JEFFERSON – Lake Hopatcong Commission Chairman Russell Felter announced at the August meeting that his letter of resignation, sent to Gov. Chris Christie’s office three months ago, was accepted.
A replacement has not been named and Felter said he would stay on until a successor is found. (For and in-depth look at Felter’s tenure as Commission chairman pick up a copy of the Labor Day issue of Lake Hopatcong News which will be in stores next Friday.)
The meeting began with the treasurer’s report and the board voting to pay an outstanding Verizon phone bill.
Commissioner Dan McCarthy, Hopatcong, asked Fred Lubnow, director of aquatic programs at Princeton Hydro, to present his findings on unidentified organisms found attached to the bottom of a boat from the Crescent Cove section of Lake Hopatcong. Lubnow said the organisms are “likely to be a small species of freshwater leech,” and not harmful to humans.
Following Lubnow’s report, Commissioner Art Clark, alternate from Hopatcong, suggested the commission look into a volunteer program to help with the weed harvesting. Knowing that volunteers, by law, are not allowed to operate the harvesters (deemed too dangerous), Clark found that the state does not prohibit volunteers from helping in other areas. Clark proposed that volunteers could be used to help repair and maintain the equipment, therefore freeing up paid employees to operate the machines.
Steve Ellis, acting regional superintendent, Division of Parks and Forestry State Park Service, thought adding volunteers to the mechanical end of the harvesting program was “a good idea,” adding that the idea had never been presented to him or the commission previously.
The meeting then moved to the Chairman’s report when Felter made his announcement, thanking the board and reminding everyone “the commission definitely has a role here on the lake.”
Lubnow reported on the progress of existing grants. He also said he would be conducting a water-monitoring program with the Lake Hopatcong Foundation.
Commissioner Fred Steinbaum, gubernatorial appointee and Commission Rich Zoschak, Roxbury, presented to the board a lake-wide cleanup program spearheaded by the Foundation with cooperation from local and county agencies.
Taking advantage of the five-year, 60-inch drawdown, the cleanup date is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 9.
Ellis updated the board on the harvesting program, reporting that 1,057 cubic yards of aquatic vegetation had been removed from the lake—75 cubic yards fewer than this time last year. Ellis noted that the vegetation is thick this year and the weed harvesting program started six weeks later than expected.
In other news:
Marine owners Cliff Beebe and Ray Fernandez and marine mechanic Jeffrey Carey all passionately pleaded to stop the proposed 60-inch drawdown scheduled for September.
Fernandez, citing numerous state statutes and guidelines, read from a five-page letter, specifically asking the board “to cease and desist in the proposed 2013 and future proposed five-year 60-inch water lowering of Lake Hopatcong.”
Similarly, reading from his own letter to the board, Carey accused the board, by way of its voting history, of continually working “to subvert” the goal of the commission to “be the protection of the air, waters, land, and natural and historic resources of the state to ensure continued public benefit.”
Felter took offense to Carey’s accusation and defended the board vigorously.
“We work really hard to do what we think is in the best interest of the lake,” he said. “It’s insulting,” he said of Carey’s comments.
The next Commission meeting is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 16 in Jefferson.
Fred Steinbaum, left, presents a report to the commission about the proposed lake-wide cleanup.