New Fairfield is defined by water – Candlewood Lake and Squantz Pond to the East and Ball Pond to the West are our most important water bodies here. Making sure they remain usable for swimming, boating, and fishing is key to maintaining the quality of life in our town as well as preserving an important economic base.
The water quality in the Lake and Squantz and Ball Pond has been challenged in recent decades by housing and other development in the watershed as well as introduction of invasive species from the heavy use we make of these water bodies. As a result, there have been summers when boating has been difficult because of milfoil and when beaches are closed because of cyanobacteria from blue green algae blooms.
Two organizations oversee these issues. The Candlewood Lake Authority (CLA), comprised of delegates from each of the bordering five towns has responsibility for safety and water quality on Candlewood Lake and Squantz Pond. The Ball Pond Advisory Committee, appointed by the Board of Selectmen, oversees these issues for Ball Pond. These two organizations have separately generated and recently reviewed data concerning water quality and the efforts that are underway to improve it.
At its recent State of the Lake conference, Neil Stalter, Director of Ecology and Environmental Education at CLA, remarked that for its age, “Candlewood is actually a healthy lake. And it’s our job to sustain that.” He noted that striking a balance among the plants that inhabit the Lake, including algae, is key to that. CLA does regular monitoring of water quality, assisted by the Senior Environmental Corp from New Fairfield’s Senior Center.
Likewise, recent monitoring at Ball Pond, indicates that water quality there has also reached a balance and is in the healthy range.
The last two weekends I’ve been out on the lake, I’ve been amazed at how little milfoil there is. The cove I live on is normally starting to fill with milfoil by this time in July. At our dock, we saw one or two strands floating, but nothing coming up, let alone breaking the water in large patches, as the weeds did two years ago. Ball Pond has no milfoil, and the carp appear to be chewing down other invasive species such as lily pads, and phragmites.
Is the absence of milfoil a result of the sterile grass carp that have been introduced in both bodies of water? Is the number of carp in each water body optimal? What role do deep drawdowns play in improving the milfoil situation? Have the cold, wet springs the last two years played a role in the absence of weeds? With regard to Ball Pond, there is scientific consensus that sterile grass carp have played a key role in virtually eliminating milfoil. The question is whether the right balance has been reached there.
In Candlewood, the trend the past two years is clearly positive. It is tempting to say that the growth of the carp introduced into the Lake over the past three years, combined with this year’s deep drawdown, led to this year’s copacetic result. But the data are not yet sufficient to reach a firm conclusion on the best combination of approaches. Continued monitoring and analysis will be required to improve our knowledge. Recently passed state legislation that will collect small fees from boaters will assist in providing the funding to do this monitoring and analysis to address invasive species such as the milfoil already present and the threat of zebra mussels.
Additionally, the renewed focus of the CLA on putting together a Lake Management Plan will help New Fairfield and other towns better define the steps needed to protect the Lake. Of particular importance are measures to prevent nutrients from flowing into the Lake from multiple sources including septic tanks and storm water runoff.
We will continue to support the activities of the Ball Pond Advisory Committee and the Candlewood Lake Authority as they grapple with how best to manage these important resources.
For further information as to what homeowners on or near the Lake can do to better protect the Lake, pick up a copy of CLA’s recently published Homeowner’s Guide for Living on Candlewood Lake at Town Hall or the Library.
– Khris Hall, Selectman