Roxbury Municipal Building, Ledgewood
A summary of key items discussed by the Lake Hopatcong Commission at its monthly meeting:
- The commission held a moment of silence to remember their late chairman Art Ondish, who passed away on March 8 of cancer at the age of 50. Later in the meeting, acting chairman Dan McCarthy told the story of when Ondish, at a March meeting while he was chairman several years back, reminded everyone to be careful on the lake because of how much debris can be floating after the ice breaks up. The next day, McCarthy said, he found a massive wood carving in the lake, which he pulled and his family named “Chief Arthur” in honor of Art’s comments the day before. He said he regretted that he never showed the carving (which he brought to Monday’s meeting) to Art, and reminded everyone, “It’s always later than you think.”
- Because there were only five commissioners in attendance, the commission couldn’t reach a quorum and therefore could not pass any resolutions. Commissioner Mark Fisch said that the situation was the perfect example of why the commission needs the state to make appointments for the three vacant seats on the commission. “We’re going to continue to have this problem,” he said, adding that the situation is frustrating both for the public and for the commissioners. Commissioner Mark Crowley said he thought the group should name an acting chairman to keep continuity, which will be discussed at the next meeting that has a quorum. McCarthy said that he just wanted to see the commission succeed. “It’s too important to fail,” he said.
- Dan Bello of the State Park Service reported that they hope to have three harvesters in the water in mid- to late-May, and then put a fourth harvester into the lake in early June. (For comparison sake, last year the harvesters went into the lake on June 8 and they had three harvesters in all season.) He said when the FY2017 budget is passed, he’ll know better what the timeline will be after July 1. He said they are currently advertising for weed harvest employees.
- Commissioner Kerry Kirk Pflugh of the DEP announced that the DEP and the Lake Hopatcong Foundation were working to schedule a dredging workshop with the municipalities that would be open to the public and help inform people about the process of seeking dredging permits and the timeline associated with it. The DEP and LHF are currently looking for dates in the late spring and will make the workshop known to the public when it is scheduled.
- Pflugh said that refill had begun on March 1, a little earlier than usual. At the time of the meeting, the lake was at 7.96 inches at the dam, about a foot below the dam height.
- Pflugh and Lake Hopatcong resident John Kurzman both discussed a meeting that Kurzman had with the DEP in January to discuss refill issues related to the Water Level Management Plan. Pflugh said that the DEP was grateful for his effort and that he provided good information, but that the they concluded that the plan is not going to change. She said that because March is such a critical month and the ice has lingered into spring in recent years, the state and commission might consider adjusting how many inches they drop the lake in the winter. But in the meantime, she said, the state is carefully documenting what happens each year. “I want to assure you that we are looking [at the water level] and always considering and evaluating,” she said.
- Because the commission no longer has insurance because its funds have nearly dried up, McCarthy said he confirmed with the borough of Hopatcong that his appointment is covered by the borough’s insurance, and suggested that the other commissioners do the same to ensure they are protected in their role on the commission.
- The commission intends to submit a budget to the state for the full cost of the weed harvest and operations, which years earlier had been estimated to cost approximately $430,000. Pflugh said that at this point, the state is likely to fund $155,000 as they did last year. Crowley said he thought the commission should still request the full amount based on a robust harvest season. “We might get rejected, but we should try,” he said. Commissioner Anne Pravs pointed out that the LHC bylaws call for them to submit a budget to the state every year.
- Fred Lubnow of Princeton Hydro LLC updated the commission on stormwater projects. He said the lake is not eligible for the next rounds of 319(h) grants or 604(b) grants, but with the existing 319(h) grants they will be installing four Filterra devices in Jefferson Township in the next couple of months, as well as beginning work on a bathymetric survey of the near-shore areas to help guide dredging discussions. He also discussed the fact that the 2015 Water Quality Report was complete, and said that although 2015 was one of the worst years he could remember seeing in his decades of studying Lake Hopatcong, the clarity was excellent. He said that in 2014, it was the opposite problem: the weeds weren’t as thick, but the algae growth was very high, even to the point of cyanotoxins being detected. Despite the difficulty of the high weed densities in 2015, he said, it is still preferable to the high algae growth of the year before.
- The meetings are once again being recorded thanks to a recording device donated by Kurzman and microphones donated by the Lake Hopatcong Foundation. The commission’s attorney said the recording of the meetings would suffice for the minutes.
- Memorandum of Understandings related to the weed harvesting equipment had to be tabled until a future meeting because of the lack of a quorum.
- During public comment, Ron Sorensen of Lake Hopatcong asked that the commission not consider user fees, as had been discussed at the December meeting, and advocated for more local control of the lake. He also said that the commission should either shut down the LHC website or update it. Kurzman elaborated on his concerns about the refill and the amount of water that is being released. “[Now is] the perfect time to reduce the outflow,” he said, pointing out that the lake level was dropping during what was supposed to be a refill time of year. Cliff Beebe asked the commissioners to treat the lake like an “aquatic highway” and should be kept full for navigation at all times.
The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 18 at 7 p.m. at the Roxbury Township municipal building, contingent that they can pay to advertise the meeting in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act.