Watching the Water

Water levels have long been a fascination on Twin Lakes, where most residents and visitors have little understanding of the considerations underlying any decision to open or close the gate at the end of the channel on Taconic Road. Salisbury town officials recently handed lake-level authority to Fred Schmidt, who many know from his years working at O’Hara’s Landing. We asked Fred what goes into determining the appropriate height of the water in any given season. Here’s what he told us:

High water is a particular problem on South Shore on East Twin. Heavy rainstorms are typically followed by northwest winds, and the combination of high water and strong wind drives large waves that cause shoreline erosion and may damage boats and docks. Low water is a particular problem in the shallower waters of West Twin and the northern areas of East Twin, where boating and swimming can become difficult in times of drought.

A chief environmental concern is maintaining a minimal outflow from the channel into Schenob Brook to preserve it as a natural habitat. An effective strategy calls for adjusting to seasonal conditions. During the winter, the water should be kept low enough to guard land and structures on the shoreline from the potentially destructive ice sheet. Yet the water should not be so low that it risks exposing lake-dwelling animals such as turtles and frogs to freezing temperatures.

In early spring, the supply of water to the lakes is generally dependable as the watershed is replenished by melting snow.  But as the season progresses into summer, trees and plants soak up ground water and reduce the flow into the lakes. In addition, substantial amounts of lake water can be lost through evaporation during the hot sunny dry spells of summertime, and that can cause the water level to drop sharply. So, it is prudent to keep the water level a little higher in the spring as a reserve against heat and dry weather. Comprehensive monitoring includes the following:
  • The water level in East Twin is measured at the Isola Bella Boathouse. The target: one inch below the top of the large step. 
  • The flow between the lakes indicates the adjusting levels of the lakes during a drawdown. It can take several days for the lakes to even out.
  • The rate of flow from the channel into Schenob Brook must be maintained via the regulating gates on Taconic Road (pictured above).
  • Lowering the water based on a forecast for rain is risky. Frequently, anticipated storms pass by to the north or to the south and leave the Twin Lakes watershed with little of the expected precipitation. Any water that had been released into the brook cannot be reclaimed! 

–Fred Schmidt   
Summer is upon us, and at the American School for the Deaf (ASD) that means another season at Camp Isola Bella. Due to the pandemic, the camp again will operate in a modified format in 2021, offering two camp weekends for students in July and day trips throughout the summer.

Camp Isola Bella is an oasis for children who are deaf or hard of hearing or have deaf parents. At camp, they learn and play with their peers and build confidence and leadership skills. The camp is one of a limited number of camps for the deaf nationwide. It is the only such camp in Connecticut and typically fills every slot within 30 minutes of opening for registration.

Jeff Bravin, ASD executive director and TLA board member, says the organization plans to move ahead with renovations to make room for more campers (two happy campers are pictured nearby) when camp returns to full capacity next year. One student’s testimonial illustrates the value of the camp:

For all my life, I never really experienced true happiness. Here I feel truly happy. My past is full of darkness, but here I’m reminded of the light.” 

Welcome back campers.
The proposed expansion of the regulatory review area around wetlands and the shoreline will get a public airing June 7 during a special meeting of the Salisbury Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission. No comment on the matter from the public will be allowed. But wetlands commissioners will discuss the controversial proposal and possibly address written questions that have been submitted to them. The TLA encourages all to join the Zoom meeting and be informed. The proposed rules have come under fire from a group representing lakefront property owners, which has asked the Town to delay action and rethink the proposal. The meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Find the agenda and Zoom link here.

The property owners group, known as Salisbury Lakes Homeowners (SLH), this week released a legal opinion detailing certain home and yard maintenance activities that (if performed in the expanded review area) would require an application with the Town where none was previously required. The application could take many months before it is approved or denied, and it could also trigger a range of fees and expenses to the homeowner, according to the legal opinion. Here are 13 such activities:
  • Installing, paving, repaving or resurfacing a driveway, access road, walkway or path.
  • Installing a garden or adding a layer of mulch to an existing garden. 
  • Installing gutters on an existing home. 
  • Repairing or replacing an existing septic system or sewer lateral. 
  • Repairing or replacing a water line between the house and the well or public water main. 
  • Drilling a new or replacement well. 
  • Repairing or replacing curtain drains or footing drains. 
  • Installing or repairing rain gardens, bio-retention basins or storm water management measures. 
  • Planting or replacing trees or shrubs, moving or depositing soil or other materials. 
  • Removing stumps of fallen or diseased trees. 
  • Installing, repairing or replacing a dry-laid stone or brick patio.
  • Constructing a home or adding a room, porch or other addition to a home or building a garage or other structure.
  • Clearing overgrowth (not clearcutting trees).
Want to be published? We are looking for writers that wish to contribute to this newsletter. No experience required. If you have a story to tell and it revolves around activities in the area, we’d love to see it. Email your suggestion to We’ll figure out how to get it done. 
Mark your calendar for the June 19 TLA membership meeting at Isola Bella at 10 a.m. Please note: The volunteer workday scheduled to follow the meeting that day is no longer planned as a trash collecting event. Various groups and individuals have been picking up roadside debris on their own. We thank them. We are open to suggestions for a workday project later this summer. Send your ideas to
Call for Photos: The Memorial Day weekend was a washout for many. But we suspect there were happy gatherings out there somewhere. (And more to come in June and July.) Did you get a good picture? Enter it in our photo contest, which has a theme of  “celebrations and reunions.” To enter, you must open an Instagram account and follow @twinlakesassociation. Post your photo to your Instagram account and in the caption space give it the tag #tlaphoto2021. All entries will appear on Instagram under #tlaphoto2021.
Pay your dues now if you want to vote at the June 19 membership meeting. Easy directions for online or other payment can be found here.

Classified: The American School for the Deaf is looking for a part-time lifeguard this summer. Applicants must have waterfront lifeguard certification. Contact Kristin Feldman at The camp season runs June 10 through Aug. 16. The days generally run 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and many lifeguard slots are available.
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