[The following was sent to Dan Esty, Commissioner of the CT Dept of Energy & Environmental Protection last month urging swift action to protect Candlewood Lake and regional waters from the potential ravages of zebra mussels (ZMs) before our waters' fate is preordained. Having not received a response, I thought those at serious risk — area residents and users — should be alerted so they can add their voices of concern over the inadequacies of current defenses as these marauders march forward essentially unimpeded. The original letter has been condensed for publication.]
Dan, we cannot afford to wait to mount comprehensive plans and actions to stop the advance of ZMs throughout northwestern CT. This is not a ma nana issue. We need strategic leadership and a full-court press in conjunction with local lake authorities, and we need them yesterday. While there have been efforts aplenty to date, our Lake's borders are far from secure.
This is a high-priority, festering regional issue that has the potential to overtake, infect, and wreak havoc to our treasured waters, economies, employment, recreational activities, and more. And it has been on our collective plates for two years and ten days now (since ZMs were first found locally) with no effective defense in place and only modest actions at tackling, certainly not controlling or containing. Half a loaf won't hunt.
It is not like we didn't have forewarning nor that the rapid spread was unexpected. Many states are struggling with the same onslaught and their experiences are readily adaptable before it's too late... but only if we quickly activate, garner the necessary resources, and there is committed 'fire in the belly' by aggressive, responsible leaders to make things happen. We have about five months to execute a comprehensive, buttoned-down defense before the 2013 boating season is upon us... or we run the very real risk of being justly accused of 'fiddling' while our waters and welfare are being stricken. All parties must ensure this pending environmental disaster does not occur on our watch.
Regarding ZMs (with milfoil being the other pressing threat to our regional ecosystems), at a minimum we must:
- Proclaim the Housatonic River region a high-priority protection zone, and recognize Candlewood Lake as a potential regional tipping point
- Appoint a regional 'czar' to 'make comprehensive protection happen' in conjunction with local lake authorities, municipal leaders and advocates
- 'Plug' Laurel Lake and soon — engage the Army Corps of Engineers or similar, implore MA authorities to act, and not wait about 2 years to conclude if experimental treatments can do the trick
- Determine if ZMs have 'metastasized' in the Housatonic, and if so/not, undertake aggressive strategies to contain/control spread accordingly
- Establish a CT invasives war chest and apply against essential protective initiatives/defenses now, on a preemptive basis
- Secure and man state boat ramps with inspectors daily to inspect, educate, and clear boats for launching/retrieval; if major transient ramps cannot be properly staffed, close them
- Ensure cautionary signage is installed throughout the Housatonic River region at access points, and that all outfitters and vessel retailers/servicers are in compliance with protocols and educate their users
- Ensure procedures covering fishing tournaments and other events adequately protect against invasive hitchhiking; consider self-certification protocols for all boaters
- Initiate and pursue all legislation/regulations necessary to help prevent the introduction and carriage of aquatic invasive species, and to provide for appropriate enforcement
- Actively evaluate a boat tagging program to clear boats determined to be invasives-free, and the deployment of decon stations to neutralize ZM hitchhikers
- Launch a multi-media campaign to raise awareness of threat and risk, to educate, and to gain adherence to 'clean-drain-dry' protocols
- Etc, etc. — the list goes on.
Dan, I sincerely hope this communication will spark essential actions by DEEP staff before Candlewood's and other regional waters become further threatened and ultimately infected. I'm certain there are hundreds of residents and users across the region who would echo these same sentiments if they concluded protective measures were not being mobilized to the Lake's and region's detriment. Other than a ZM breach of Candlewood's borders, this would be the worst of outcomes and can be avoided if these issues are tackled smartly and swiftly. Many thanks again — please keep me apprised of progress to build confidence that needed momentum is indeed underway.
Committed Lake Advocate &
Chair, Candlewood Watershed Initiative (CWI)