With sunny skies and seasonal temperatures predicted for the weekend, Lake Lillinonah will once again be one of the Greater New Milford area's top recreational destinations.
For decades, residents of New Milford, Bridgewater, Roxbury, Brookfield, Newtown, Southbury and other area towns have enjoyed fishing in, swimming in and boating on the man-made lake, which was created by Connecticut Light & Power in 1955.
But over the recent Memorial Day weekend, some local boaters cut their recreational activities short because of an abundance of woody debris floating in the lake.
Several members of the grassroots Friends of the Lake group claimed the woody debris was a safety risk to anyone using the lake for swimming, water skiing, tubing or boating.
There is no question that partially submerged tree limbs, entire trees and other woody debris can pose significant danger to lake enthusiasts, especially those being towed behind a motorboat.
FirstLight Power Resources, which owns Lake Lillinonah, is required under its state permit to manage the debris on the lake.
To its credit, FirstLight uses a skimmer boat to collect floating debris on the lake. In fact, FirstLight sent the boat out for a cleanup before the Memorial Day weekend.
Chuck Burnham, a spokesman for FirstLight, contends the extra woody debris over the Memorial Day weekend was caused by the wakes from motorboats, not something that FirstLight neglected to do.
At the heart of this debate are two conflicting sets of figures.
The Friends of the Lake claim FirstLight raised the water level from its normal height of 195 feet above sea level to 197 feet above sea level during the Memorial Day weekend to produce more hydroelectric power at the Shepaug Dam.
FirstLight, in documentation to the state Department of Energy and Environment Protection, claims 195 feet is not its normal operating height but, rather, the minimum height for non-flood conditions.
Nonetheless, whenever FirstLight raises the water level of Lake Lillinonah, the action amplifies the impact of motorboat wakes, and it acts as a catalyst to push woody debris from the shore to the middle of the lake, where recreational boating traffic is the heaviest.
While we appreciate FirstLight's business model to maximize its hydroelectric production, if the company cannot safely clear the debris from the lake -- as required by its state permit -- it should not raise the water level during weekends and other prime recreation time.
This is not just a matter of being a good corporate neighbor. It is a matter of public safety on the lake.