Greenwood Lake is the priority

Environmental Commission will work with GWL Commission to help lake's health

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  • Photo by Robert G. Breese This photo of a southern channel of Greenwood Lake was taken in July, 2013. The West Milford Environmental Commission will work with the Greenwood Lake Bi-State Commission to help decrease pollution and weed growth.

"I would like to see us change our perspective to more of a local perspective, where we take a bigger role in taking care of this lake."
Councilman Lou Signorino, who suggested the Environmental Commission bring its expertise to the Greenwood Lake Bi-State Commission

— The township council has reappointed one of its representatives to the Greenwood Lake Bi-State Commission and has recruited its Environmental Commission to assist in the effort to lessen weed growth and restore health to Greenwood Lake.

Appointment made, one held
The council reappointed Eric Hastings, the longtime West Milford representative to the commission, after postponing their two appointments to the bi-state commission in January. At the time, Councilman Lou Signorino said the council wanted to develop a plan for the lake and make sure its representatives are on board with it before making the appointments.

The postponement basically resulted in the loss of a month for the Commission, since they didn’t have a quorum to meet. Hastings and other commissioners in attendance asked the council to make the appointment so the Commission could get to work.

The council deadlocked on reappointing former councilman Phil Weisbecker to the commission, with Councilmembers Mike Hensley, Michele Dale and Signorino voting no on their fellow Republican. Mayor Bettina Bieri asked the Commission for some information, including attendance records, before she would vote to break the tie. She also encouraged any other citizens who are interested in being a member of the Greenwood Lake Commission to contact the township before the next meeting on Feb. 19 (see box).

Health of the lake
The health of the lake is the main concern of the Commission. Signorino and Dale said they heard many complaints about the condition of the lake while campaigning last year for their council seats.

"Residents are dissatisfied with the water quality of it and weed control," said Signorino. "And basically, I want to help facilitate the goals of the commission and this council." The goal, he said, is to get the lake in better shape so it can be enjoyed by residents and visitors.

Weeds are and have been a big problem in Greenwood Lake. Hastings explained that the Commission knows the cause of the weed growth - namely pollution and nutrients being carried in Belchers Creek to the lake. The amount of the pollution is too big to be coming from a private facility, he said. The MUA plants are the main culprits and have been for years.

“Sixty percent of the nutrients going to the lake come from Belchers Creek,” he said, adding he has been called out in the middle of the night to see the “enormous” sewage slick in the lake. “It’s miles long.”

The bacteria in the lake, Hastings said, is 4,000 times the limit that is used to close down the Jersey shore.

Bieri said the MUA has requested to meet and work with a council committee to help them with their infrastructure issues. She and councilmembers CarlLa Horton and Ada Erik are planning to meet with the MUA later this month

Help from the EC and the township

Signorino attended an Environmental Commission (EC) meeting recently and saw how efficient and effective they are with environmental issues. He called them a “diligent group” and asked if they would help the Greenwood Lake Commission. Steve Sangle, chairman of the EC, said the group would indeed be willing to work with the Commission.

“I would like to see us change our perspective to more of a local perspective, where we take a bigger role in taking care of this lake,” said Signorino.

Getting the EC involved is part of the township's bigger role. The other part is the township possibly working alone.

Officials from the Town of Warwick and the Village of Greenwood Lake, N.Y., told the council that they work as an independent body to promote the health of the lake, and so can the township.

Greenwood Lake Mayor Jesse Dwyer said he and his predecessor, Barbara Moore, have always acted independently of the Commission as well as in conjunction with them.

“Historically, Greenwood Lake has tried to act independently,” said Dwyer. “We’re a small community but we rely on our lake.”

He said he attends every Commission meeting, as did Moore, and sees the Commission acting as a bridge between the two states. He also said Hastings is a force on the Commission.

“(Hastings) gives his heart and soul to this lake,” said Dwyer. “I urge you from the bottom of my heart to reappoint Mr. Hastings as a lake commissioner from the township of West Milford to continue working with my village and the town (of Warwick).”

Requesting financial accounting

The township contributes $10,000 each year to the Greenwood Lake Commission. Councilwoman Michele Dale, who just took office in January, asked for an accounting from the Commission.

“The township hasn’t gotten financial information from the commission,” said Dale. “This year is a new year. I’m all for funding things that are improving the lake and the resources in our township but I'm not for funding things that I don't understand where the resources are being utilized or being utilized efficiently. I want to know they are.”

Hastings said he would provide the last three years financial information but added he has come to the council every year with details of what the money is used for.

“I have come before the council every year. You just haven’t been here,” said Hastings. “Our common goal is the betterment of the lake and that’s why we're all here. While your $10,000 contribution is very important, make no mistake, it’s a drop in the bucket.”

Bieri pointed out that the township, in addition to contributing money to the Commission, also provides in-kind services from its Department of Public Works. Interim Administrator Robert Casey will put together an accounting of those services as well.

Looking forward

With the EC's consent, the council approved the collaboration between the two groups.

The EC has much experience writing grant applications and with research. That’s what Bieri sees their role with the Commission will be.

And the Commission welcomed it.

“We really could use the EC to help,” Hastings said. “We welcome it.”

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