Towns could purchase Candlewood
Towns could have the option to buy
Built more than 80 years ago to produce electricity, Candlewood Lake may become a publicly owned lake managed primarily for recreation and the environment.
The Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials authorized its executive director, Jon Chew, Oct. 20 to set up meetings to discuss purchasing the lake from its current owner, FirstLight Power Resources.
Candlewood Lake, at 5,420 acres, is the largest inland body of water in the state.
The council met that day at Brookfield Town Hall.
New Fairfield First Selectman John Hodge, chairman of the council and a member of Candlewood Lake Authority, told the council FirstLight officials raised the purchase issue during discussions with the authority last week.
"They're very agreeable to selling it off," Mr. Hodge said
The buyers and owners would be the five towns to border the lake -- New Milford, Sherman, Brookfield, Danbury and New Fairfield.
Mr. Hodge estimated the lake might cost $10 million, based on FirstLight's estimates of its worth.
He said ownership would allow the towns to control what he called "a jewel of the region."
Charles Burnham, a spokesman for FirstLight, said Oct. 20 FirstLight mentioned the sale to town leaders as something they might find advantageous.
"We welcome the discussion of this option," Mr. Burnham said.
Mr. Hodge said the authority and area town leaders want to manage the lake to increase its value to western Connecticut.
"As the lake goes, so goes the region," Mr. Hodge said.
He added FirstLight, as a company interested in increasing it profits, has less interest in the lake as a center of recreation.
"FirstLight is there to make money," he said.
Mr. Hodge said the towns and Candlewood Lake Authority would like the annual draw down of the lake to last a full 60 days or longer.
The drawdown lowers the lake by several feet every year to kill the Eurasian watermilfoil growing near its shoreline.
"In an ideal world, the drawdown would begin the first week of December and last for 60 days or so," Mr. Hodge said. "But FirstLight has told us one of the most profitable times to make electricity is near Christmas."
Mr. Burnham pointed out FirstLight agreed this spring not to pump water into the lake to reduce the chance of zebra mussels getting into the lake.
That meant the company wasn't generating power at its Rocky River hydroelectric plant in New Milford.
"It's been difficult to make it profitable," Mr. Burnham said.
Mr. Hodge said last week it might take five years to discuss all the issues surrounding a purchase and reach a deal with the utility.
The towns would have to decide whether they would continue to generate power at the Rocky River plant or simply use it to raise or lower the lake, he said.
"But let's see where it leads," Mr. Hodge concluded..