Monday, May 16, 2016, 7 p.m.
A summary of key items discussed by the Lake Hopatcong Commission at its monthly meeting:
- Commissioner Fred Steinbaum pointed out that with the lake level close to the top of the dam, it’s higher than it’s been since 2014, and said he thought that might have something to do with the large amount of debris in the lake. An avid waterskier, he said his experiences almost hitting floating objects have stopped him from skiing on the main lake; specifically, he almost hit an 18-foot board that was floating in the water. He said there are two problems to address: the disrepair of docks and structures around the lake, as well as the inability for people to easily dispose of lake debris that washes up. He suggested the LHC come up with a plan for collecting and disposing of such items, and said the towns should be more aggressive at policing the deterioration of docks. “This is a real danger,” he said, later adding, “I think some people are using the lake as a garbage dump.”
- Commissioner Kerry Kirk Pflugh of the DEP shared details of the dredging workshop that the DEP and Lake Hopatcong Foundation are jointly hosting on Thursday, June 2 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club. She said the discussion is, in part, to give people time to plan ahead of the five-year drawdown, but added that if weather patterns appear dry, there is the possibility that the DEP could cancel the 5-foot drawdown scheduled for 2018. (To attend the workshop, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
- Pflugh also gave an update on the adjustments made to the outflow at the dam during the spring. When the lake was at a 7-inch rainfall deficit, the DEP cut the outflow rate from 12 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 8 cfs for 17 days. Lisa Barno from the DEP explained the process that went into deciding to adjust the outflow, and said that although they could have increased it for a short time, they held to 8 cfs until enough rain fell that they were solidly within the 90-day 7-inch deficit again. Pflugh said, “We need to caution you all that this adjustment was made because of rainfall and only because temperatures downstream [allowed it].” Going forward, she said, the temperatures downstream might prevent a reduction, even if the rainfall numbers meet the threshold for another reduction.
- Also on the subject of water level, Beth Styler Barry of the Musconetcong Watershed Association gave a presentation about the low water situation in the Musconetcong River. She said the MWA had a vastly improved relationship with the Lake Hopatcong community in recent years, but that she wanted to give the “downstream perspective” to the commission. “The lake is very much a concern to us, both in quantity and quality,” she said. She told the commission that many of the tributaries to the Musconetcong River are dry, and that in 2015 the MWA had to cancel every single paddling trip because of the low water levels. Over the last 45 days, she said, the river has not touched the average flow a single time. And she pointed out that during the 17 days that the outflow was reduced from Lake Hopatcong, the lake gained 5 inches of water, but that only 0.7 inches of that was due to the reduction in outflow. “I know it was allowed by the plan,” she said, “but what I would ask is that when the river is critically low to not reduce the outflow for such an insignificant gain.” She also cited the sewage authority downstream and said that they should be kept informed when outflow reductions take place. Commissioner Anne Pravs asked whether the plan was protecting wildlife or the sewage authority, and Pflugh said that the DEP was protecting public health and the environment and following state and federal law with its decisions.
- Dan Bello of the State Park Service said that the weed harvesting equipment would be moved to the lake in the next week with a goal of beginning harvest on May 24, which is about two weeks ahead of last year’s schedule. At the beginning, they will have three machines going full-time along with the transport barge, and in June they hope to have a fourth harvester running part-time as well. They plan to start at River Styx, Crescent Cove, and Landing, as well as Brady Bridge and Halsey and Raccoon Islands. He also reported that they are working with the people who issue chemical weed treatment permits and will try to coordinate with them to, when possible, remove weeds before chemicals are administered.
- The commission discussed the MOUs with the DEP regarding the weed harvesting equipment, and Chairman Dan McCarthy said he had made some changes to the language to give the LHC more ability to take back the equipment if they are once again funded for management of the program. The commission will vote on the items at next month’s meeting.
- Steinbaum reported that the budget committee had met and will work to create a budget that reflects the cost of doing the 11 mandated responsibilities in the law that created the Lake Hopatcong Commission. They will aim to have a budget to submit to the state, as well as resolutions of approval from the towns and counties around the lake, by the fall. “We hope to write it in stages and increase all the way to full,” he said.
- Commissioner Pravs said she was working on updating the website, as well as creating an email address for the LHC and a mailing address.
- Commissioner Mark Fisch was named treasurer of the LHC, replacing former commissioner Elizabeth Gantert in that role.
- The commission discussed the vacant seats, and Pflugh recommended that the commissioners submit names to the governor to help with the replacement of the open seats, including two gubernatorial appointments as well as a Department of Community Affairs representative.
- Steinbaum introduced Colleen Conover, who has volunteered to help the LHC with its meeting minutes.
- Lake Hopatcong Foundation president Jessica Murphy asked the commission if it would be possible for Dr. Fred Lubnow of Princeton Hydro LLC to give a short presentation on invasive species before the next meeting. The commission approved, so the next meeting — scheduled for Monday, June 20 at 7 p.m. — will be preceded by an invasive species and aquatic weed discussion at 6 p.m.
The next meeting of the Lake Hopatcong Commission is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, June 20 at the Hopatcong Senior Center, 32 Lakeside Boulevard, Hopatcong, NJ.