that species will also be knocked back. However, I have seen it in the lake this summer. What is the distribution of it going to be? What is the abundance of it going to be? Hopefully, less. There will be less fragmentation from props cutting it up throughout this summer, hopefully we will get a good freeze this winter, in the exposed areas where the milfoil was prior to the drawdown – which there was a good freeze the prior winter, and with a second good freeze, we may see a significant knock back of that species as well.
In terms of the entire plant community, forget about invasive and native for a moment and let’s talk about the entire plant community. This lake has something in the range of 28 plant species. For a lake of this size, that is extremely rich. Generally a good thing, however, with the abundance of curlyleaf pond weed, in this particular case, it is a bit of a detriment. You guys know that, you boat on the lake, you swim in the lake, you know how annoying it is in trying to get through the dense plant community. From those species about half are seed species, which means that they are not actually growing from their roots. They are producing flowers every year, they are producing seeds which are contributing to the lake bed. You guys have heard the term seed bank. The seed bank is essentially the number of seeds per unit measurement of soil that is available to grow next year. My hypothesis is that the seed bank of this lake is going to be fairly rich and that the overall plant community will rebound at least in moderate abundances. I feel you are going to see quite a bit of plant material next year, the hope is that that plant material is native and not invasive and we will be able to tell you more when the lake comes back.
First Selectman Jon Brayshaw: Another thing that you need to be aware of is several times over the past year, we have put in for a grant. We put in for a weed harvester. We thought that we would like to own our very own, so we put in for a STEAP grant and we were not awarded the money to buy the harvester. But that doesn’t mean that in future years, with pressure applied at certain locations we couldn’t somehow end up with this weeds harvester, and as part of our yearly activities, we would go out into the lake and harvest whatever weeds we could harvest.
Senator Dante Bartolomeo: So yes, Jon to add to that, there have been multiple applications for different grants. Part of the challenge is that at the same time the weed harvester/STEAP grant came in there was also additional funding being requested for the dam repair, we also have a new fund that Buddy and I worked on passing in the legislature for lakes with invasive species, which we discussed applying for but at this point in time we weren’t ready for it because of the situation with the lake. My point is that there are multiple opportunities, some we have been ready for, some we have not, because either another request is in but we will continue to explore what is available that makes sense for this community but to be able to support those as they are going through the process.
Jon: Do I understand that Silver Lkae has such a piece of equipt?
Chuck A: No. They don’t. Silver Lake hydraulic dredge, not a wed harvester. We have build the treatment system where they can put the water discharge back into the lake, a total different machine that they have. Lake Zoar has a weed harvester that they use and other larger lakes. I think the trend now has been doing herbicide treatments vs weed harvesters.
Randy Q: That dry carpet like material on the lake bed, would it be worthwhile getting out of the lake bed.
Mark: It would be a lot of work if we were talking about the whole lake bed. We would be talking about scraping 2” of soil off the entire lake bed. It would not be practical.
Q: Do we have a timeline of when we will hear about the application?
Chuck A: We will follow up as soon as we can and get that information out as soon as we can.
Commissioner Klee A: We will have a quick turn around because we want to make sure you can get out there with your weed-whacker before the cold.
Brad: Does the new dam design allow for the same amount of drawdown that we have experienced?
Ted A: No, it is 2-3ft higher.
Dante: Randy, previously you were talking about the walls. If there are individual residents who are getting into situations and you need help getting approval or getting in touch with different departments, whether it is your walls or other, please remember to reach out to Buddy or I because our role is to be your liaison between the constituents and the agencies. They have all taken the time to be here tonight and they have been fabulous about working on this project. But your individual issues, if you need help, reach out to Buddy or I, we are more than happy to help.
Joe Q: The water runs off of the dam just like it did before, correct?
Ted A: Yes.
Q: The non-aquatic plants will die when the water comes up? Do they will sink right to the bottom?
Chuck Lee A: They will die back first and there won’t be much biomass left.
Marv: I have to say, I am encouraged by what all the people have had to say up here and I feel much better about it – and thank you.