Congamond Lake use policy change discussed

SOUTHWICK – During their meeting on Thursday evening, the Lake Management Committee discussed a topic that generated a number of residents to attend.

On May 18, Southwick Police Chief David Ricardi announced on the department’s Facebook page that there had been a change in their enforcement policy for personal watercraft and jet skis on North Pond.

In the post from Ricardi, it says, “Personal watercraft and jet skis are no longer prohibited on the North basin (North Pond) of Congamond Lake. As the result of a recent decision received from the office of the Environmental Police, personal watercraft and jet skis are now allowed to be used on North Pond section of the Congamond Lake.”

At the meeting on Thursday night, Nicholas Graveline, whose parents have lived on North Pond for several years and jet ski through North Pond to get to the other bodies of water, backed up Ricardi’s findings and change of policy.

“I think we need to respect the Chief (Ricardi), that’s his ruling,” said Graveline.

The Massachusetts Environmental Police, who control the law on bodies of water within the state, informed Chief Ricardi that, under Ch. 90 law, in order to have jet skis, the specific part of the lake has to have a minimum 75 acres of water.

Southwick Police announced last week that there was a change in their enforcement policy for personal jet skis and watercraft. (Photo from Southwick Police Department)

As the North Pond basin has roughly 50 acres, Ricardi checked back with the environmental police and discovered that there was an exception for North Pond.

The environmental police considered Congamond Lake to be a “great pond” in the commonwealth, consisting of three basins connected by channels.

In result of that, the jet-ski law for the certain amount of acres relies upon the aggregate total amount of acres of the lake. Since the entire lake is 477 acres, the policy allows watercrafts and jet skis to be on North Pond. Middle Pond makes up 277 acres, while South Pond is 142 acres.

Ricardi also mentioned that under town bylaw, personal watercraft and jet skis can’t exceed 45 mph when going through North Pond.

The problem for the Lake Management Committee, is the fact that they said that Mass DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) requires the committee to report on the three separate bodies of water on Congamond Lake separately. This means that the committee would only take the 47 acres of North Pond into account.

The committee then discussed which state agency would be making this decision. As Chief Ricardi went to the Environmental Police for this decision, the committee believes that it is Mass DEP who ultimately makes the decision.

Members of the committee also wondered why the policy stopped being enforced and when? A number of residents in attendance believed that personal watercraft and jet skis were banned from North Pond at one point and time.

Neilda Henke, who lives on North Pond, is certain that she remembers voting at a town meeting in the 1990’s. Henke believes that the vote resulted of being in favor of banning personal watercraft on North Pond.

“We didn’t raise our hands for nothing,” said Henke. “I remember raising my hand that night.”

Henke mentioned that she may contact the Select Board to see if they would have the information of that meeting in the 1990’s in their archives records.

The Lake Management Committee said that they will be doing extensive research to find out just which agency is in charge of what the actual policy is but there is no timetable as to when that information could be discovered. For now, there is no restriction on personal watercraft or jet skis on North Pond.

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