Lake Beseck Association Newsletter Nov. 2012
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President: Amy Poturnicki Vice President: Dick Boynton Government Liaison: Dan Wilcox Treasurer: Pete Sibley Activities Chairperson: Amy Sorensen Circulation: Lynda & John Beichner Refreshment Chairperson: Eleanor Zahorodni
New Fence at Beach
Some of you may remember the market held at the beach a few years back in an effort to raise money that was allocated for beach improvements. The beach improvement fund had been sitting patiently in our Crime Watch account without being touched. About a year ago, we started working with local contractors and our Park & Rec budget to finally get a fence project underway. As a result, we were collectively able to piece just enough money together from Park & Rec, Lake Beseck Crime Watch and the cooperation of Miller Fence to do just that! The result: a beautiful new fence at the beach. If you have yet to see it, stop by and take a look!
Road Paving around the Lake
In August we received notification that road paving was to begin around the lake. Thanks to all that moved their boat trailers from the parking lot on Lake Road, the repaved parking lot now looks great. Intentions were to do road repairs, but temperatures are now too cold to chip seal. As long as the paving plant is still open, possibilities of shimming the concave sections of the roads (marked in white) still exist.
The Lake Beseck Environment Committee has been diligently working to create a plan for a $87,000 grant that has been hanging in limbo for over 5 years. We were given a 90 day goal to try to put something together with sudden hopes of bonding. With consecutive meetings since Feb, we quickly learned that the complexities surrounding a treatment plan was something that would take time to put together. The group explored various options--a detention pond, aquatic herbicides, alum treatment, copper sulfate, vortechnic units, dredging, aeration, suction harvesting, benthic barrier mats and the cost factors involving each. With most of these potential treatment plans came a need for more comprehensive studies of the lake. We specifically lacked storm water studies that would determine how much nutrient loading was coming from the lake bed vs surrounding watershed. This lacking storm water data would help to predict how successful such concepts as a detention pond, algae treatment or aeration would potentially be.
Darin Overton, one of our Lake Beseck Environment members, pulled together a Stormwater Management plan that was submitted to DEEP. If we had to contract for this, it would have cost quite a bit. We appreciate his generous contribution. The comprehensive plan that was submitted resulted in our learning about a clean water act grant only a few days before the deadline. With the help of DEEP and Ed Bailey, we were able to get this in on time. The funding for this grant appears to be a bit more promising than the one hanging in limbo from 2006. If we obtain the grant, it will provide us with $30,000 toward the implementation of the watershed management. The Town would have to match 40% of the grant. The good thing about the match is that it can be in-kind. For example, if we install the vortechnics unit that is currently in the town budget, this would qualify. The value of volunteer efforts by members of the town could also be counted. We may hear something about the grant application as soon as December.
Repairs to Beseck Lake Dam
Press release by Fuss & O’Neill and DEEP
Beseck Lake Dam, located in Middlefield, Connecticut, was constructed in the mid-1800’s to provide water power for downstream mills. The dam is now operated by the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environment (CT DEEP) to maintain Beseck Lake as a recreational lake. The CT DEEP is proposing to undertake repairs and improvements to the dam to address persistent deficiencies.
The last major repair of the dam was completed in 1991 to repair a sinkhole that had formed near the right abutment on the upstream face of the dam and to address seepage along the right toe of the dam. During recent engineering investigations, in several locations seepage was found to be moving embankment soils again. To provide a long-term solution to the persistent seepage problems, the CT DEEP proposes the installation of a concrete cut-off wall along the upstream face of the dam spillway extending into the earthen dam at both ends of the spillway.
In addition, to improve the operation and maintenance of the dam, a larger low-level outlet and new drawdown chamber will be installed which allow more control over the lake water level for seasonal drawdowns and to release flow to the downstream watercourse to bring the dam up to current CT DEEP standards. The project will also include dry fire hydrants to be installed along King Road for the Town of Middlefield.
A public information meeting will be held at 6:30 PM on November 13, 2012 in the Community Center Auditorium to discuss the proposed repairs and improvements and the anticipated construction process and schedule.
Vice President’s Message By Dick Boynton
Fixing the dam
A couple weeks ago we were surprised to learn from Jon Brayshaw that the DEEP had informed him that they are going to repair the dam at Lake Beseck by pouring a concrete wall directly against the existing dam. The new dam would include a new water level control pit that will be approximately 13 feet deep. The water level could then be automatically maintained by adjusting the placement of weir boards within the water level control pit. This would reduce the expense the DEEP charges Middlefield for maintaining the water level.
It’s estimated that the new dam will cost between 1.1 and 1.8 million dollars. It will probably take at least a year for the DEEP to obtain a permit, raise the necessary funds, and go out for bid. When the construction starts, it is anticipated that it will be necessary to draw down the lake level by 12.5 feet. Since the average depth of the lake is 10.8 feet, much of the lake will be dry during this period. This drawdown could last 10 months (or more if unforeseen problems are encountered).
We would have no lake at all if there wasn't a dam to hold back the water. Before the dam was built, Lake Beseck was known as Wildcat Swamp. Part of what is now the lake was fenced with stone walls to contain the sheep that grazed there. You will be able to see these walls when they drain the lake. The existing dam was built in 1848 at a height of 60 feet for a price of $1000. It was paid for by about 10 factories downstream, which formed a corporation known as the Middlefield Reservoir Company. They needed the resulting reservoir to provide water for their waterwheels during periods of low rainfall. There are three of these factories remaining: the Pistol Shop behind the post office in Rockfall (now my house), the Rogers Company near the swimming pool at Wadsworth Falls State Park, and the Starr Mill near the intersection of RT 157 and RT 66.
The dam is made of cut stone with no mortar holding it together. The reason it hasn’t collapsed years ago is that it was built in an arch facing upstream, and the sides of the dam are against solid bedrock. Therefore, water pressure forces the stones together, locking them in place. So this dam has survived for 160 years. It was built of brownstone that was quarried from the area on Powder Hill Road that later on became the Middlefield Dinosaur Park. When the contractors were building the dam, the workers noted that there were giant bird footprints in the rocks. They contacted Yale and a professor identified the footprints as coming from a dinosaur which he called Eubrontes. It’s interesting to realize that we now know that this type of dinosaur had feathers and was the ancestors of current day birds. So these footprints really were from “giant birds”. The story is told that the first cap of the dam was made of stones that all had footprints, so that it looked like a dinosaur had walked across the top of the dam. When the height of the dam was increased from 60 to 80 feet 20 years later, these stones were covered.
When you consider that many of the stones in the dam each weigh over one thousand pounds, it is amazing that the dam could be built in 1848 without the aid of any power driven machinery. Each stone was moved by oxen and then most probably positioned by human power using long crowbars and rollers.
The cut stones have numerous crevices between them, so the water would flow through and rapidly drain the lake if there weren’t something to seal these cracks. To prevent that, in 1848 fine clay was packed against the upstream side of the dam. Unfortunately this clay gradually develops little channels that allow water to flow to the face of the dam. You can plug them up but a year later they are back again, often in another location. It’s an endless job to keep these channels plugged. Furthermore, the water can go in at one side of the dam and then work its way over so it comes out at another location, making it difficult to find where the leak is. The DEEP has been chasing these leaks for years. In 2005 there was a major leak which only occurred when the lake was full. As the lake was drained, the leak stopped at a drawdown of a little over 3 feet. You might think it would be easy to find this leak, but engineers have been working on this since then, and the dam is still leaking, so they decided to go for a new concrete liner. The rebuilt dam will look just like the old one since the concrete will be poured against the inside of the dam.
How dangerous is the dam right now? I certainly hope that it is still safe, since the lake holds 416 million gallons of water when full. If the dam were to collapse, everyone downstream would probably die and their houses would be washed away. Vinnie Cahill’s house would end up in the middle of Peckham Park. The Blackbird Tavern would be gone. My house in Rockfall might be destroyed. There is little danger of the dam collapsing during warm weather unless serious erosion occurs around the perimeter of the dam. We have had reoccurring issues with sinkholes and erosion along the King Road side of the dam. A bigger problem exists in the winter. Water seeping through the cracks in the dam can freeze and heave out the stones. This would require a number of freezing and thawing cycles. If even a few stones were dislodged, then the dam would be significantly weaker and a chain reaction could occur. However, I don’t think there is a big danger of the dam collapsing right now. I’ve been keeping an eye on it, and it looks OK. The state has installed monitors which sense the movement of the lake bed near the dam. The state checks these periodically. In this way, they can make repairs well before there is any danger of the dam collapsing. Recently they have noticed that water flowing from the leak contained debris, indicating that there is erosion occurring.
The dam was owned by the factories downstream until 1966. At that point they no longer used water power so the “Middlefield Reservoir Company” sold the dam (and hence the lake) to the State of Connecticut. That’s good news for us and for Middlefield, since the state now has to pay for the repairs.
A meeting has been scheduled on November 13th at 6:30PM in the auditorium downstairs at the Community Canter to discuss the repair of the dam in detail. At that meeting they will have drawings of the proposed repair and will answer questions about the schedule. Obviously we want to minimize the length of time the lake is drained, and at the same time the LBA Environment Committee is working on taking advantage of the drawdown to muck out shallow parts of the lake if we can line up the necessary funding before the drawdown. The town could use its equipment for some of this. We would need approval before proceeding, but Chuck Lee indicated at the meeting on October 23rd that he would assist us in obtaining this. He wants a feasibility study done first. We already have data on the lake bed. I’ll try to get the actual samples if they are still in storage so we can do a study of possible contamination ( we only looked at nutrients, etc during the first study).
I’m grateful for the help both Senator Len Suzio and Representative Buddy Altobello have given us. They are both working on getting funding for the dam repair and also funding for a watershed study. Len has been a major player in our Environment Committee. I’m impressed how good he is at keeping things moving (not a trait that many politicians seem to have).
Life in Vancouver
As most of you know, I now have a serious relationship with a woman (Layne Williams) who lives in Vancouver. This means that I spend 30 days in Vancouver and then Layne spends the following 30 days in Middlefield, etc. I will be in Vancouver from October 28th to November 20th. Amy is doing a great job running the Lake Association and will keep things moving while I am gone. Vancouver is a beautiful city. It’s surrounded by white capped mountains and is right on the ocean. The climate is milder than Connecticut, but unfortunately there are more days of rain than we have here, so it can be a little gloomy in the winter. Layne and I are going to Easter Island in January and then spending some time in Florida in February. I miss everyone when I am gone, but I’m having a great time.
I hope many of you will be able to attend the LBA Xmas party at my house on December 15th.
2012 Lake Beseck Association Christmas party will be held on Saturday December 15th at 6:30 PM at Dick’s house in Rockfall. The snow date is Sunday December 16th at 6 PM.
This is a potluck affair. If your last name begins with A through G bring any type of salad or appetizer, H through M bring a dessert, N through Z bring a main dish. Drinks will be provided by the Association.
We will have an optional grab bag gift exchange. If you would like to go in as a couple that’s fine. The cost of the gift should be about $7.