Boat inspections to be enforced at Salisbury lakes amid hydrilla threat

Although the Lakeville Lake boat launch remains closed to boaters, lake officials are exploring the possibility of allowing access to car-top watercraft such as canoes, kayaks and paddleboards.

Debra A. Aleksinas

Boat inspections to be enforced at Salisbury lakes amid hydrilla threat

SALISBURY — The discovery of invasive hydrilla in East Twin Lake last summer has prompted the Twin Lakes Association (TLA) to make sweeping changes in how it plans to safeguard water quality and prevent further infestation in 2024 and beyond.

Plans include blocking off passage under the Isola Bella Bridge on East Twin and reverting the state boat launch to its initial mandate of providing access only to nonmotorized car-top watercraft.

TLA President Grant Bogle said the goal is to have all trailered boats and jet skis access the lake via the privately owned O’Hara’s Landing Marina, where negotiations are underway to establish a monitoring and education station.

“We are not trying to limit access. What we are trying to do is establish a method of inspecting boats that come in and off the lake,” said Bogle.

“The reason is, we are virtually sure hydrilla came in from a boat that had been on the Connecticut River and brought fragments into East Twin Lake. What we don’t want is boats bringing any more in or cutting hydrilla that’s there and taking it out of the lake.”

Meanwhile, at Lakeville Lake, also known as Lake Wononscopomuc, although water testing last fall for the highly disruptive hydrilla, also known as water thyme, turned up negative, the lake association closed its launch as a precaution.

“The launch will remain closed. We are waiting for the state [Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP)] to come up with a plan,” said Bill Littauer, president of the Lake Wononscopomuc Association.

“It is possible we may allow car-top watercraft such as paddleboards and kayaks. The theory is they would be dry by at the time they went into the water.”

Littauer said he has also had discussions with the town about purchasing six to 12 electric powered boats suitable for fishing to be made available at a modest rental at the Town Grove.

“So far no one seems to know how to eradicate this weed, so the feeling now is that it’s best not to allow it into the lake in the first place,” he noted.

Hydrilla has invaded five more lakes

On the first day of summer last year, a routine monitoring of some waters in East Twin Lake by the TLA’s limnologist found hydrilla fragments in the shallow waters north of the state boat launch, making it the first lake in the state to confirm the presence of hydrilla, first noted in the Connecticut River in 2016.

Since then, said Bogle, the highly invasive Connecticut River variant has found its way to at least five other Connecticut lakes, and the highly disruptive plant has become a key focus for the TLA and the stewards of other lakes in the state, all of which are taking remedial steps.

Through the Connecticut Federation of Lakes and other working groups, the TLA has assembled a coalition of state and local officials, scientists and aquatic specialists to share information and gain a stronger, unified voice in Hartford.

Boat ban sought at state launch on East Twin

TLA officials noted that its board is working with the state and town to revert the state boat launch to its original mandate, which was to provide access only to car-top watercraft.

“It was never meant to be creating a significant volume of traffic,” said Bogle. From 1991 to 2020, he noted, it was a very isolated ramp, with huge boulders in place to keep trailers from backing down into the water.

“They were removed by the state in 2020, and what we’re asking is that they are put back in place,” said Bogle. “We are pushing for a decision” from the state.

Bogle noted that the state boat launch is not listed as ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible on its website, “and it shows the boulders in place.” He said nearby O’Hara’s Landing has accessible docks for those who require assistance.

To prevent further spread of hydrilla, the TLA also plans to have a barrier installed blocking passage under the Isola Bella Bridge, which joins the northern parts of East Twin.

“It’s been recommended that we close that bridge,” said Bogle, who noted that the area is a valued connector used frequently by canoeists, kayakers and waterboarders.

With hydrilla possibly pervasive north of the state boat launch, the TLA cannot risk the plant spreading via the natural current to the vulnerable cove east of the bridge, according to officials.

In addition, about 25 acres of water up to 4 feet deep north of the state boat launch will be restricted and set apart with buoys, beginning in April, to prevent propellers from chopping hydrilla plants and having fragments float away and root elsewhere.

The area will be controlled with a system of “floating limnocorrals” and light-suppressing mats to prevent growth at the insistence of the state, which must approve the plan as part of the association’s herbicide permit.

“We know that there is hydrilla there. We know there were some escapees from the marina even further than we treated last year,” Bogle explained.

“Is it an inconvenience? Yes. We recognize that, but we feel it’s the right thing to do. We are trying to get ahead of this to the extent we can,” explained Bogle.

Lake management budget soaring

To that end, the TLA board has spent the off-season establishing three sub-groups focusing on fundraising, lake management and boat launch access.

Bogle noted that the cost of lake management has skyrocketed.

The board estimates the TLA will spend about $250,000 in 2024 on lake management, and similar amounts in future years to control invasives and eradicate hydrilla. The association’s new budget dwarfs any previous TLA budget, and it far exceeds estimates of only months ago, said officials.

The good news, according to the TLA newsletter, is that the organization has the funds to get through 2024 due to generous donations and a campaign that raised $101,600 in December when all members were asked to consider contributing $500 to $1,000.

The campaign garnered 86 individual donations and an anonymous matching contribution of $30,000. Those funds complement an expected $75,000 from the Town of Salisbury and a $75,000 state grant that is expected to be confirmed by early spring.

“We are thrilled with the response from our fundraising request. It speaks volumes as to the commitment of our members and the community,” said Bogle.

Because fundraising on the needed scale is beyond its volunteer board’s current ability, the TLA has hired Deko Design, a local tech systems and support consultant to organize and integrate the TLA website, dues collection, newsletter, membership rolls, fundraising campaigns and accounting.

According to officials, the board has authorized up to $2,500 for this work this year, and an anonymous benefactor is footing the bill.

Despite the challenges that lie ahead this coming year and beyond, Bogle said he is optimistic “that we are in a much better position than we were last year.”

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