GLC postpones draw down vote

Greenwood Lake, New York. The Greenwood Lake Commission voted Wednesday night to postpone voting on a 20-year plan that would draw down the bi-state lake by three to five feet every four years. A majority of people on both sides of the lake support the measure, but it is opposed by marinas and other businesses.

| 27 Feb 2020 | 10:39

The Greenwood Lake Commission will wait another month before deciding if a 20-year plan to draw down the lake by three to five feet every four years is approved.

“There is no going back (if we vote against the plan),” Commission Co-Chairman Paul Zarrillo of West Milford said during the sometimes contentious meeting Wednesday night at the Greenwood Lake Village Senior Center.

Zarrillo said the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection would make the ultimate decision to start the draw down in October, but that time for the agency to consider the plan is running out.

Once the commission vetoes the plan, it could not reconsider it later in the year and still make it happen.

The purpose of lowering the lake is for property owners to more easily repair bulkheads and clean the lake bed.

The draw down, beginning around Oct. 13 would also allow freezing temperatures to kill invasive vegetation, Zarrillo said.

According to Zarrillo, the lake would naturally refill with the snow melt and rain from Jan. 1 through the spring, hopefully becoming full around mid-April when boat owners start getting back out on the water.

Two public hearings on the plan were held during the last couple of months in West Milford’s Camp Hope on the New Jersey side, and at the Greenwood Lake Village American Legion on the New York side.

Zarrillo said only two people showed up for the New Jersey hearing while some 40 residents attended the New York version, with most of those supporting the plan.

Marina and other business owners, however, oppose the draw down, fearing what it could do to their businesses if the weather does not cooperate in refilling the lake.

“We’d be shooting ourselves in the foot,” Small Craft Marina Owner Daniel Sullivan told the commission Wednesday night.

Sullivan said he surveyed some 300 clients and found that about 82 percent of those responding wanted the plan postponed.

Sullivan and other business owners on the lake are still reeling from last year’s devastating summer where the New Jersey DEP placed a no contact advisory on the lake due to Harmful Algal Blooms right at the height of the tourist season, causing the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

West Milford resident and Passaic County Freeholder Terry Duffy said the county governing board is poised to pass a resolution to ask the commission to quash the plan.

“It’s a crap shoot that the lake would be replenishing (in time for the season),” Duffy said. “This lake has problems and our (New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy) has put us out to pasture.”

In addition to the DEP advisory on Greenwood Lake last summer, and despite his announced plan to deal with HABs statewide, Murphy vetoed a bi-partisan bill that would have earmarked $500,000 a year for Greenwood Lake.

On the other hand, his program to deal with the HABs would involve local municipalities matching state funds to complete projects that could mitigate the blooms.

A resident on the New York side said that she opposes the plan because she would have to import water to her home during the winter because her well would be empty.

She said she had to install a more than 400-gallon water tank in her home so she could have water during similar draw downs.

“I know it has to be done,” the resident said. “But my well goes dry and I’m tired of paying for water. I don’t think it’s fair.”

Those supporting the draw down were just as vocal to the commission, with many expressing that “it’s got to happen.”

“We need to fix the bulkheads,” a resident on the New York side said. “(If not,) it’s just going to drive property values down.”

Village Attorney John Buckheit attended the meeting to let the commission know that the Village Board of Trustees unanimously passed a resolution supporting the plan, and that, as a resident, he also personally supported it.

Buckheit said that during prior draw downs, he was able to pull a radiator and brass bed out of the lake’s mud.

“If a boat prop hit that, it would be bad,” he said.

In the end, the commission decided to wait until its next meeting before taking a formal vote.

According to the commission’s by-laws, eight of the 11 members must vote “yes” for the plan to move forward.

If approved by the commission, the plan then goes to the NJ DEP for final approval and implementation.

“We’d be shooting ourselves in the foot.” - Small Craft Marina Owner Daniel Sullivan