Rogers Lake Authority Says ‘We Can’t Ignore Public Comment’ about No Wake Zones


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OLD LYME — After hearing strong public objection to a proposed no-wake zone ordinance, the Rogers Lake Authority will hold a special virtual meeting on Monday at 7 p.m. to review public comment and decide on a way forward. 

“We have to take it pretty seriously, with 160 plus people being against this, we have to pay attention,” Dennis Overfield, chair of the authority, told CT Examiner on Friday. 

He said that Monday’s meeting agenda will be a review of previous public comments from the authority’s March 9 and April 19 meetings, but there will be no further public comment at Monday’s meeting. 

“We will review the public comments and figure out what we want to do going forward. It’s anybody’s guess what the group will end up deciding to do — we can’t ignore public comment,” he said.  

Overfield told CT Examiner that the authority had been discussing no wake zones for three years as part of a review of the Rogers Lake ordinances. But, he said, the authority’s meeting minutes do not mention no wake zones, only that the ordinances were discussed. At the Dec. 15, 2021 meeting, the placement of four wake buoys was mentioned for the first time.  

At the March 9 meeting, authority member Mark Hastings said there is a concern for “safety in the narrow areas of the lake [and that] no wake buoy placement would slow down boat traffic in those areas.” The authority also announced it had obtained a no wake buoy permit from the Department of of Energy and Environmental Protection. 

At that meeting, the public said the no wake zone would create safety issues because boats would only be able to tow skiers and tubers in circles in front of the dam or toward the Lyme side of the lake, which could cause boat congestion in both areas, and that the changed boating pattern could cause erosion to the islands.

At the April 19 authority meeting, David Evers, president of the Rogers Lake West Shore Association, presented a petition of 160 signatures of people who were against the deployment of the no wake buoys. 

Evers told CT Examiner on Friday that the authority had conducted itself in a sneaky fashion by not including the public in the discussions with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and by obtaining a permit without a transparent process. 

“We have 3 or 4 associations on the lake , and no one knew about it, that’s why we’re mad,” said Evers, who has lived on the lake for more than 50 years. 

He said that authority members arrived at the April 19 meeting without a final version of the ordinance and he was concerned that the final version would be sent to DEEP without a public review. 

“We should all be sitting down together. It’s just an overreach of power — it’s sneakiness and people are furious, people are telling them to resign,” Evers said. 

Measurements and safety issues

Overfield, who has owned his house on the lake for 18 years, said he has been talking with DEEP for three years to address safety issues on the lake, and has been out on the lake with DEEP twice. 

“We had a sandbar that was over by the state launch and it took us almost 12 months working with DEEP to get a permit to get that buoy in to identify the dangerous area to boaters,” he said.

He said one issue on the lake is that jet skis are required to have 200 feet of clearance on each side. He said the distance from Picnic Island to the eastern shore is 335 feet and to the western shore is 230 feet.

“There are six places where jet skis can’t go that fast through there by state ordinance, by state boating laws, because the state has control of all bodies of water,” Overfield said. 

He said DEEP personnel measured the distances twice — last year and the year before. He said the distances are not measured from the land’s edge but from where vegetation is not growing up through the water in the lake.

He also said that authority members showed DEEP personnel a number of blind spots on the lake where it’s difficult to see a skier, swimmer or rowboat in the water and there is not a lot of room to maneuver. 

“[DEEP personnel] thought about it and said, ‘Why don’t you make that whole area a no wake zone,’” Overfield said. “It would be one thing if Rogers Lake was rectangular in shape, but there are lots of coves and blind corners — it’s an accident waiting to happen.” 

Overfield and Evers acknowledged that there had been one non-lethal boating accident in the last 10 years in which a swimmer who was traveling in the boat channel in the lake was hit by a motor boat — but that was the only accident. 

“The lake has been there for years and years and nobody’s ever gotten into an accident, it’s crazy, it’s uncalled for,” said Evers, who said he wanted to see exactly how the areas under 400 feet were measured. 

Evers said creating the no wake zones would force waterskiers to travel in a circle instead of up and down the lake, which will create safety problems. Plus, without the boat traffic in the middle waters, the lake “will turn into a swamp.”  

Evers said the way to handle traffic on the lake was to help boaters understand the rules of the lake.

“The whole thing is education about going counterclockwise. Sometimes there can be somebody going the wrong way and boaters say something. The lake takes care of itself, it polices itself,” he said.

First Selectman Tim Griswold told CT Examiner that the Rogers Lake Authority should have been inclusive in its approach to the problems on the lake. 

“I think if they were contemplating that there are some safety issues, then they [should] put together a group of authority members and members of certain constituents and come up with consensus,” he said. “That apparently has not happened. People found out about it and thought it was being done in a sneaky type of way and let them know it.” 

Overfield said the earliest a no wake ordinance could be approved in Old Lyme is summer of 2024. He said the town is not obligated to implement the buoy permit from DEEP, nor will DEEP allow buoys to be installed until there is an ordinance in place in both towns. 

The ordinance must be approved at town meetings in both Old Lyme and Lyme to take effect.