Commission votes to support lower Attitash summer level

The Amesbury Lakes and Waterways Commission voted unanimously last evening to support a change to the Amesbury Watershed Management Plan that will lower the level of Lake Attitash in summer from 96.75 to 96.5 feet above sea level, a change of about 3 inches.

The meeting was attended by about 12 residents from Amesbury and Merrimac, all of whom said they were in favor of a lower summer lake level. The commissioners also received five letters or emails about the proposed plan. Three of those written comments were in favor of a lower level and two were opposed.

The revised plan must now go before the Amesbury Conservation Commission for approval. Robert Desmarais, Amesbury’s director of public works, said the revised plan would probably be presented to the conservation commission at their December meeting. If the conservation commission approves the change, the plan will then go to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for final approval, he said.

An earlier proposal had called for a 2-inch drop, but Desmarais said it would probably be easier to obtain approval for a 3-inch drop because it would affect only Lake Attitash. The 2-inch reduction plan would have required changes to both Lake Attitash and an adjoining water body called Meadowbrook.

The proposed plan also calls for changes to target dates for changing levels, allowing a more gradual raising of the lake level in the spring. This schedule change will lessen chances of flooding conditions in the event of heavy spring rains.

A reduction in lake level and the schedule change are supported by the Lake Attitash Association board of directors. The board believes the changes will reduce shoreline erosion, which contributes nutrients into the lake water and promotes the growth of weeds and algae.

At last night’s meeting, association president Tod Campbell said the lower lake level might also increase the “flushing rate” of the lake, or the rate at which the lake water is replaced by new water from underground water and rain. Increasing this flushing rate, he explained, could reduce the amount of nutrients in the lake.