Money is tight in Trenton, but the state senators who represent the Lake Hopatcong area—Sens. Anthony Bucco and Steve Oroho—have been working to unfreeze funds that could be directed to projects on the lake. Specifically, the senators are aiming to unfreeze funds that the Lake Hopatcong Alliance and Lake Hopatcong Commission have been seeking from the I Boat NJ fund, a state program that funds the promotion, improvement, and enhancement of the state’s marine industry through grants paid for by an increase in boat registration fees.  Both the alliance and commission applied for grants at the end of 2009 in hopes of receiving funding to support a variety of activities around the lake; in the case of the alliance, the application sought funds for weed studies and a Lake Hopatcong festival, among other things, and in the case of the commission, the application sought funds for weed harvesting and removal.  
 In its seven years of existence, I Boat NJ has never paid out grants to a state lake—only to marine areas. And so both groups had been reasonably confident that Lake Hopatcong had a good chance to receive money. But the state’s fiscal crisis put all such funding on hold. Bucco and Oroho announced last week, however, that the alliance would be eligible to receive nearly $121,000 for two aspects of its five-part application: an aquatic plant mapping survey that would seek to map and monitor vegetation and determine the best methods to manage weeds; and an alternative weed control methods pilot project to gain a better understanding of various methods to control nuisance and invasive plant growth. The commission would be eligible for nearly $115,000 for materials and supplies related to weed harvesting. The news is promising in some ways, but problematic in others.  Lake Hopatcong Commission chairman and Mt. Arlington mayor Art Ondish said that the grant money for the commission, if received, wouldn’t significantly improve the dire situation that the commission faces, because the funds aren’t allocated to staffing and personnel. “It will be great to get some more money to put in our account, but it will really do no good as far as helping the lake with the harvesting operations,” he said. “Without staff, there really isn’t much that can be done. I am very appreciative of the opportunity to receive some money. I just don’t want folks to think that this is any kind of temporary fix because it isn’t going to change things at this point in time.” On a more promising note, Ondish said he recently met with Gov. Chris Christie at the Conference of Mayors and the two plan to get together to discuss the future of the commission. “Once we know how they are thinking, then maybe we can get a plan together that will work for everyone,” Ondish said. In the meantime, the lake is at least moving one step closer to receiving some funding from the state in the form of these I Boat NJ grants.  Residents can continue to contact legislators to voice support for funding both the Lake Hopatcong Alliance and Lake Hopatcong Commission efforts, through the I Boat NJ grants and other means. To read the Daily Record story on the grants, click here; and to read an editorial, click here.

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