ROXBURY – A crowd of about 30 people showed up for the Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting Monday night held at the Roxbury Township Municipal building.
Representing the Lake Musconetcong Regional Planning Board and the dozen or so of its members in attendance, Earl Riley, chairman, addressed the commission, asking to borrow one of the small weed harvesters from the LHC for use in Lake Musconetcong’s more shallow areas.
In his plea to the LHC board members, Riley, told of their efforts fighting the invasion of the dreaded water chestnut with the use of herbicides and their own weed-harvesting program. According to Riley, the harvesters used on Lake Musconetcong are too large to get into some parts of the lake and a smaller harvester is needed. The LMRPB has six trained operators for weed harvesting on the lake. It is an all-volunteer operation. And that, according to Kerry Kirk-Pflugh, NJ Department of Environmental Protection representative and commission chairman Russ Felter, is the problem. As the rules state now, volunteers are not allowed to operate state-owned equipment. Kirk-Pflugh and Felter have promised to look further at the issue.
If the commission were to lend out one of its harvesters, Riley assured them that “we will turn it back to you in the condition we got or better.”
“No offense but if we give it to you we don’t want it back,” said Felter, thinking that the harvester, exposed to the water chestnut in Lake Musconetcong would then infest Lake Hopatcong waters.
Both the commission and the members of the LMRPB were in agreement that keeping ahead of the water chestnut growth was most important for the health of each lake and that both should try to work together in the future to solve the problem. LMRPB is asking the LHC to move quickly on this matter as they typically begin their weed harvesting program in June, said Riley.
Jeffery Carey, a mechanic who works for Bridge Marina in Jefferson, addressed the commission about the 60-inch drawdown which is scheduled to take place beginning in late September.
Carey, along with a half dozen other employees from Bridge Marina who stood in unison while Carey spoke, wanted the commission to see the faces of workers who, according to Carey, would be effected negatively if the state proceeds with the 60-inch drawdown. He urged the commission to use their influence with the state to stop the drawdown and rethink the plan in place.
“This is a well thought out and researched water level management plan. It accounts for flooding and drought, and multiple users, and the surrounding watershed. I think the lake level is being managed quite properly,” said Kirk-Pflugh, acknowledging the concerns voiced by Carey.
Staying on the topic of the drawdown, Bridge Marina owner Ray Fernandez echoed the concerns of his employee.
Citing recent data, Fernandez urged the commission to stop the drawdown.
“If we go ahead with the September draw down we put this lake in a very dangerous spot. The lake has not been recovering (from the yearly 26-inch drawdowns) over the past years. The prudent thing to do is to cancel the drawdown,” said a passionate Fernandez.
Continuing on the topic of the drawdown, John Kurzman also questions the sensibility of the current plan, siting data that shows the recent, slow, sometimes non-existent recovery from the yearly draw downs.
Kurzman also inquired about the recent survey sent to all lake front property owners.
Kirk-Pfllugh reported that the electronic survey was closed just this past Monday but that the hand-written surveys were yet to be added in and that a final report would be made at the next LHC meeting in May.
In other news:
Jess Murphy, president of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, ran down a list of announcements from the Foundation. On May 17 at the Senior Center in Hopatcong, the Foundation is hosting a membership meeting. The Foundation will now be heading up the water scouts program, taking it over from the Knee Deep Club, training volunteers to spot and remove invasive species like the water chestnut and to help monitor water quality. The Foundation now has a web cam which looks out onto the main part of the lake. They will also be hosting a mini golf fundraiser at the Lake Hopatcong Golf Club in June.
Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatics program at Princeton Hydro, announced the partnering with the LHF, beginning in May, of the water quality monitoring program, providing a new plant manual to be used by volunteers to help identify the invasive species in the lake.
Lubnow also updated the commission on the progress of the 319-grant, reporting that the King’s Cove project is about 90% complete and that with the money left over “can go beyond the original scope of work” to be used on other projects.
Emily Rich, Superintendent at Hopatcong State Park reported concerns about the summer weed harvesting program.
“I’m very concerned that the harvesters will not be in the water by July,” she said. According to Rich, there is only one full time employee working because all part time employees have used up their allotted 900 hours. It was reported at the last LHC meeting that personnel would not be an issue because the state had promised to hire a second full time employee. According to Rich, the state has not made any progress on this. She also reported the lake level to be at 8.18 feet on Monday.
Fred Steinbaum asked the commission to once again place dumpsters strategically around the lake so that debris plucked from the water could be easily and legally discarded. Steinbaum relayed sightings of multiple logs floating around the lake, both near shore and in the open water. He is worried that people cleaning up the tree damage from Superstorm Sandy is the culprit that instead of properly disposing the cut logs, they are being thrown into the lake.
The final topic addressed at the meeting was the impending Offshore Powerboat Races reportedly scheduled to take place in May in the waters near Lake Forest.
“I have no idea if these races are on,” said Felter, the mayor of Jefferson Township. He believes the state police have signed off on them but he’s not sure. And he is waiting for his own police chief to review paperwork before giving a go ahead on the races. Many of the commissioners voiced concerns about the size of the boats, the speed of the boats and the noise level and looked to Emily for help.
“We do not have the authority to regulate that type of event on the lake,” she said.
The next commission meeting will be held Monday, May 20, at the Roxbury Municipal Building. The meeting begins promptly at 7pm.