Greenwood Lake Commission tackles floating island in West Milford

The Greenwood Lake Commission teamed up with a local contactor to corral and curtail one of the lake's dangerous floating islands last week.

Paul Zarrillo, the commission co-chairman from West Milford, said the commission spent two-and-a-half days last week working alongside the marine contractors at Scott R. Wood, LLC of Sparta to chop up and remove a tangled mass of driftwood. Located near Sportsmans Marina on the west coast of the 7-mile-long lake, the mass was around 100 feet long and 50 feet wide in places, according to Scott Wood. It was also roughly 5 to 7 feet thick, Wood said.


This massive floating island near Fox Island in West Milford was recently 90 percent removed during an effort organized by the Greenwood Lake Commission, according to contractor Scott Wood.Marine contractor Scott R. Wood, LLC drops off a load of debris during the two-and-a-half-day effort.

"None of the other lakes I've seen have anything like this," he said. "The stumps and sticks you see on top make up just the first 2 feet. The rest of it is just a dense mass of leaves, brush, and mud."

Wood said the low water levels created by the ongoing drawdown of the lake to allow for dock maintenance brought about a premature end to the project. The 40-by-12-foot barge used to float an excavator to the floating island and deliver the debris back to shore began to scrape some of the lake bed's stumps on the way back to shore. The low water levels ensured each load of flotsam was smaller than the last until it reached the point of diminishing returns, Wood said.

Zarrillo said the commission is hoping to resume the operation when the lake refills in early spring of 2017. Wood estimated the island was about 90 percent eliminated.

"If we can get these things out of the lake, I'm sure the residents would be happy," he said.

The project was timed to coincide with the drawdown in order to allow for a better view of the floating island, which can be almost entirely submerged at times. Still, Wood said he thinks the project would be more successful with higher water levels.

"After the first foot is removed, you can't see it anyway, because it sinks back down," Wood said of the floating island.

To take full advantage of the vantages offered during the drawdown, Zarrillo said the commission is looking into hiring a drone company to fly over most of the lake and Belcher Creek to map various debris, boulders, and stumps. An $84,000 state-funded stump grinding project by Downes Tree Service of Hawthorne is in the works for later this year.

"As the commission puts together its 2017 budget, and with an eye toward projects to tackle over the next three to five years, results from the drone project should help in determining those projects," he said.

The drawdown itself is proceeding on schedule, Zarrillo said. However, he said the recent drought warning "certainly has the commission concerned in regards to refilling the lake."

"Unless the area is blessed with major rain and or snow, we anticipate the refill process to start on Jan. 1, 2017," he said. "The commission recommends that homeowners and businesses around the lake proceed with their dock and bulkhead projects as soon as possible in order to have their projects completed in time."

The drawdown was scheduled to progress through Feb. 15, 2017. According to state records, that commission must start allowing the lake to refill at that date.

Nonetheless, Jan. 1, 2017, is an important date for the commission. Zarrillo said the commission will have a vacancy as of Dec. 31 and is seeking an interested resident who is willing to volunteer three to five hours each month to benefit the watershed. Any interested resident should contact the West Milford Township Clerk's Office or visit to download the necessary forms to apply for the vacancy.

The commission is also looking for volunteers to help remove debris from the lake during the drawdown. Email or call 973-506-7800 for more information or to register your interest.


Donations sought to add to reward re: West Milford boat accident

As the State Police hunt goes on for a Greenwood Lake boater who fled into the night after critically injuring two township men with his airborne vessel on Labor Day, the Greenwood Lake Commission is encouraging further donations to pump up an already anticipated $12,000 reward for arrest and conviction.

"The Greenwood Lake Commission (GLC) and myself are appalled by the hit-and-run accident that occurred on Labor Day," said commission co-chairman Paul Zarrillo. "The Commission takes safety very seriously, which is what led us to offer our assistance in apprehending the perpetrator(s) of this horrific act."

Zarrillo said the Commission was thrilled to have the New Jersey State Police restore lake patrols on Greenwood Lake and hopes they will continue long into the future. He acknowledged, however, that even extensive patrols cannot prevent people from using poor or no judgment at all in committing senseless crimes.

As of today, the Commission anticipates pledges totaling almost $12,000 in reward money for the arrest and conviction of the boater responsible for these injuries, which occurred as Edwin Lane, 72, was on route to Sportman's Marina to dock his 18-foot Bayliner with his wife Mary, 74, and their friends Robert Roon, 76, and Eileen Roon, 70. All of those injured are from West Milford.

While just north of the marina at about 8:36 p.m. Monday, an unidentified vessel, possibly a ski boat, struck the Bayliner in the stern and went airborne, causing head injuries for both men, the State Police reported. They were flown to St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center, and according to The Record, are improving. Their wives were treated at the same Paterson trauma center and then released.

Those interested in contributing to the reward monies can send a check made out to Greenwood Lake Commission Reward, to Box 93, Hewitt, NJ 07421.

The daughter and son of Ed Lane have each contributed $2,500 to the reward, while Greenwood Lake Commission gave $500 and that amount was matched by the following marinas: Moosehead, Greenwood Lake, Emerald Point, and Defeo's. In addition Sportsman's Marina gave $2,500.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Trooper I Shane Diehl of Carteret Station at 732-541-0491. Anonymous tips are welcome.


DEP to fund stump removal in Greenwood Lake

WEST MILFORD — The state has announced it will fund removal of a major hazard for boaters on Greenwood Lake: roughly 1,000 submerged tree stumps rooted in, and protruding from, the lakebed.

The Department of Environmental Protection announced Thursday it will support the bi-state Greenwood Lake Commission project. The Commission obtained a $84,350 proposal from Downes Tree Service of Hawthorne earlier this year to conduct stump-grinding during a five-foot drawdown of the lake set to begin Oct. 11. The commission has been petitioning various entities for financial support ever since.

The project would commence in late November or early December, but is depending on weather — and whether the lake drawdown should take place, given worries that drought conditions might hinder the lake’s subsequent recharge, said Paul Zarrillo, Commission co-chairman.

In any event, said Zarrillo, "We've been fighting for this. I've been threatening to sue the DEP and the state, and I'm thrilled that this is going to happen.
"If we get it done, it's a huge feather in our cap," he added.

Lurking in the vicinity of Sportsman Marina and Fox Island in West Milford, the slowly decaying stumps are the vestiges of the forest that existed before loggers clear-cut the area to allow for expansion of Greenwood Lake in the 1830s. The expansion helped feed the Morris and Essex canal as well as the commercial growth of the region. The remaining stumps have been considered time bombs, posing fatal hazards to recreational boaters, water skiers and wakeboarders
"Keeping Greenwood Lake navigable and safe from potential hazards is an important project for the many people in New Jersey and New York State who travel this scenic waterway, which also is a critical water resource for the northern region of the state," DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said. "Our cooperative effort with the Greenwood Lake Commission for this work will help ensure that the public can enjoy the lake for many years to come."

In recent weeks, Greenwood Lake's marina owners and the North Jersey Water District Supply have expressed concern about the pending drawdown, given the dry conditions throughout 2016 and its potential impact on lake recharge in 2017. Zarrillo said the DEP could cancel the drawdown and put the entire project in jeopardy — and not just for 2016-17.

"There is some concern about drought," Zarrillo said. "We may have to cancel [the drawdown] and I'd seriously doubt we would get that $84,000 again."
"This whole thing is very, very iffy," he added. "Depending on the weather, if there is six-inch rain or massive snowfall, we may not be able to do the stump removal project."

Drawdowns are approved by New York and New Jersey state officials about once every five years to allow property owners to conduct maintenance on their docks, lake walls and bulkheads. Allowing portions of the lakebed to freeze also is said to aid in the destruction of aquatic weeds that inhibit warm-weather activities on the lake.

In 2005, the DEP granted the Greenwood Lake Commission $100,000 for a similar, stump-grinding project. Executed in early 2007, it eliminated the danger posed by roughly 2,000 stumps across a 70-acre portion of the lakebed.

"I am grateful for the cooperation that the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Greenwood Lake Commission and our legislative office had on this important issue," said state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio, whose district includes Greenwood Lake. "Reducing these potentially dangerous tree stumps shows the level of commitment that our state has in keeping its people and property out of harm's way."

1,000 stumps could be pulled from Greenwood Lake if state comes through

During the drawdown of Greenwood Lake Downes Tree Service of Hawthorne will remove an estimated 1,000 tree stumps from Greenwood Lake if the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) comes through with money to pay the bill.

The drawdown is scheduled to begin on Oct. 11.

The commission went through a bidding process and selected the Downes Tree Service of Hawthorne to do the work for $84,350. Paul Zarrillo, co-chair of the Greenwood Lake Commission, said the project is dependent on receiving funding from the NJDEP. He said the state agency has the ultimate responsibility of overseeing the safety and management of the state-owned lake.

Zarrillo said he is hoping that the NJDEP will find its way to meet its statutory responsibilities and send the commission the money needed for the stump removal work.

In 2005 the state agency provided $100,000 to remove 2,000 stumps in the first phase of a stump removal project.

"The state is literally sitting on a time-bomb waiting to go off - with 1,000 hazards sitting just under the lake surface," said Zarrillo. "If the NJDEP doesn’t come through with the funding the important stump removal project is probably not going to happen."

The GLC co-chair said he has met with state legislators and been told that money is not available. Also it expedites the process for those wanting to do work on their properties. A single NJDEP permit can run between $1,000 and $2,000. If done jointly that amount can be shared among participants – resulting in a huge savings for everyone."

He said the GLC met with West Milford officials and the municipal engineering consultant to discuss the possibility of having the township coordinate the permitting process between the residents and the NJDEP. The township officials had some concerns and suggested that the residents act as a group to submit required paperwork and to try to engage the same engineer in order to save money. The township did not agree to pay $1,500 for a consultant to attend a NJDEP meeting in Trenton on the process.

Zarrillo said this amount is just a fraction of the additional property taxes the lakefront owners pay for being on a lake location. He urged all area residents – not just lakefront owners – to contact local, county, state and national representatives to relate the importance of the GLC work and to seek support for it. He said Greenwood Lake supplies water to over 3 million residents and thousands of businesses which employ many thousands of people living in the state.

He suggested that people visit for more information.



Passaic County Freeholders Invest in Local Tourism, Award Grant Funds to Greenwood Lake Commission

(Passaic County, NJ) - The Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders at its meeting on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 awarded a grant of $20,000 to the Greenwood Lake Commission (GWLC). Greenwood Lake is spread across the border of New Jersey and New York, and is part of the Township of West Milford.

“Greenwood Lake is the second largest public lake in the state and serves as a source of fresh drinking water to over 3 million residents and thousands of businesses,” said Freeholder Director Theodore “TJ” Best. “We have been investing in historical and other tourist attractions around the county, and this grant is a part of that investment.”

The GWLC is a bi-state commission, created by the legislatures of both states to oversee and protect the natural and recreational resources Greenwood Lake provides. A recent impact study from VisitNJ showed that Passaic County’s tourism industry recently grew by 10%, the fastest growing county in terms of tourism growth in New Jersey.

Greenwood Lake has been plagued by large amounts of stumps, floating islands, and invasive aquatic plants, all of which impact the safety of boaters and swimmers. The GWLC often has trouble finding funds for the lake, as the law that created the Commission provided no means of raising revenue.  The grant award will be used to clean up Greenwood Lake and help alleviate it of these issues.

“I am thrilled that Passaic County again has come through on their word to support the Commission’s mission to improve water quality, recreation, safety and the economic value of Greenwood Lake,” said Paul Zarrillo, NJ Co-Chair for the GWLC and Vice-Chair of Highlands Economic Development and Tourism Corp (HEAT). “Without the Passaic County Freeholder’s support, the economic value that the lake brings would be impacted.”

Paul Sullivan, Passaic County’s appointee to the GWLC added, “We have agreements with several organizations in New Jersey and New York to receive funds, I am hopeful the other entities will step up the same way as Passaic County.”

In recent years, the GWLC has made significant strides in stump reduction and weed control. Greenwood Lake hosts annual power boat races, but the large amounts of weeds would clog and damage boat motors. This caused the races to be cancelled in 2012. The boat races returned to Greenwood Lake in 2014, and in June it will be having its third consecutive boat race since the hiatus. In 2007, the GWLC conducted a $100,000 stump reduction project that reduced over 2,000 stumps.

“As a resident of West Milford that lives near the lake, I have seen first-hand the vast improvements that have been made,” said Freeholder Terry Duffy. “Greenwood Lake is a real treasure that I, and the rest of the Freeholders are proud to support.” 


West Milford's Council calls for state, federal aid for Lake


This effort by the Greenwood Lake Commission to remove stumps from Greenwood Lake prompted Council President Vivienne Erk to seek and receive council support to pass a resolution asking for grant aid to combat lake problems. The Township of West Milford Council has asked its state and federal representatives to seek, coordinate and support Greenwood Lake in qualifying for appropriate water quality grant funding from the New Jersey Legislature.

Resolution 2014-390, passed by the Council on Dec. 3, said the funding should include—but not be limited to—projects such as Watershed Restoration and Projection Plans, Regional Storm-water Management Plans, and necessary monitoring and remediation to achieve appropriate stated water, quantity and recharge objectives.

The document asked federal and state representatives to identify and support appropriate state and federally funded programs to assist with the water quality and overall preservation of Greenwood Lake from all federal and state funded sources including, but not limited to the United States Department of Agriculture and other such similar funding sources to preserve Greenwood Lake.

The resolution asks each of its state and federal representatives to respond to the resolution by identifying and supporting various funding sources within the next 30 days to enable the Township and potentially the Bi-State Commission to obtain necessary funding to address the environmental concerns and preserve benefits of Greenwood Lake for Township residents and the general public of New York and New Jersey.

It is noted in the document that Greenwood Lake is over seven miles long and it is one of the largest pristine public water bodies in the state. It acknowledges that the lake has provided recreational opportunities such as swimming, fishing, boating and other aquatic activities for the benefit of the general public and that the lake supports economic development in the form of restaurants, antiquing, trails, concerts and festivals.

The resolution reminds its readers that the Township of West Milford, in stewardship, has been committed to the preservation of Greenwood Lake by way of applying for and obtaining 319(h) grants for NPS (non-point source) pollution control and management implementation, participated in weed harvesting by investing Township resources to support such efforts and provided for an intensive street sweeping and basin clean-out program by its Department of Public Works to minimize sediment in Greenwood Lake. It said the Township has supported the Greenwood Lake Bi-State Commission whenever possible.

Notwithstanding the Township efforts, Greenwood Lake still faces the challenges of environmental concerns such as: weed overgrowth, water quality, sewage and bacteria, according to the resolution. While the Township makes every effort to support Greenwood Lake to maintain its sustainability and its pristine environmental and recreational benefits, the need exists for additional funding by the state and federal government in order to maintain the high standard of water quality of Greenwood Lake, the resolution said.

At the Nov. 12 local governing body workshop/regular meeting, Council President Vivienne Erk commented that she saw the newspaper report about the cleaning up of stumps in Greenwood Lake. She asked if there was council consensus—and there was—to take action to get help for the lake. As a result of Erk’s request, Township Attorney Fred Semrau drafted the resolution that the Council approved at its latest meeting.

Councilman Luciano (Lou) Signorino said the Greenwood Lake Commission had met with state legislators and the West Milford resolution will reinforce those efforts.