Commission chairman and Jefferson mayor Russ Felter said logistics are in place to continue monthly meetings and to be "a clearinghouse for the lake." His secretary in Jefferson will be taking over many of the administrative tasks that had been handled by outgoing administrator Donna Macalle-Holly, who will leave her position at the end of the week as the commission runs out of funding for her salary. She was unable to attend Monday's meeting at the Mt. Arlington Municipal Building because of a work commitment at her second job.
"We wish her the best," Felter said of Macalle-Holly. "It's really not a good thing... she makes my job a lot easier as chairman."
"She did a great job," said commissioner Ed McCarthy. "It's really unfortunate, these circumstances."
Richard Keir chimed in with similar sentiment: "She will be missed," he said.
Looking ahead, Hopatcong resident Fred Steinbaum drew attention to the commission's three main tasks and noted that the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection would be handling the water level and the weed harvest, but wondered what would happen to the commission's efforts to improve and monitor water quality through grants from the DEP and EPA. "As these grants run down, I wonder about ongoing funding [for the lake]," he said.
Felter said the commission would make every effort through environmental consulting firm Princeton Hydro and the DEP to continue to seek out grants to improve water quality. "I don't think we have any choice," he said.
Princeton Hydro's Fred Lubnow brought the commission up to speed on what grants are remaining, including a King's Cove project that is running behind schedule, but should be completed in the coming weeks, and an effort to install floating wetland islands in Ashley Cove in Lake Hopatcong, which would take up nutrients out of the water. Monitoring, which has gone on since the 1980s, will continue at least through 2013.
Lubnow also spoke about a wastewater treatment management plan for Jefferson Township, which identified areas or lots that would be the target of future grants, and came up with three main directives: residents should pump out their septic systems every three years (which is already mandatory); residents should use phosphate-free dishwasher detergent; and any time residents can practice water conservation, it will improve the efficiency of their septic systems. Altogether, those moves would significantly reduce the contribution of nutrients to the lake.
As 2012 comes to a close, it's not clear exactly how the commission will operate in the new year, but Felter said he would do his best to make it work. "We're not going to have an administrative staff, we're going to be feeling our way through this," he said. "We have a mission and we have to keep doing it. It's going to be more difficult... we're probably going to look for more help from some of the members. That's not to say we won't get funding somewhere along the line. I don't think anybody knows, after [super storm Sandy], whether any funding is going to be available for anyone. We're hopeful, we have ongoing discussions with the DEP. They are doing the weed harvesting, and I don't think they've abandoned the lake by any means. I think we kind of got caught up in a political struggle that I don't know will get any better. But we're going to continue to do what we can."
In other news:
-Steinbaum asked that the towns look into having disposal options available for lakefront residents to drop off debris collected on the shoreline, particularly after the destruction left by super storm Sandy.
-Lake Hopatcong resident John Kurzman said the commission should examine public opinion about the drawdown by presenting basic figures to residents regarding the percentage likelihood that the lake would be at full levels by specific dates during the spring and summer, so as to determine how many inches a drawdown should be and whether the five-year 60-inch drawdown would, to residents, be worth the risk of losing some or all of the boating season.
The next meeting of the Lake Hopatcong Commission will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, January 14 at the Hopatcong State Park administrative building on Lakeside Boulevard in Landing.