TRENTON –The Department of Environmental Protection today released its recommended plan for the management of water levels in Lake Hopatcong, one of New Jersey's largest lakes and an important ecological and economic resource in the northwestern part of the state.
Developed over the past year with a citizens' advisory committee, the recommended plan utilizes detailed management techniques to avert extremely low lake levels that have occurred in the past when recovery from periodic lowering was delayed by low precipitation. The plan seeks to balance the quality of life needs of residents who live around Lake Hopatcong and downstream Lake Musconetcong, as well as the ecological needs of the Musconetcong River connecting the two lakes.
The DEP today forwarded the plan to the Lake Hopatcong Commission, which will schedule a public meeting to discuss it, likely in January. Officials from the DEP will attend to answer questions.
"This plan provides clear direction for the management of lake levels and balances the ecological, recreational, scenic and economic needs of a lake and river system that is treasured by many people," Commissioner Bob Martin said. "The DEP looks forward to continuing to work with all stakeholders in striking this balance for this important resource."
The state owns the nine-mile-long lake, located in Hopatcong, Mount Arlington, Jefferson and Roxbury. The DEP's Division of Parks and Forestry manages lake levels by making releases from the Lake Hopatcong Dam at Hopatcong State Park.
The DEP's recommended plan maintains flow rates that DEP scientists conclude is necessary to protect fish in the river and ensure sufficient flow into Lake Musconetcong, while setting drawdown timetables that will allow for recreational uses of Lake Hopatcong for a longer period.
The plan recommends the annual 26-inch drawdown of Lake Hopatcong, done each fall to protect lakeside properties from ice damage, to start on Nov. 19, compared to Nov. 1 previously. The start date of the drawdown will be adjusted to begin before or after that date depending on the actual level of the lake.
The five-foot drawdown that occurs every five years to allow for maintenance of properties around the lake will begin on Sept. 22, compared to the day after Labor Day in the past. The actual start of this drawdown also will be adjusted to begin before or after Sept. 22 depending on the actual lake level and may be postponed a year during drought conditions. The plan includes clear guidance for refilling the lake after the five-foot drawdown to ensure recovery of the lake in the spring.
A popular tourist destination, the Hopatcong-Musconetcong system supports one of New Jersey's greatest diversities of freshwater fish species, including popular game fish such as trout and walleye.
To read the lake plan, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/newsrel/2010/hopatcong_wlmp.pdf