Monday, June 15, 2015, 7 p.m.
Hopatcong Senior Center, Hopatcong
- Steve Ellis of the N.J. State Park Service reported that the weed harvest operation began the first week in June with the movement of the harvesters to Hopatcong State Park, followed by the harvesters getting onto the water on June 8. Dan Bello of the State Park Service reported that two harvesters have been focusing on the River Styx/Crescent Cove area and one additional harvester has been focused on the area from Bertrand Island down to the southern end of the lake. The operation will run for approximately 10 weeks through a state budget line item of $155,000. DEP representative Kerry Kirk Pflugh reported that a meeting among officials (state and local) went well on June 1, to discuss the funding of the harvest operation and its long-term sustainability. The most likely scenario, she said, involves the towns and counties providing shared services to support the effort (in terms of labor and weed disposal), but that the mayors will collaborate regarding including the weed harvest in their annual budgets. “We [at the DEP] are committed to the program,” Pflugh said, “but we do need the assistance of the lake community.” Commissioner Dan McCarthy cautioned against even the mention of user fees as a fundraising mechanism. Pflugh said that an account has been set up for donations to go directly to the weed harvest operation, and she would provide more details on that in the future.
- The water level was extensively discussed by the commissioners and by members of the public, as the lake remained about 10 inches below the height of the dam at the time of the start of the meeting. Nine members of the public from lakeside municipalities spoke about their concerns related to the low water levels to start the season. “We cannot waste one drop of water in this lake,” said Hopatcong resident Barbara Loring, who added that she was okay with the idea of letting some water downstream, but “we certainly don’t want to let it out indiscriminately.” Marina owners Ron Sorensen and Ray Fernandez both spoke about ending the annual drawdowns. “The lake level thing is a solvable problem,” Sorensen said. “The one thing that solves the problem: don’t let the water down anymore.” Fernandez added, “The low water is not because of lack of precipitation, it’s the drawdown.” Sorensen also mentioned that the water level historically goes down as the summer goes on, so being 10 inches down could be a high point for the 2015 season. Pflugh said that the Citizens Advisory Committee, which had input in crafting the current Water Level Management Plan in 2011, would be reconvened to review the plan, likely in September. With regard to the current plan, which calls for 12 cubic feet per second to be released from the dam, she said there are legal passing flow requirements to follow. “The lake is not a pool, it’s part of a watershed system,” she said. “If conditions allow to cut the flow, then that could be considered, but we’re not in a position to do that right now.” She added that “adjusting outflow does not fill the lake, rain fills the lake.” Commissioner Fred Steinbaum presented a list of suggestions to the current plan that he thought might mitigate some of the risks with regard to spring refill, including reducing the annual drawdown to 16 inches (instead of 26 inches); modifying the 5-year 60-inch drawdown to start earlier, drop faster, and start refill earlier; and allowing the DEP to be more flexible with outflow, including reducing the outflow to 6 cubic feet per second when the water level is more than a foot below the dam, and setting it to 8.2 cubic feet per second when it’s within a foot of the dam height. Jefferson resident John Kurzman also suggested a review of the plan, saying the refill should have been able to start earlier to capture more of the ice and snow melt. “The plan needs work,” he said.
- Dr. Fred Lubnow of Princeton Hydro gave an update on some of the 319(h) grant projects planned for around the lake, including a replenishment of the floating wetland island project in Ashley Cove, installing four or five Filterra stormwater projects, and continuing and expanding the water quality monitoring.
- Several outbreaks of the water chestnut invasive species have already been discovered on the lake, and reports were presented by both Hopatcong resident Justin McCarthy and LHF president Jessica Murphy about the locations of those sightings, which are being monitored and removed by the Water Scouts.
- Commissioner Anne Pravs shared her experience with the LHF class trip program, which she said were “so successful,” giving local fourth graders an opportunity to learn about the lake environment and lake history during full-day trips at Hopatcong State Park.
- Commissioner Richard Zoschak reported that the Landing Gateway Project would begin meeting next Tuesday to address a revitalization of the lake’s entry point at the southernmost tip of Lake Hopatcong in Landing.
The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 20, 2015 at 7 p.m. at the Hopatcong Senior Center, 32 Lakeside Boulevard, Hopatcong, NJ.