At the Candlewood Lake Authority’s October 10 meeting, Chairman Phyllis Schaer informed the delegates that the letter approved at the Association’s previous meeting had been sent to FirstLight. The letter was in protest of FirstLight’s not following procedure in changing weed mapping vendors. Every year weed growth in the lake is monitored and mapped as part of the Nuisance Plant Monitoring Plan approved by FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission).
In the letter, Ms. Schaer, writing on behalf of the CLA, states that the monitoring plan, “details a number of responsibilities required by FirstLight, most notably that ‘field identifications and collections of mapping data will be done by a qualified person approved by the technical committee.’” The letter goes on to state certain specifics in the scope of the mapping and data collection methods to be used as stated in the plan.
According to the letter, FirstLight bypassed the approval process by not following the vendor selection process outlined in the plan. “We [the CLA] are concerned because the recent change in consultants from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) to Northeast Aquatic Research (NEAR) was not approved by nor even discussed at the March 2018 Technical Committee Meeting, as required under the FERC-approved Nuisance Plant Monitoring Plan. No proposal or scope of services was presented for approval or comparison with previous levels of service.”
The letter also states that, “the Candlewood Lake Authority does not approve of nor support this unauthorized change of consultant to conduct field research and data collection and the subsequent reports related to this work, particularly if at at a reduced scope. We believe this action is not in compliance and does not meet the requirements of the Nuisance Plant Monitoring Plan.”
Ms. Schaer noted that she had attended a meeting with FirstLight after they had received the letter. She stated that while FirstLight representatives had apologized for the change, they were planning to continue using NEAR for the mapping and would not acknowledge that they did not follow the approved protocol. She also noted that the current station manager retired at the end of September.
Considering FirstLight’s response to the letter, Ms. Schaer stated that the CLA Executive Committee had tasked Executive Director Mark Howarth with drafting a letter of complaint to FERC. A draft of a letter written by Vice-Chairman Mark Toussaint was read. Delegate John Hodge objected to the draft, noting that as a matter of process, the Executive Committee had asked Mr. Howarth to draft a letter, not Mr. Toussaint. Mr. Toussaint noted that Ms. Schaer had asked him to review the letter and make any edits that he saw fit.
Mr. Hodge took issue with the fact that two members of the Executive Committee (Ms. Schaer and Mr. Toussaint) had made changes to the draft and then presented it as if it were the original. He asked to have Mr. Howarth’s draft read for comparison. This was done, and the delegates then voted on both versions of the letter. The CLA voted to approve Mr. Toussaint’s edited version, with delegates Hodge, Linkletter, and Robinson voting against. The letter will be sent to FERC and the CLA will await the response.
In other business, Executive Director Mark Howarth indicated that the CLA’s annual report has been completed and distributed to Town CEOs. He noted that the format has been changed to include photos and a more readable style.
Director of Ecology and Environmental Education, Neil Stalter, said he has been working to update the shoreline mapping photos and that he has made update maps that are used in the CLA’s buffer zone analysis. He also noted that he has begun collecting information related to create a new Lake Management Plan. Mr. Stalter is also working on developing a drone video series on the lake. The first in the series will be on the buffer gardens.
The next regular meeting of the CLA will be held Wednesday, November 13 at 7:30pm at Brookfield Town Hall.
By Greg Slomba