AP NEWS

Candlewood residents: Shoreline management plan weakens lake protections

February 28, 2019

SOUTHBURY — Property owners are concerned the new shoreline management plan could weaken the protections on several area lakes, including Candlewood.

About 25 residents attended a public hearing this week to voice concerns and ask questions about FirstLight Power Resource’s proposed shoreline management plan. The revision is required every three years as part of the company’s license under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Most of the comments focused on Candlewood Lake, though the plan covers the entire Housatonic system, which includes lakes Lillinonah and Zoar. It totals about 200 miles of shoreline.

Mark Howarth, executive director of the Candlewood Lake Authority, requested the company resubmit the existing plan instead of the revised draft.

“Though not a perfect document, the (shoreline management) subcommittee thinks keeping this one better protects Candlewood Lake than the proposed document,” he said.

Brian Wood, of FirstLight, said the company did not have the legal authority to enforce the entire previous plan and the municipalities don’t have as much say because federal regulations supersede local ones. He said this new draft reflects what they learned since the last plan was adopted.

Some speakers argued that FirstLight was giving up its responsibility to protect the lake.

Wood also highlighted some of the changes in the plan, including the addition of two land use categories: limited activity for what’s in a deed and minor changes, and significant activity for larger projects, such as a gazebo, that’s approved usually with mitigation.

The new plan also includes fees for certain work to help the company administer the plan and no longer requiring new homeowners to add vegetative buffers when the property is purchased.

“This requirement was found by FirstLight to be unmanageable and unenforceable,” Wood said.

Buffers are still required if major work is done. The time frame to do this work is also shortened from five years to three.

Some residents said not requiring the buffers when a property is sold could pose problems for the lake. They said the buffers prevent nutrients from entering the lake and removing them could lead to issues like toxic blue green algae blooms.

“Buffer zones are part of managing the shoreline,” said Carolyn Rowan, who lives on the lake and sits on the New Fairfield Inlands Wetlands Commission.

She also asked for more details to be added on how to protect the islands from erosion, saying the current plan was too vague.

Phyllis Schaer, chairwoman of the Candlewood Lake Authority and a lake resident, said revisions should expand and strengthen the protections.

“This is not the case,” she said. “The document makes sufficient changes to the document and weakens the protections.”

Comments on the plan can be submitted to lake.permits@firstlightpower.com until March 20.