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Authority Looks For Way To Save Lake From Weeds

The Rogers Lake Authority is considering taking steps to kill weeds that are choking the midsection of the 260-acre lake shared by Lyme and Old Lyme.

A 2003 study by Aquatic Control Technologies of Sutton, Mass., reported that nuisance weed growth and invasive plants were interfering with recreational uses on the lake like sailing, kayaking and swimming. Decaying plant life also sucks oxygen out of the water that could, in turn, suffocate the lake's brown trout, the study states.

Options presented in the study include doing nothing, harvesting the weeds and using herbicides, but some residents fear the last option could contaminate groundwater, wells and soil. The towns do not have sewers.

The weed growth “is a big nuisance,” authority member Brian Kyle of Old Lyme said Friday. “It's a lot worse than it used to be. Plus, Rogers Lake is the trophy fishing lake.” Kyle's father, Al Kyle, the former chairman, passed away in February.

Chairman Fredrik D. Holth of Lyme said his agency is ready to evaluate possible action while the study is still fresh.

The lake was formed from two or three ponds shaped by mill dams centuries ago, Holth said. In the 1960s, the state established a boat launch off Grassy Hill Road. Twenty-nine years ago, the towns passed an ordinance establishing the lake authority to monitor the lake's health and public safety.

Since 1975, there's never been even “a cubic ounce” of herbicide applied to lake waters, said Holth.

“What I got from the report is, the ‘mechanical' process is like cutting your hair: It's not a long term solution. With harvesting, everything comes back. Dredging is impossible. The third alternative would be chemical control.”

However, he added, “Our thinking would be far more conservative than even the state Department of Environmental Protection's would be.”

The lake authority would need to apply for permits from the Lyme and Old Lyme wetlands commissions and the DEP before acting, he said.

The authority will discuss its options at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Lyme Town Hall, but won't make a final decision then, Holth said. It may schedule a public hearing early next year on the matter.

According to the study, the overall health of the lake is good and worth preserving. However, a number of the lake's 29 types of plants is adding to congestion in the central, shallow section of the lake. The problem will get worse if left untreated, the study's authors say.

Water willow, bladderwort, yellow water lilies, pondweeds, algae, milfoil, stonewort, naiad, nitella and tap grass are a few of the plants thriving in the pond's middle.

Doing nothing is an option, the study says. Another option is harvesting the weeds seasonally, which could cost $30,000. Hydro-raking, a process in which plants are pulled up by the roots, could cost $175 an hour, plus other costs. The seeds of hydro-raked plants tend to spread and germinate as the weeds are pulled up, Holth said.

Aquatic Control Technologies also recommends the herbicides diquat or Aquathol-K at a cost of about $20,000.

Old Lyme First Selectman Tim Griswold and George James, vice chairman of the Old Lyme Water Pollution Control Authority, were happy to hear the authority plans to proceed cautiously.

This past fall, the WPCA “expressed concern” at one of their meetings about the authority's possible use of chemicals. Although there are only about 89 homes on the lake's west side and far fewer to the east, the flow of lake water affects wells and soils throughout both towns, James said.

“We're going to try to investigate just what those chemicals are and what the impact might be on the water,” James said, because “an awful lot of water from Rogers Lake finds its way through the water table through the rest of the town.”

“Obviously, we've lived with the weeds a long time,” Holth said, so the authority will not rush to a decision. “We need 100 percent certainty there will be no impact (from chemicals) on well water.”
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