Alliance Seeks Unfreezing of State Funds for Lake Projects

The fiscal crisis in Trenton is not news to most area residents—not only do various state departments suddenly face severe budget cuts, but the Lake Hopatcong area has been suffering from the dried-up funds for several years now, as the Lake Hopatcong Commission faced a cutoff in state funding. But an avenue to receive state funding seemed promising, both to the Lake Hopatcong Commission and to the year-old Lake Hopatcong Alliance.  I BOAT NJ, a state program that funds the promotion, improvement, and enhancement of the state’s marine industry through grants paid for by the boat-registration fee increase of 2003, had granted $14 million over the years, but never dispensed a penny to a lake in the state. Feeling the time was due, the Lake Hopatcong Alliance submitted a proposal at the end of 2009 to receive funding for various Lake Hopatcong programs, with expectations to get a response from the state early this year.  The commission also submitted a separate request, to help its weed removal operations. Those I BOAT NJ funds, however, have been frozen as state officials seek to get the state on better financial footing, and the Lake Hopatcong Alliance is asking residents to lobby the state to unfreeze the money that could potentially fund its proposals for the lake this summer.  (If the money is unfrozen, that doesn't guarantee the grants will be funded, but it opens up the possibility for grant money at the lake.) Specifically, those proposals from the alliance include several projects: 1) Aquatic Plant Mapping Survey to gain thorough current and ongoing knowledge of plant life on Lake Hopatcong, including nuisance and invasive aquatic plants, and any rare, threatened or endangered plant species within the lake.  The survey would significantly increase and sustain the weed mapping and monitoring efforts on Lake Hopatcong by increasing the number of monitored locations.  Weed mapping information would be shared with other organizations to determine best methods to manage aquatic weeds and improve boating conditions. 2) Lake Hopatcong Awareness Campaign to improve the boating environment on the lake by empowering individual boaters to become stewards of Lake Hopatcong.  The campaign would educate the recreational boating community about methods to keep Lake Hopatcong clean and free from invasive species and aquatic “hitchhikers” and also help boaters understand the importance of the Lake Hopatcong region, their individual impact on the environment and their opportunity to protect Lake Hopatcong.  In addition, the campaign would provide beneficial recreational and safety information to boaters who enjoy Lake Hopatcong.  3) Alternative Weed Control Methods Pilot Project to gain a better understanding of alternate, cost effective and efficient methods to control nuisance and invasive aquatic plant growth. The project would create guidance and best practice reports on alternative methods available to other private and public organizations in efforts to aid effective and efficient weed management on Lake Hopatcong.  The project would ultimately improve boating access around the entire lake by creating practical and effective alternative weed control methods and practices that other organizations can implement to complement and aid existing weed harvesting and weed control programs. 4) Economic Impact Study to quantify the impact of recreational boating at Lake Hopatcong on the local and state economies.  The results would help local and state leaders understand and convey the importance of boating to our economies, which in turn would bolster more support and care for the Lake, thus assuring that Lake Hopatcong will grow and remain an attractive boating destination in New Jersey.  5) A week-long Boating Festival to attract and introduce citizens to recreational boating on Lake Hopatcong by providing access to boating and related activities on the Lake as well as entertainment and other attractions right on Lake Hopatcong’s shores.  In the long-term, the festival would create a sustainable funding source to support maintenance activities for the lake to ensure that Lake Hopatcong remains a viable boating destination in New Jersey. “We are hopeful that I BOAT NJ funding will soon be made available and are optimistic about the opportunities that such funding could bring to our lake,” said Ray Fernandez, the president of the alliance’s board of directors. “We are very grateful that so many of our members have taken the time to contact Gov. Chris Christie, urging his administration to provide the necessary and rightful funding for the I BOAT NJ program.  That kind of collective voice is what the Lake Hopatcong Alliance is about.” Any residents who would like to lobby the state on behalf of these efforts can find a sample letter on the Lake Hopatcong Alliance’s website, along with the contact information for various state officials. In the event that those funds remain unattainable, the alliance has scheduled a fundraiser to get the ball rolling on its proposed projects.  To be held at 7 p.m. on May 14 at the Jefferson House, the evening will include a presentation from Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum president Marty Kane and live music from the band Nite Shift, along with a buffet spread and a cocktail hour with complementary beer and wine.  Information can also be found on the alliance website.

Leave a Reply

Please enter the word you see in the image below: