LANDING _ The lakefront property owner survey dominated the discussion among commissioners at the February meeting of the Lake Hopatcong Commission, Tuesday night at the Hopatcong State Park facility.
A survey postcard, asking lakefront property owner’s questions pertaining to dock repairs during the winter lake drawdowns, was recently mailed to 1800 lakefront addresses obtained from each of the four lake towns using tax records. Most participants will be using the online version but for those who do not use a computer, a hard copy of the survey is available at the State Park.
Kerry Kirk Pflugh, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection representative on the commission is “very pleased with the results so far.” According to the latest calculations, reported at Tuesday’s commission meeting, 288 lakefront property owners have completed the online version, 323 lakefront property owners have started the online survey and 10 surveys were completed at the State Park. Seventy-five postcards were returned the State Park as ‘unknown address.’ Those postcards were handed back to the commissioners representing each town, who will determine, with the help of their respective tax offices, the correct address and ownership.
The closing date for the survey is scheduled for February 28 but Pflugh is certain that it will be extended into March. The hope, said Pflugh, is to finish the survey with a return as close to 50% as possible.
The goal of the survey, which was put together with the help of a small focus group, is to obtain information from lakefront property owners about dock and property damage, and ease of repairs, all related to lake water levels. The state mandated 60-inch drawdown is scheduled to begin in September. With that in mind, Chairman Russ Felter expressed concern over extending the survey too much longer than the February 28 end date.
“People will be spending money on permits, getting ready for the drawdown. They will need to know sooner rather than later if the drawdown is going to happen,” he said.
“We have an approved water level management plan in place which states that there will be a 60-inch drawdown in September,” countered Pflugh. “If we deviate from that plan we better have a darn good reason to do so. There better be something significant to change that plan. The drawdown is on and people should plan accordingly,” she added, saying only if a “significant realization” through the findings of the survey could the scheduled September 60-inch drawdown be stopped.
“In the past the plan has been deviated from, with disastrous results,” said Commissioner Dan McCarthy from Hopatcong. “Let’s just follow the plan for once. It took a lot of smart people from a lot of different organizations to put it together,” he said.
Pflugh reiterated that the survey is “not an opinion poll.” It’s a way to help gather useful information about the effects of water levels, weeds, ice damage, and wind damage, and the ease or hardships of dock and shoreline property repairs.
“We don’t want to undermine the level of detail that went into the current plan—the survey is just a piece of the overall picture and the information will be an important piece of data to be shared,” said Pflugh.
In Other News…
Chairman Felter announced that Jefferson Township (where he is mayor) will be taking overseeing the LHC website and will be updating it regularly, beginning, he hopes, next week.
Fred Steinbaum from Hopatcong asked if each lake town would provide dumpsters for the annual spring cleanup, because his group “is ready to go” as soon as the ice melts. Chairman Felter was certain that there would be enough dumpsters around the lake.
Winfred Ginter, who owns a lakefront house in Hopatcong, asked the commissioners if an ice safety program had been established. According to McCarthy, Hopatcong schools are interested but are still trying to catch up after the Superstorm Sandy closures.
Commissioner Anne Seibert-Pravs, representing Mount Arlington, announced that schools in her town did have a lesson in ice safety but that a better program was needed. The LHC is looking to partner with schools and authorities to come up with a program. Fire
departments from Roxbury, Jefferson and Mount Arlington have all trained in ice rescue.
Jess Murphy, president of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, announced that the Foundation is ready to fund the on-going May to September water quality monitoring program for 2013, allowing the existing state grant to be carried over to 2014 because of technicalissues regarding that grant money.
The commission passed a resolution terminating all participation in the State Health Benefits Program as they no longer have anyone full-time employees.
The commission also made public its schedule for 2013. Their next meeting is Monday, March 18 at the Roxbury Municipal Building, 1715 Route 46, Ledgewood.