Lake's deep drawdown could pay dividends
Published 12:16 pm, Thursday, December 30, 2010
The dream of a two-month-long, deep drawdown on Candlewood Lake -- deep enough and long enough to ice the Eursasian watermilfoil that's grown increasingly bothersome to lake users -- may come true this year.
Robert Gates, station manager for FirstLight Power Resources Inc., said recently the company is committed to dropping the lake by about eight feet by early January, then keeping it consistently low through February.
FirstLight controls Candlewood's depth via the Rocky River hydroelectric power station on Route 7 North in New Milford.
"We'd like it back up again by April for the fishermen,'' Mr. Gates said.
The owner of the lake -- previously Northeast Utilities, now FirstLight -- drops the lake's level every year. The companies have traditionally alternated between a shallow drawdown of four or five feet, and a deep drawdown of eight to 10 feet.
In recent years, however, the Eurasian watermilfoil -- a non-native invasive aquatic plant that can form thick mats of vegetation -- has grown increasingly worse.
As it has, swimming and boating through those mats of weeds gets to be nearly impossible.
"This year was unprecedented,'' Mr. Marsicano said of the watermilfoil takeover of the lake.
A deep drawdown exposes the watermilfoil along the shoreline to winter's cold, wind and ice, killing the plant.
Generally, the year following a deep drawdown has meant less watermilfoil in the lake.
Mr. Marsicano said the lake authority, by studying more than two decades of data, found that, in the 1980s and 1990s, the deep drawdowns were consistent -- an eight- to 10-foot drop that lasted from early January to the end of February.
"It was like clockwork,'' he said.
In the past decade, he said, that consistency has been lost.
Deep drawdowns haven't been as deep or as long, sometimes lasting only two or three weeks before the power company starts rising the lake's level again.
The watermilfoil problem has grown worse in those years.
"We need to look at what worked in the past,'' Mr. Marsicano said.
New Fairfield First Selectman John Hodge said Monday his town has hired lake expert George Knocklein to study the effects of drawdowns on the lake.
A deep drawdown this year, Mr. Hodge said, will be essential for Mr. Knocklein's work.
"Without it, it could definitely skew the study,'' he said.
Mr. Hodge said without a deep, prolonged drawdown, the watermilfoil would only grow thicker and more problematic.
"Without it, we're looking at an unmitigated disaster,'' he cautioned.