Residents of Rock Lake upset over dirty aquatic weed harvester

Rock Lake Residents were shocked to see a weed-harvesting machine apparently covered with zebra mussels operating on their quiet waters, Saturday morning.

Some residents encourage weed removal to clear the path for swimmers and boaters. However, others feel it is damaging the water’s ecosystem by leaking petroleum in the water and removing too many weeds, leaving minnows and other species with nowhere to hide and nothing to eat.

Anglers don’t mind the weeds as the weed beds often provide more fish than they can hook, but others are happy to wave goodbye to the dense green vines that tangle and trap swimmers, and motorboat propellers.

However, both sides agreed that an aquatic weed harvester should be clean and free of the invasive species before entering the water.

Armed with photographs of the aquatic weed harvester laden with zebra mussels, the Rock Lake Preservation Association and the Rock Lake Highlands Association pummeled the Salem Town Board with questions as to why the town was listed on the permit to cut weeds in the area as neither group was aware of this happening.

Eric Backe, President of the Rock Lake Highlands Association requested notification all future mechanical weed removal operations.

“We have been preserving Rock Lake since 1949 and would like a discussion about permit issues on this,” he said. “We were not informed about this. Rock Lake is beautiful and we want to keep it that way.”

According to Patrick Casey, Town Administrator, the harvester was hired by Rock Lake Restoration Association to harvest weeds on the lake. Learning about this, the town paid the same company to remove weeds near the public access dock and fire lane to make that area more usable by the public. (Note: This paragraph changed from original version — DH)

Numerous varying opinions ensued from residents of both sides of the lake as to the fee paid for the weed removal, future methods of weed removal, and whether removal was necessary at all. Some residents requested hand pulling the weeds, and hiring high school students to remove them in the summer, while others were in favor of a clean weed-harvesting machine.

One Rock Lake resident contacted the DNR and was told that the machine should have been clean and sterilized prior to entering the water. She also contacted the Army Corps of Engineers who were interested in the situation as Rock Lake is one of few lakes in the United States that has no zebra mussels.

At times, tempers flared between the two groups on several issues, so much so, that Town Chairperson Diann Tesar scheduled a special meeting to discuss Rock Lake issues at the Town Hall on Monday, June 18 at 7 p.m.

“I guess I didn’t realize that there was a Rock Lake Restoration Association and a Highlands Association,” she said. “In my opinion, it should be one group. But if you are willing, we should have everyone together in this hall and hash it all out.”




  1. C Cort says:

    Where was this picture taken that you have in your article? The harvester was never put in or operating in Rock lake.

  2. Madelyn says:

    Is it the Rock Lake Preservation Association or the Rock Lake Restoration Association or both?

  3. Karen Mahoney says:

    It is my understanding that it is both groups

  4. C Cort says:

    some inaccuracies here. The weed cutter was not operating in the water. It was blocking the firelane when Rock Lake Highlands residents found it full of zebra mussels. It was never put in the water. Also 27 – 30 lake front owners joined the Rock Lake Restoration Association to have their weeds cut. This was not just to cut the weeds by the public pier. Each homeowner was to pay $200 an hour to have the weeds cut in front of their homes/ The Rock Lake Highlands Association took the pictures and noted that the Town was on the list as a participant. It seemed that Pat Casey committed town money to cut weeds near the public pier but never informed the town chairman or town supervisors/

  5. C Cort says:

    Dave Hoke’s association is the Rock Lake Restoration Association. Just trying to help you as your article is not accurate.

  6. Pamela Coats says:

    It’s the Rockland Highland Association and Rockland Restocation Association Inc. Rockland Highland Assocation has been around for over 30 years. And the Rockland Restocation association is not that old. and they are the ones that got the cutter machine that was full of zebra mussele.

  7. Chris Skrzynecki says:

    Why were there not any citations issued? Not to the citizens but to the operator of the weed harvester? Seems like he was violating, or was about to violate some kind of state rule in regard to putting a boat from one lake into another without following the proper procedure in washing the boat. Also the entity or entities who hired the boat should also be held liable as to the rules being followed. Did the operator have to actualy put the boat ‘in’ the water to have gotten a ticket?
    All that aside, what authority does the town or any association have, to violate the rule for Rock Lake that states that no motors are allowed? Should the DNR be able to tell the owners, most of who are objecting to the harvesting, that they have no say because one group got the town to go along?
    Seems like Casey should have contacted the second group when the first group came to him about this in the first place. Did he even know that there is another group?
    That leads to one side issue. I argued at the town annual meeting two years ago that Casey didn’t have to live ‘in’ the town to work ‘for’ the town. I now regret that argument. Maybe if Casey lived in the town he would understand just what a jewel Rock Lake is and would have had second thoughts before he jumped in on this. Which leads back to the first point. What authority does Casey have to sign the towns name to the DNR permit request? Diane, do you have an answer?

  8. Madelyn says:

    Thank you C Cort for clearing up the names. I think that there are a number of in accuracies in this article. It seems as if the author thinks that Preservation and Restoration are the same or that there are two different groups with similar names. I now undertand that the two groups are the Rock Lake Higlands Association and the Rock Lake Restoration Association.
    There is not Rock Lake Preservation Association. What is the Rock Lake Restoration Association trying to restore? It seems as if “preservation” would be a better goal.

  9. C Cort says:

    Pam, it is the Rock Lake Highlands Association which has been here for many years. Actually over 60 years. The new Association is the Rock Lake Restoration Association, Inc. which incorporated a couple of montha ago.

  10. B.C. says:

    Some of the Rock Lake residents have been harassed for removing cattails, water lilies and other weeds around their docks where they can’t get to the lake or put a boat in. In other areas, residents have clear access, some have beaches, which we know didn’t happen (and isn’t happening) by accident. EVERY residence on this lake should have access to use it! Some people need to do some studying and understand that not all lake vegetation is good and this lake is being over-run with weeds. Get in a boat and head (if you can get through the weeds) to the South and West sides and you’ll see what I mean.

    To all of those who live on Rock lake: I believe in order to be fair, equal and ecologically responsible, the lake vegetation that blocks access for some residents to use the lake, should be relocated to the areas of the lake that have little or no vegetation and should start this year.

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