Weed harvester could give rebirth to choked lower Greenwood Lake

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:18

    WEST MILFORD-For years, Greenwood Lake has been encroached by weeds that have made the south end of this lake, shared by New York and New Jersey residents, virtually unusable. Weeds, the bane of powerboaters, prevented virtually all powerboats from using the lower portion of the lake. Only sailboaters could navigate the underwater vegetation. Ella Filippone, New Jersey chairwoman of the Greenwood Lake Commission, told the council, meeting in a workshop session, that the commission has a grant of $200,000 from the Department of Environmental Protection to purchase a weed harvester, conveyor belt and trailer. Filippone is seeking the council's agreement to a plan involving the town, Passaic County and the commission. The proposal would see the harvester remain indefinitely on the south section of Greenwood Lake able to clear weeds throughout the season. The council expressed some concern with regard to operating the harvester and sufficient insurance coverage for the township should accidental damage arise during the harvester's work. The chairwoman said Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale has guaranteed to provide operators for the harvester from the county's Project Pride. Pride is part of the Sheriff's Labor Assistance Program which trains petty offenders to gain skills they can use to find employment following their incarceration. Speziale also agreed to provide complete maintenance for the harvester from skilled technicians which had been a major financial concern for the council. Furthermore South Shore Marina has given Filippone a promise to accommodate the harvester free of charge within its property. Township Attorney William DeMarco posed questions to Filippone regarding the outcome of several insurance scenarios whereby liability to the council may occur. Filippone quickly responded saying "I'll drive the harvester myself if I have to." Filippone said the county has extensive insurance which should cover all eventualities. DeMarco indicated a discussion with the township's insurance carrier may be necessary to reach a clear picture of what actions the council may need to take regarding liability protection. Filippone asked the council to train one of the township employee's to operate the harvester as a backup. The council agreed. DeMarco expressed concern that the deal with Speziale to provide operators and maintenance was only for one year. Filippone said "Sheriff Speziale has given me his word this agreement will be renewed for at least as long as his term in office." The council voted unanimously to a motion expressing its intent to sign the agreement, but stopped short of giving final approval pending clarification of liability concerns. Councilman Paul Bailey thanked Filippone for her efforts and voiced his optimism for the plan. Bailey also spoke of the prospect of encouraging more tourists to the area as a result of a lake free of restrictive weeds. Council member-elect James Warden noted "I believe this is merely the end of the beginning. There remains a lot still to be done."