MOUNT ARLINGTON – Kerry Kirk Pflugh, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection representative to the Lake Hopatcong Commission announced at Monday night’s Commission meeting that because of the unusually dry fall the refill of Lake Hopatcong would begin December 1 instead of December 15.

The decision to bring the lake up to the normal drawdown level of 26 inches below normal was made after consulting with the state climatologist, said Kirk Pflugh, and with local landowners around the lake.

“We visited with permit holders to see how they were progressing with their work. Everyone seems to be on schedule,” she said. Bringing the lake up earlier she continued, would not impact the work being done.

“Everything has gone as planned,” said Kirk Pflugh of the 2013 drawdown. “But the immediate and long-term is not looking great,” said Kirk Pflugh referring to the lack of rain in the region.

“We’re on top of it and we share all your concerns,” she said after a short discussion among commissioners on the panel.

Currently the gage height at Hopatcong State Park is at 3.86 feet and the discharge is holding steady at 12 CFS, according to the USGS at Lake Hopatcong website. The website also reported the rain gage at Hopatcong State Park has registered a little more than 2.5 inches of rain over the last 60 days.

Jessica Murphy, president of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, was the first to address the commissioners during the public portion on the meeting, reporting on the recent lake-wide cleanup spearheaded by the Foundation.

IMG_3714Murphy began by publicly thanking Foundation employee Donna Macalle-Holly for recruiting and coordinating more than 400 volunteers who collected more than 23,000 pounds of debris.

“There is no doubt that Lake Hopatcong is a healthier ecosystem today because of the efforts of all these volunteers,” she said. “In addition to the improvement to the lake environment, it was also nice to know that so many groups were working together, having fun, and supporting one another in this effort. It truly was a wonderful day for those of us who love Lake Hopatcong,” she said.

The commissioners unanimously praised and thanked the Foundation for its efforts and for the success of the cleanup.

Steve Ellis, DEP regional superintendent, reported that the off-season weed harvest program, specifically the maintenance of the harvesters and the barges, is progressing well, thanks in part to the fact that there are now two full-time employees devoted to the weed harvest program, and is confident that the proposed volunteer program will insure the harvesters get into the lake earlier than in previous years.

Ellis turned to Art Clark, alternate commissioner representing Hopatcong, who spearheaded the volunteer program, to explain the program.

Clark presented to the commission board two volunteer job descriptions, a harvester maintenance assistant and a harvester mechanic, and asked the jobs be released to the public immediately. Emily Rich, superintendent at Hopatcong State Park, will interview interested candidates. Ellis believes the two positions available will be filled shortly.

A short discussion between commissioners about expanding the volunteer program to include weed harvest operators in the summer ensued, including approaching the state to change legislation.

“Let’s follow this course, get some success under out belts before we ask for more,” said Kirk Pflugh.

In Other News

Russ Felter is still sitting in the chairman’s seat despite resigning as head of the commission three months ago.

“I’m still here,” he said with a smile, reporting that Gov. Chris Christie has yet to name his replacement.

Commissioner Dan McCarthy announced that he and the Lake Hopatcong Foundation are working together and would be offering an ice safety program to be presented in local schools.

The next Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting is scheduled for Monday, December 16 at the Mount Arlington municipal building. The meeting begins at 7pm.

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