Residents approve of Greenwood Lake drawdown at hearing

Greenwood Lake, NY. Those residents attending a public hearing Monday night on a proposed drawdown of Greenwood Lake voted overwhelmingly to approve the 20-year plan. The plan now goes to the Greenwood Lake Commission for formal approval before draining the lake in October, according to the commission.

11 Feb 2020 | 04:50

An overwhelming number of residents attending a public hearing in New York Monday night on plan to drawdown Greenwood Lake approve of the measure, Greenwood Lake Commission Co-Chairman Paul Zarrillo said.

According to Zarrillo, of the 40 members of the public attending the hearing Monday night at the American Legion Post in Greenwood Lake Village, 33 voted to approve the plan and seven opposed it.

A prior hearing at Camp Hope in West Milford, on the New Jersey side of the bi-state lake, only had two attendees, both voting against the draw down, he said.

“We were pleasantly surprised that we had 40 attendees (Monday night),” Zarrillo said. “There seems to be a lot more concern in New York.”

The title of ownership of the Greenwood Lake dam, located in Hewitt, New Jersey, and control of the sluice gates controlling the waters belong to the state of New Jersey and are the responsibility of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and New Jersey Park Service.

The 20-year state plan for the drawdown schedule, according to information at the public hearing at Camp Hope, calls for a drawdown of five feet (60 inches) that the proposal said should begin the year the plan becomes effective.

It would continue every four years thereafter, but not conflict with the drawdown of Lake Hopatcong unless directed by the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection during a declared drought warning or emergency.

The drawdown, if approved by the commission during its next meeting at the Greenwood Lake Village Senior Center at 7 p.m. on Feb. 26, would begin Oct. 13 of this year with the refill starting Jan. 1, 2021, Zarrillo said.

Eight of the 11 commission members have to support the drawdown for the plan to move forward, he said.

Several marina owners voted against the plan, expressing concerns that the lake may not refill by mid-April when boaters begin using the lake.

That was not surprising, Zarrillo said, because of the devastating losses lake businesses suffered last year when the DEP placed a no contact advisory on the New Jersey end of the lake due to Harmful Algal Blooms.

The blooms contained cyanobacteria levels above 20,000 cells per milliliter of water on the New Jersey side, causing the DEP to issue the advisory.

While there were no restrictions placed on the New York side of the lake, tourists steered clear during the height of the summer season, wreaking havoc on the local business community.

Zarrillo said that refilling the lake on time is something that cannot be controlled and is weather dependent.

“It depends on rain, snowfall and storm runoff,” he said. “We can’t control that.”

The plan would drawdown the lake every four years, a maximum of five times during the 20-year plan.

During the duration of the drawdown the lake bed will freeze and this action is expected to kill roots of nuisance aquatic vegetation.

The duration of the drawdown is also the opportunity for lake front property owners to make repairs on docks and bulkheads and perform moderate cleaning of their properties.

Zarrillo said using this time could save property owners two to three times what they would pay to do the repairs with the lake full.

Drawdown approval would always be dependent on water supply conditions, according to the plan.

The maximum drain is five feet below the spillway elevation, and a gradual drawdown is proposed for the first 10 days.

Outflow at the dam increases the 11th day and goes to 150 million gallons per day as soon as permissible to effectively draw down the lake, according to the plan.

If the commission approves, the DEP would issue the actual water lowering permit, which would then be transferred to the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry which will hold the permit and provide a copy to the commission once it has been approved.

(Editor's Note: Reporter Ann Genader contributed to this report.)