Highland Lake Watershed Association members discuss concerns at annual meeting

Members of the Highland Lake Watershed Association at its annual meeting on Saturday, July 10.
Members of the Highland Lake Watershed Association at its annual meeting on Saturday, July 10.

WINSTED — Concerns about conditions at Highland Lake and roads surrounding the lake were expressed at the Highland Lake Watershed Association’s (HLWA) annual meeting on Saturday, July 10.

Over 100 residents attended the meeting, which was held at the Little Red Barn Brewery.

According to its website at HLWA.org, the nonprofit organization is dedicated to the preservation and protection of Highland Lake and its watershed.

The organization was founded in 1959 and became a nonprofit 501(c)(3) in 1993.

HLWA President Beth Papermaster

“HLWA is the only organization focused on protecting the lake,” Organization President Beth Papermaster said in an interview before the meeting. “We have always stayed on top of water quality monitoring. If anybody notices anything unusual going on with the water,  we get it investigated right away. We are the guardians of the lake and we work to protect it for everybody.”

Papermaster said that the organization is working with Northeast Aquatic Research to conduct a watershed investigation.

“The report will examine the state of the Highland Lake watershed as a whole, along with individual discussions dedicated to each location considered a potential site for Low Impact Design projects,” Papermaster said during her speech to members. “These discussions will include an explanation of the site and causes for concern, GIS waypoints, and specific recommendations for improvement.”

Papermaster said that the report would be available soon, but did not give a specific date for when it would be ready.

In an interview with The Winsted Phoenix, she said that the biggest threat to the health of the lake is runoff.

Papermaster said that the report currently being created by Northeast Aquatic Research would have more details about runoff dangers to the lake.

“They spent a day after a major rain event going around the lake and looking at all of the flows of water going into the lake,” she said. “They reported on what they saw as the biggest threats surrounding the lake and what can be done about it. As soon as we get the report, we will be working with the town to analyze it.”

During her speech, Papermaster said that another threat to the health of the lake is invasive weeds.

“This year, the weeds are awful,” she said. “We know it and the town knows it. I have been dealing with issues related to weeds almost every day over the past two months. Every day over the past two weeks, State Rep. Jay Case and I have communicated with each other at least once a day.”

She added that she hoped herbicide applications to control weeds in the lake would start on July 19.

Meanwhile, during the question and answer session from the audience, resident Lou Taghatela said that that town needed to fix up various catch basins around the lake, saying that some of the catch basins have deteriorated so much that some of them are dangerous for drivers.

Photo submitted by Lou Taghatela

“It’s frustrating because year after year we are all paying taxes and we deserve safe roads,” Taghatela said. “It’s dangerous out there and we deserve better.”

In response, Mayor Candy Perez, who was also elected to the organization’s board at the meeting, said that the town is aware of the problems.

Mayor Candy Perez and HLWA President Beth Papermaster

“We want them fixed, and [the Board of Selectmen] are talking about an infrastructure plan that we hope to bring forward along with a road plan by next winter,” Mayor Perez said. “These are all multimillion-dollar issues. To repair East Wakefield would cost $1.5 million, while West Wakefield would cost $850,000, and that’s without drainage. These are all monumental issues. Highland Lake generates over 28 percent of the town’s residential tax base, but we have a $30 million road issue.”

Papermaster estimated that HWLA currently has 150 members, but she added that she would like to see the organization’s membership base expanded.

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