Long-awaited improvements at Beechmont Lake are finally underway. City crews are now hard at work removing silted material from the forebay at the lake’s north end. The material is being deposited on a re-graded shoreline, where it soon will be covered with topsoil and seeded. Increasing the depth of the forebay to its original six or seven feet is an essential first step to the eventual dredging of the entire lake, which is likely to occur later this decade as funding and State permits are secured.
Many residents of the Paine Heights and Wykagyl Park neighborhoods have noted the increasingly poor appearance of Paine Lake. The lake’s condition stems primarily from its very shallow depth – the result of decades of siltation – and from the high nutrient content of Stephenson Brook, which flows into it. These factors provide an ideal breeding ground for lily pads and duckweed, both of which have proliferated on the Lake’s surface, the former having been introduced as a water quality improvement measure. The City recently retained contractors to remove the lily pads, and the lake’s surface was relatively clear as a result for a few weeks in mid-summer, but because the lily roots are almost impossible to dislodge, the pads grow back quickly. The duckweed, meanwhile, which has the appearance of a green film on the water, is resistant to any sort of manual removal. The City and County have explored a variety of possibilities for lake improvement, but most have been deemed ineffective or environmentally unsound. Herbicides, for example, cannot be targeted against only the undesirable species of plant and would, therefore, have a negative effect on the broader Stephenson Brook ecosystem. We also looked at the introduction of wildlife that might consume the lilies and duckweed, but have been informed by experts that efforts along these lines will achieve nothing. It appears, therefore, that the only realistic option for improving conditions is partial or total dredging of the lake bottom. Dredging would remove much of the accumulated silt, deepen the lake so that lilies cannot take root, expand the lake’s water retention capacity and biological diversity, and greatly enhance the lake’s appearance. What’s the rub? Depending upon the precise scope of the project and the method utilized for disposing of the dredged material, such an effort would likely cost between $500,000 and $1,000,000. It would also require the approval of the State Department of Environmental Conservation, which can take many months. At my request, the City Administration has begun preliminary planning for a dredging project and has also begun searching for potential grant opportunities that could cover all or part of the total bill. In the meantime, the City, in cooperation with the County (which was responsible for the introduction of the lilies,) will attempt to provide as much ongoing maintenance as possible.