The Lake Hopatcong Commission on Monday unanimously approved a plan to move forward with preparing the weed harvest, in hopes of being reimbursed by the state for their efforts in the coming months.
The motion, proposed by chairman and Jefferson mayor Russ Felter, called for the commission to allocate $20,000 to prepare the weed harvesters for the season, beginning next month, and to pay for three full-time seasonal workers to run the harvest this summer. Felter said the commission would then hope to be reimbursed by the state. “We’re in ongoing discussion with Trenton,” he said.
Commissioner Dan McCarthy made it clear that the commission doesn’t have an extra $20,000 to spend, but happens to have that amount in its account that could be used immediately and replenished later. “It’s a gamble, in other words,” he said.
The commissioners voted unanimously to move forward with that gamble, saying that there are few options when it comes to funding, and that efforts need to begin immediately if they are to have time to prepare the machines and make a dent in the weed growth this summer season.
Felter said Jefferson Township would help transport the harvesters, and the commission would look at other shared service opportunities among the four municipalities around the lake. “We’ll come back at the May meeting with a full plan,” he said. For now, the commission needed to approve the motion in order to get things moving.
During public comment, Ron Sorensen of the Lake Hopatcong Alliance asked the commissioners to support the alliance as it prepares for a four-day boating festival to be held August 18 to 21 at Lee’s County Park in Mt. Arlington, with proceeds being donated to the commission’s weed-harvest effort. Sorensen said the festival is slated to include rides, a performance by the Lake Mohawk Ski-Hawks, a 5K, bands, sponsorships, and booths from local businesses. “We’re hoping to have a different event each day, and to build this as a yearly event,” he said.
Sorensen asked the commissioners to go back to their towns to try to secure support—in the form of garbage pick-up, jitney services, traffic direction, and other logistics—so that the alliance can give the maximum amount possible toward weed harvesting. Some money, he said, would also be set aside to grow the event for future years. “We’re trying to do this thing right, and hopefully it will grow,” he said. “It’s something that the lake has never had… and we want to make this a big event.”
Also during the public comment period, Steve Gebeloff of Hopatcong asked the commission to issue a formal resolution against the water-level management plan established by the state. “I know this commission might not want to confront Trenton until the funding issue is settled,” Gebeloff said. “But it looks like Trenton wants the commission to fail.”
Cliff Beebe of Lake Hopatcong also reiterated his charge that the state does not have the authority to change the water level. “You people are supposed to take care of Lake Hopatcong,” he said. “Taking water out of the lake for any reason is not good for Lake Hopatcong.”
With Earth Day approaching on Friday, the meeting also included several discussions regarding the lake ecosystem and environmental initiatives.
The state, for example, passed a law aimed at protecting New Jersey’s surface and ground waters by reducing nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from fertilizer, establishing standards that bring the rest of the state up to the restrictions imposed by the lakeside communities regarding phosphorus levels in lawn fertilizer. The state law also restricts nitrogen, which has a stronger effect on marine waters. In addition, it requires professional fertilizer applicators to undergo training and become certified; limits the time of year that fertilizer can be used (“blackout dates” of November 15 to March 1 for consumers and December 1 to March 1 for professionals); prohibits fertilizer application during or just before heavy rainfall, onto an impervious surface, or onto frozen ground; and establishes buffers (with some exceptions, cannot be applied within 25 feet of any water body). Noncompliance fines are geared toward professional landscapers. “A big part of it is public education,” said commission administrator Donna Macalle-Holly, who added that residents can get a soil test to determine if they even need fertilizer on their lawn. (Visit www.nj.gov/dep/healthylawnshealthywater/ for more details on the law.)
Macalle-Holly also pointed to the Hopatcong Clean Communities Clean-Up from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 14 (volunteers can go to the Hopatcong Department of Public Works), and said that Mt. Arlington was looking for volunteers to join an effort to clean up Memorial Park on a to-be-determined date. She also encouraged residents to sign up for a rain barrel workshop scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on May 12 at the Camp Jefferson Main Lodge, presented by the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Morris County, which will allow participants to be guided through simple steps to assemble a 55-gallon rain barrel drum (hardware included). Registration is required, with advance payment of the $60 registration fee; for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’d like to encourage everybody to get involved,” she said.
Additionally, Macalle-Holly distributed flyers for the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority Boat Shrink Wrap Collection Program and a Clean Boating Tip Sheet. (Click on titles to see further information about those programs.) Several of the commission’s water-quality efforts are also moving along. The commission is looking to move forward with a stormwater project in Crescent Cove before May, and is working with a Jefferson day care center to install a bio-filter. Hopatcong State Park has also given the go-ahead to install a rain garden, which is pending the approval of the N.J. Department of Fish and Wildlife director.
In other discussion:
- McCarthy pointed out that in June it will be five years since a state appointment had been vacated on the commission; Felter said he had sent names to Trenton, and hopefully that position will be filled.
- Felter pointed out that New Jersey Monthly magazine had included Lake Hopatcong in its April “Best of New Jersey” issue, as a top freshwater fishing destination.