Students returning to the College this week expecting to see a restored Lake Ceva instead saw a lake overgrown with weeds.
The lake was drained to a depth of two feet last November in order to rebuild the dam located between Lake Ceva and Lake Sylva. The construction was ordered by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) because the dam had become damaged over the years. As work on the dam continued into the Spring semester, the weeds began to grow on the lake bottom.
Construction on the dam was completed under budget by the May 31 deadline after seven months of work and the water has been restored to its previous depth.
Now there is an abundance of weeds and a lack of fish and other wildlife that called the lake home. The lake was refilled naturally from its normal sources – runoff from nearby roofs, roads and highways.
According to William Rudeau, director of Campus Construction, the weeds are annuals and should die off with the first winter frost.
“The dam’s in perfect shape,” Rudeau said. “The guys did a beautiful job.”
Prior to construction, Lake Ceva’s fish population was transported to neighboring Lake Sylva, while the other wildlife, including a number of snapping turtles, were allowed to find another home themselves.
“The thing with turtles, for the most part, is that they don’t require intervention overall on our part,” Lisa Barno, chief of freshwater fisheries at the Fish and Wildlife division of NJDEP, said. “They are terrestrial by nature, they will move out of the location and when the circumstances are fit for them inhabiting (the lake), they move right back.”
Barno added that the construction crew is required to notify the Fish and Wildlife division if they see turtles in distress, though she said instances of this have been rare in other draining projects undertaken by the division.
The fish are set to be restocked on an undecided date by the Fish and Wildlife division, which oversaw the transportation of the fish from Lake Ceva to Lake Sylva in November. The new fish will come from a Fish and Wildlife hatchery in New Jersey.
“They know how many fish we took out and put into the back lake, and what they’ll do is they look at the lake and they say ‘This is the type of the lake and this is what type of fish you should have in there,'” Rudeau said.
The emergence of the weeds may pose a problem to the new fish population.
“It’s not so much the weeds being a problem, but as terrestrial weeds grow and then you refill, they die off, which can deplete the oxygen,” Barno said.
“I don’t expect it’ll be a problem,” Pat Hamilton, principal fisheries biologist for the Fish and Wildlife division, said. “I can’t say with certainty what will happen, but hopefully there won’t be a huge sag in the dissolved oxygen that will cause problems.”
According to Hamilton, the fish and wildlife division should be able to restock the lake as they would any other, despite the decomposition of the weeds.
As of yet, there is no exact date for the lake to be restocked with fish, though Hamilton said it should take place within the next few weeks.
“It’s in the works,” she said. “I don’t know when those fish will become available from our hatchery.”
One misconception is that the new plant life will attract insects, especially mosquitoes. However, according to Hamilton, the presence of the weeds should attract no more mosquitoes to the lake than there were before. Also, the water is not stagnant, since it drains into Lake Sylva.