It’s been four months since a dozen Lake Hopatcong businesses sued the state to stop it from releasing any more water through the dam in an effort to save all rainfall during a time when the lake water level was several feet below its normal. Morristown Superior Court Judge Theodore Bozonelis refused to shutter the dam at that time, sending the case to appellate court, where it has lingered for weeks—through the June rainfall that brought the lake back to normal levels and through the summer months, during which lake businesses have tried to recoup their early-season losses. In June, Bernd Hefele, the attorney representing the business owners—which includes Batten the Hatches at Lake Hopatcong Marine, Bridge Marina, Flash Marina, Katz Marina, Kabob’s at the Northwood Inn, Lakeview Acupuncture, Marine Max, Pavinci Italian Grill, San Bar Marina, Sew What Boat Covers, the Wearhouse Restaurant, and the Windlass—wrote a letter to Lewin Weyl, a deputy attorney general representing the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, suggesting the lawsuit would be best resolved if the state promised to include a lake business owner on its committee to review the lake water management plan. “I believe it at this point to be in everyone’s best interest to resolve the open lawsuit and move on with the work of a concerted joint effort in rewriting the water management plan,” Hefele wrote on June 30. “To this end all stakeholders should be included in the plan and, provided they are and some new water gauges are installed by the NJDEP, I believe we would be in a position to resolve the lawsuit accordingly.” Specifically, the plaintiffs said they would like the committee to be made up of one Lake Hopatcong Commission representative; one representative each from Jefferson, Hopatcong, Roxbury, and Mt. Arlington; one Lake Hopatcong business owner, one Lake Hopatcong Alliance member, one Musconetcong River representative, one Lake Musconetcong representative, one DEP Musconetcong Watershed representative, one DEP Fish and Wildlife representative, and one State Park representative. The plaintiffs also requested that the DEP fund a U.S. Geological Survey gauge just beyond the Lake Musconetcong outfall to track water flow and a gauge on the 1.4 mile stretch at the closest point near Lake Musconetcong where flow is not influenced by back flow from Lake Musconetcong, as well as permanently fund the gauge that already exists on the Lake Hopatcong dam. At the July Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting, Larry Baier—the DEP representative on the commission—said any effort to move forward with creating the lake water management committee was in limbo while the state awaits the lawsuit resolution. That irked Ron Sorensen of San Bar Marina, one of the plaintiffs in the suit. “The state still hasn’t gotten its act together and gotten back to us,” he said last week. “I’m under the impression we’re waiting for them, they’re not waiting for us.  We’ve put a resolution out there and we’ve heard nothing. The water is up, and everyone forgets about the issue. Our group is trying to move along to get this resolved and move forward, but as of now, there’s been no response from the state.” Sorensen brought the issue up at Monday’s Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting. “Your idea of where this suit is and mine are two different things,” he said. “We’d like to get this moving.” Baier said Monday he would make sure Sorensen and the other plaintiffs would get a response soon, and indicated the state was on the same wavelength with regard to the makeup of the committee. “The intent is to get a cross-section of interests represented on the committee,” Baier said.  

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