Fate of Lake Hopatcong’s weed harvesting program discussed

MOUNT ARLINGTON – With the passage of ballot question No. 2 earlier this month, the fate of the Lake Hopatcong weed harvesting program was front and center at the monthly Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting Monday.
The discussion began after Commission chairman Russ Felter simply stated there was “not a lot to report on the question 2 repercussions.”
“Everyone is still trying to grasp what’s going to happen,” he said.
“We need to be real careful about getting the word out that there’ll be no weed harvesting. I just think we have to stay positive,” said Felter.
In his report to the commission, Dan Bello, Environmental Specialist with NJ Department of Environmental Protection, said the weed harvesting program still has enough money to buy parts needed for repairs and is funded enough to operate through the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2015.

Dan Bello, environmental specialist with NJ Department of Environmental Protection, addresses the commission.
Dan Bello, environmental specialist with NJ Department of Environmental Protection, addresses the commission.

“We feel we have enough in our operating budget to have the machines ready for next season,” he said, adding that that also included any repairs and maintenance of the small harvester loaned to the Lake Musconetcong Regional Planning Board this past summer.
According to Felter, who is also mayor of Jefferson Township, he and the mayors of Hopatcong, Roxbury and Mount Arlington will be meeting with local state representatives to find a way to secure funds for the program.
Commissioner Ann Pravs, representing Mount Arlington, asked that each of the four towns surrounding Lake Hopatcong “take charge and start communicating” directly with Trenton. She asked that each town draft a proclamation urging the state to continue funding the weed harvesting program past the June 30 deadline.
“Can we expect a resolution for each of the towns?” she asked each of her fellow commissioners.
Pravs also asked Bello if the LMRPB provided usage and maintenance logs for the small harvester, something that was part of the MoU (memorandum of understanding) between the Lake Hopatcong Commission and the LMRPB.
“I guess that was part of the MoU,” said Bello. “I’ll ask for it and a maintenance report.”
“Keep in mind that we got extra funding because we lent the harvester to Lake Musconetcong,” said Felter, referring to the extra $40,000 the Commission used to repair two small harvesters and two transport barges.
Pravs asked if Bello could also provide a breakdown of how the $40,000 was used.
Chairman Felter announced that beginning with the next meeting the commission would be paying someone to take minutes, transcribe them and then post the minutes on the LHC website. He said this person, who will be paid through a grant, will also transcribe tapes from previous meetings as well, something that has not been done in more than two years.
As for his tenure as chairman (he officially resigned in September of 2013) Felter again reported that the Governor’s office has yet to appoint a replacement. Felter has said the December meeting would be his last. “I have no idea where they stand on a replacement. With everything going on now I don’t’ feel comfortable leaving,” he said, referring to the pending termination of the weed harvesting program. “I’ll be here next month—after that I don’t know. If I’m here in January I’ll be here for a while,” said Felter.
The commission, looking to form a dock committee to help review zoning regulations, produced a partial list of volunteers at Monday’s meeting, but is still looking for four or five more volunteers. Bello reported that the current dock survey, being conducted with the help of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation and its partnership with Drew University, is moving forward and “should be dynamite” when completed.
According to Bello, the annual 26-inch drawdown will begin November 26 or 27 and, if the weather pattern stays the same as its been, will take about two weeks to get to a level of 6.83 feet.
In the public comment portion of the meeting Hopatcong resident Barbara Loring voiced her concern over the lack of information provided to make an informed voting choice on ballot question No. 2. “Why wasn’t there more discussion before we voted on this?” she asked. “I think we need to keep reminding them in Trenton that that body of water needs to be kept clean,” she said to the commissioners.
John Kurzman, a Lake Hopatcong resident, voiced his concern about the pending Hopatcong State Park fountain renovation project. Kurzman is worried that once the fountain is renovated to working order more water would be drained from the lake. “The park service does not want the fountain operating,” replied Bello. “We would like to see it restored but not using water from the lake,” he said.
The next commission meeting is Monday, December 15, 2015 at the Mount Arlington municipal building. The meeting begins at 7pm.

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