The 2017 LHF Symposium was a chance to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss some of the lake’s biggest issues in the hopes of coming up with some creative solutions. Invitations were sent out to the nine members of the legislature covering the four lake municipalities, the freeholders from Morris and Sussex, the mayors and town council from the four municipalities, the prime and alternate members of the Lake Hopatcong Commission, the DEP, Musconetcong Watershed Association, the leaders of the major lake organizations and finally key members of our ongoing committees.
About 40 community leaders joined us at the Jefferson House on Thursday, August 3 for a lively discussion and exchange of ideas. The goal was to engage participants in small-group discussions and channel the extensive knowledge, experience and skill among the group in order to collect their thoughts, ideas, and concepts and gain a clearer picture of the many sides of issues facing the lake and where the Foundation may best be able to concentrate our efforts in order to affect positive change.
Below is a basic summary of the group responses to the questions posed at the 2017 LHF Symposium
2017 LHF Symposium – Recap
Discussion #1: What do you think it would take to have a breakthrough in the water level/lake outflow debate?
- Better communication of interests and needs of all stakeholder groups involved
- Scientific discussion of water levels
- Water level should be evaluated in conjunction with Lake Musconetcong; should also monitor inflows/outflows from Lake Shawnee
- Research whether groundwater is playing an issue in the water budget
- More flexibility in outflow based on weather
- When there is a drought, state should memorialize how the lake is protected
- Drawdown modification to reduce risk
- Faster action in real time – reducing the chain of command so that the decision to adjust the dam can be made locally and more quickly (HSP superintendent)
- Establish a committee to address these issues proactively
- DEP needs vehicle to hear from stakeholders
- Need local voice in the communication
Discussion #2: What do you consider the top cause(s) of the weed problem on the lake, and how can it/they best be addressed?
- Septic systems
- Lake users (using lake as restroom)
- Inadequate harvest funding/inefficient harvesting
- Decomposition of weeds
- Coordinated herbicide effort
- Tracking/mapping treatment areas
- Coordinate with harvesting schedule
- Expand sewers
- Deep drawdown helps reduce weeds
- Introduce carp
- Trials to replace septics (clivus composting toilets?)
- Water agitation
- Improved stormwater management
- Maintenance and inventory of stormwater basins
- Slow/expensive process – more efficient in areas of lily pads, not milfoil
- Toilets on boats
- Collect data on harvesting, manufactured treatment devices/sewers, and use this data to determine hydroraking locations
- Goose management
- Shoreline buffers
- Coordinated herbicide effort
- Other thoughts:
- Entire lake isn’t the same — there are hot spots, and we should look at coves separately
- Pay for treatment with user fees from lake visitors?
- Efforts should address both prevention and treatment
- DEP – 319 grant funding to update restoration plan
Discussion #3: When, if ever, do you feel most at risk on the water? What could be done to help you feel safer while on Lake Hopatcong?
- Lack of knowledge (uneducated boating) on the lake
- Maneuvering of boats
- Lake regulations
- Courtesy behavior
- Night boating speed
- Required boat lighting at night
- Inconsistency of enforcement from NJSP
- Inconsistency of messaging from NJSP
- Lack of wake control (especially from wake boats)
- Increased police patrols necessary
- More undercover patrols needed
- Supplement from Coast Guard Auxiliary, etc.
- Getting towns involved with policing
- Lighted buoys not maintained – need lights at night
- Encourage paddle boarders, kayakers, etc., to wear bright colors
- Increase boater education
- Concern about rental boaters (not same level of boater education as those who take the course to receive boating license certificate)
- Size of motorboats
- Some not on plane, and can’t see what’s right in front of them
- Boaters responsible for boat operating and passenger safety
- Some waterskiers without spotters
- Boat noise levels are too high
- Cyanotoxins are public health issue
- Ice safety concerns
- What is the funding source for our needs?
Final Large Group Discussion – Focus: 5-foot drawdown policy
- Need to let lake recover 30” before ice melt
- Refill should begin December 1
- How to address floating ice?
- Adjust schedule
- 60-inch should be continued, but quicker drop (2” per day instead of 1.5” per day), starting earlier and allowing the refill to begin earlier (would allow for dock repair efforts in better weather as well).
- Need to get word out early to get permits
- Need to get general permit lake-wide for dock repair and dredging, as long as everyone follows a certain set of parameters
- Take advantage of drawdown to do other things, such as lake cleanup to pull debris
- Must mitigate risk of non-recovery
- Cleanup and dredging can be done without drawdown
- Economy suffers without lake level recovery
- Drawdown reduces weed growth
- Less cost for lakefront property owners to repair with drawdown
- Lakefront owners have understanding of and expectation for 5’ drawdown when they purchase their property and allocate resources accordingly
- What process do we use to get these varying opinions to be a united voice? Compromise!
The LHF has created a list of more than 20 action items the organization can move forward on (such as researching water agitation options for stagnant areas of the lake, or creating an easy-to-distribute card that summarizes lake rules and regulations) and 15 points of advocacy to promote in Trenton and among local officials. We will keep you updated with outcomes and action items stemming from the 2017 Symposium throughout the year.