By Susan Tuz Published 5:40 pm, Friday, December 11, 2015
Seaplanes may soon be prohibited from landing on Lake Waramaug.
The Lake Waramaug Authority has requested the three surrounding communities — Washington, Warren and Kent — to approve ordinances to prohibit aircraft landings on the body of water.
A recent request to land a seaplane on the lake has raised concerns of safety and invasive species entering the water.
“I met with Edwin Matthews, who serves on the authority,” Washington First Selectman Mark Lyon said. “He is taking the ordinance proposal around to the towns. The concern is that having seaplanes landing on the lake would be an opportunity for invasive species to be introduced into the lake. There are also safety questions with boaters on the lake.”
However, Kent First Selectman Bruce Adams is “not convinced this ordinance is necessary.”
“Mr. Matthews emailed me and said the authority was paying for our town attorney to review the ordinance proposal,” Adams said. “That’s fine if they want to pay for it. But I’m not convinced there is a need for the ordinance.”
Adams said he has not been informed of any problems regarding seaplanes landing on the lake and Kent only has “a small section of the town on the lake.”
Edgar Berner, chairman of the Lake Waramaug Authority, and Matthews could not be reached for comment.
Candlewood Lake Authority Chairwoman Phyllis Schaer said she can understand the Waramaug Lake Authority’s concerns.
“There are concerns about invasives (in Candlewood), but I’m not sure it comes from seaplanes and the CLA is very proactive about clearing invasives out and monitoring against them,” Schaer said. “I can understand their (LWA) concerns about invasive species, however. Having ordinances in place to protect lakes is a direction many communities are going in.”
Lake Waramaug is more than four miles long with 656 acres of water surface. It has sail- and speed-boats, water crafts, canoes and kayaks as well as recreational swimming and fishing.
In comparison, Candlewood Lake, bordered by five municipalities, is 11 miles long with 5,420 acres of water surface. Candlewood has about six seaplanes owned by waterfront property owners that land on the lake in addition to some visiting seaplanes, according to CLA Executive Director Larry Marsicano.
“Whether these plane’s bring in invasive species is an interesting question,” Marsicano said. “I do know that after a very busy weekend, we see rafts of pieces of invasive aquatic plants that have been cut up by the planes’ propellers. These species propagate from cut sections.”
Marciscano noted that in terms of Connecticut lakes, there are “not a great number that would be of a size to support seaplanes landing on them.” Marciscano said he’s seen “very few accidents” involving seaplanes, going back to before 2003.
“I’m not aware of any accidents involving seaplanes and boats,” Marsicano said. “I’ve not seen any safety issues with seaplanes on the lake.”
However, the Federal Aviation Authority regulations caution pilots about seaplane operation in areas with extensive recreation or commercial water traffic.
The movements of faster crafts such as speedboats and water crafts are unpredictable, the FAA warns. People towing skiers may be focusing their attention behind the boat and fail to notice a landing seaplane, according to the warning.
“There is no equivalent of the airport traffic pattern to govern boat traffic, and although right-of-way rules exist on the water, many watercraft operators are unaware of the limits of seaplane maneuverability and may assume that seaplanes will always be able to maneuver to avoid them,” FAA regulations read.
Once the engine is shut down on a seaplane, it continues to move on the water with the force of wind and current used to coast the plane to the desired docking point. The regulations go on to note that many times the seaplane itself is an object of curiosity, drawing water traffic in the form of interested onlookers.