LANDING – A variety of topics, including the 2014 meeting schedule, ice safety, the lake’s water level, dock and pier regulations, and weed harvester repairs were discussed at the monthly Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting Monday night.

Sitting in for the absent Russ Felter, chairman, Commissioner Dan McCarthy, representing Hopatcong brought the meeting to order. The commissions first order of business, the 2014-meeting schedule, was voted on and approved, with each of the four local municipalities once again offering to host at different times of the year. The full schedule is listed below.

A discussion about ice safety, a major concern for both the board and members of the public who attended the meeting, began when Commissioner Ann Seibert-Pravs, representing Mount Arlington, commented on the Lake Hopatcong Foundation’s new ice safety program. The Foundation’s Education team is currently presenting the program in local schools. Seibert-Prav, also a LHF education volunteer, praised the program’s effectiveness, witnessing first hand Mount Arlington sixth-grade students’ attentiveness during a recent assembly.

According to Seibert-Prav, the presentation is both visual and hands-on, involving some students in role-playing and utilizing props like hockey sticks, footballs and items kids might bring onto the ice with them.

Informational flyers are given to each student and schools are encouraged to hang information posters, all provided by the Foundation, said Jessica Murphy, president.

The Foundation’s Education team makes its next presentation in the Hopatcong school district.

IMG_9439Staying on the topic of ice, Winfred Ginter, a resident of Hopatcong, asked the board about the rising water and the effect the ice is going to have on the docks around the lake.

“If we get a hard freeze we will have to dump water,” said Commissioner Kerry Kirk Pflugh, representing the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. “Let’s just pray that we continue to have these soft freezes,” she said, stating that the lake is being constantly monitored.

During the public comment segment of the meeting, a comment from John Kurzman, a resident of Jefferson, sparked a discussion about an existing state regulation limiting new docks on Lake Hopatcong to be no longer than 50 feet. According to the regulation, existing docks, if they are over 50 feet long, can be repaired and maintained but not rebuilt. According to Kurzman, a member of the Lake Hopatcong Regional Planning Board, the predecessor to the Lake Hopatcong Commission, each of the four municipalities passed ordinances pertaining to “length and boundaries.”

“It was meant to keep neighbors from going to battle but not to be a state regulation,” said Kurzman, who questioned the very existence of the state regulation.

The issue of dock length keeps coming up, said Steve Ellis, Superintendent with the NJDEP Division of Parks and Forestry, because of the five-year drawdown.

“There are many more permits being requested,” said Ellis. “Each time a permit comes in, the DEP goes out with the contractor to review the area,” he said.

Addressing the current five-foot drawdown, Kirk Pflugh mentioned that the DEP is following the water level management plan and despite the recent rain, the area is “still in a deficit situation, at 95 per cent normal.” According to data provided by Jeffrey Hoffman from the NJ Geological Survey, the watershed, or ground water is at a deficit.

“The good news is runoff is making the lake water go up. The bad news is the water is not making its way to the watershed,” said Kirk Pflugh.

“If you ever wanted perfect weather for a five-year drawdown, this is it,” said Ellis, referring to the rain and freezing weather.

In Other News

Ellis reported that the annual maintenance and repair of the weed harvesters is in full swing and on target to get the four large harvesters ready by Memorial Day. Ellis credits fulltime employees, Mike Calderi and Curt Mulch and the new volunteers with keeping the work on schedule.

With the extra help this winter, an estimate of repair for two small weed harvesters and two transport barges, all not having seen action on the water in years, has been submitted for funding. Ellis said he would know if the funds are available within a week and will report to the commission board at the next scheduled meeting, mentioning that if the these four machines are repaired and operable, additional staff would be needed to run them in the summer.

The next commission meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 10, at Hopatcong State Park.

The 2014 meeting schedule is as follows:

March 17 - Roxbury municipal building

April 21 – Roxbury municipal building

May 19 – Roxbury municipal building

June 16 – Hopatcong Senior Center

July 21 – Hopatcong Senior Center

August 18 – Jefferson municipal building

September 15 – Jefferson municipal building

October 20 – Mount Arlington municipal building

November 17 – Mount Arlington municipal building

December 15 – Mount Arlington municipal building

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