Lake Maspenock extended drawdown OK’d by Conservation Commission

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At last Tuesday’s Conservation Commission meeting, the commission voted to approve the Department of Public Works’ request to conduct the triennial 8-foot drawdown of Lake Maspenock in an effort to kill weeds at the bottom of the lake, despite concerns related to the current drought.

“It is a last-minute request, but we have an opportunity that just came up for us to be able to draw down the lake to the triennial 8-foot [reduction],” DPW director John Westerling told the commission. “If you recall, we were not able to do that last year because of concerns with Spindel Island [an island near the Milford border where a resident’s well could have been adversely affected]. Also, we were denied our notice of intent for spreading herbicides in the lake to control the weeds. A recent inspection of the lake has shown that the weeds are growing. Of course, it’s the end of season so some of them are dying off, but we had quite a crop of lake weeds this year. So we have an opportunity to take advantage of the 8-foot drawdown. The folks at Spindel Island have agreed to allow the town to draw it down to 8 feet.”

According to the town bylaws, the annual drawdown — normally 5 feet, but 8 feet every third year — starts between Sept. 15 and Oct. 1 (this year it was Oct. 1) and advances at an average rate of 1 inch per day, achieved by opening the low-level outlet gate approximately 2.5 inches. The drawdown continues until mid-December (depending on weather conditions). The hope is that by exposing the vegetation the winter freeze will kill the weeds.

In years when the drawdown continues to 8 feet, it remains there for 1-2 weeks before being refilled to the normal drawdown level.

However, a condition to the bylaws notes that an extended drawdown “shall not be conducted during or immediately following periods of extended drought.”

“We are of course in a period of drought right now,” Westerling said, “but we’re asking the Conservation Commission respectively to consider waiving that requirement so that we can draw down to the 8-foot level and control the weeds for next summer.”

Conservation administrator Don MacAdam expressed concern due to the uncertainty when it comes to the weather.

“If you’re in a drought now, you don’t know how far the drought is going to go,” he said. “The lake, some groundwater feeds it, obviously the surface flow, then what you get from rain. So from a water budget perspective, are you going to lower this down and then are you going to get the rebound next spring.”

Added commission chair Jeff Barnes: “I understand the situation with the weeds, but I think the folks that live around the lake are going to be more upset if the water level doesn’t come up and they can’t swim at the docks, they can’t bring the boats in the lake up to the docks. It’s a tough one.”

In the end the commission unanimously agreed to take the chance on the extended drawdown, especially considering its vote earlier this year against the application of herbicides.

In other news from the Conservation Commission meeting, a hearing was continued regarding a parcel of land on Old Town Road (near Lake Maspenock), where Wall Street Development has indicated plans for a housing development. Following a site walk and further analysis of the wetlands delineation, Arthur Allen, the applicant’s consultant from EcoTec, Inc., agreed with town consultant Lucas Environmental that a stream on the property is perennial, and “a riverfront area [designation] should be applied to it.” The commission voted to approve the abbreviated notice of resource area delineation.

Also at the meeting, REC Hopkinton, LLC, requested an amendment to the order of conditions for its plans to extend Whalen Road and Chamberlain Road — which will be connected by an emergency access lane — to build clusters of homes at the end of each street. The company wants to revise the Whalen Road layout and modify the proposed storm water basins, in part to adhere to the commission’s request for larger buffer zones from wetlands. The combined development now will have 29 homes. The previous plan was 32 homes, and the original plan was for 35. The commission plans to get input from input from BETA, the town’s engineering consultant, and revisit the issue at its next meeting on Oct. 20.

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