Monday, October 20, 2014, 7 p.m.
Mt. Arlington Borough Hall
A summary of key items discussed by the Lake Hopatcong Commission:
Effects of Ballot Question No. 2
The commission discussed the constitutional amendment, which will be on the ballot on Nov. 4 and would dedicate 4 percent of the income from the corporate business tax to preserve open space, increasing to 6 percent in 2019. (It has been widely praised by environmental groups throughout the state of New Jersey, and the full ballot question can be read here.) The repercussions for other environmental efforts, however, would be widespread. Kerry Kirk Pflugh, the N.J. DEP representative on the commission, said that the money now dedicated to open space will be reallocated away from existing programs within the DEP. “A number of critical programs will be impacted,” she said, reading off a list that included the Lake Hopatcong weed harvest program, as well as water monitoring of Barnegat Bay and New Jersey’s surface waters and groundwater, the Watershed Ambassador program, leaking oil tank remediation, the monitoring of stream flows to protect areas from flooding, the Fenimore Landfill DEP responsibilities, State Park projects, and a variety of other efforts.
“We support open space, and it’s an extraordinarily important fund to establish,” Kirk Pflugh said of the amendment. “But there will be some costly tradeoffs.”
The Lake Hopatcong weed harvest will be in operations through June 30 of next year. “But as of July 1, 2015, no funding would be available to support the weed harvest program on Lake Hopatcong,” Kirk Pflugh said.
Voters of the state of New Jersey have always passed open space funding (often overwhelmingly), the amendment is endorsed by the environmental community, and it won approval by the state legislature. The ballot measure is expected to pass, so LHC chairman Russ Felter said the commission should be prepared next month to look into what can be done to keep the weed harvest going in the future. “We need to lay out all the options again,” Felter said.
The commissioners in attendance expressed their dismay at the possibility that so many water quality programs could be so drastically affected. Commissioner Dan McCarthy asked, “What are they saving if they’re not saving all this?”
“I’m very upset about this,” Felter said, adding that he didn’t think the intent of the amendment was the problem, just the implementation. “Only in New Jersey can something made to be for the environment [also] screw the environment.”
Kirk Pflugh said they will work to parlay funds to make it to Labor Day, but “we can’t project too far into the future. We are funded to July 1 for sure.”
2014 Weed Harvest
Dan Bello of Hopatcong State Park reported that the weed harvest had removed 2,644 cubic yards of weeds from the lake during the 2014 season, about 350 more cubic yards than in 2013. The harvest ran from June 6 to September 26, about two weeks longer than last year, and with the use of the transport barge, which made the runs more efficient. He said they were pleased overall with how things went. He said all of the machinery has been removed from the lake, steam cleaned, and is at the storage facility in Franklin. They are now starting the inventory and will have a repair/maintenance list in mid-December, with the end-of-year report ready by early 2015. “Assuming we have the money to do things, we’re going to be ahead of the game [in 2015],” Bello said.
Steve Ellis, the State Park regional superintendent, explained the abrupt end to the 2014 season to the commission. He said the accounts were running low and they had to quickly terminate the employment of the seasonal workers to be sure they were financially sound, but once they went to Trenton and reconciled the books, they determined they were fine and the seasonal workers were able to come back on to help shut down the equipment for the season. Commissioner McCarthy asked if the lines of communication could be improved in the future so the commission would be aware of such a sudden end to the harvest.
Bello and Ellis reported that the harvester on loan to Lake Musconetcong worked fine at first, but then a presumed electrical issue came up and it stopped running. It is slated to be repaired during the winter. The staff thoroughly cleaned the equipment after it left Lake Musconetcong.
A dock study is under way with the help of Drew University (partnership established with the Lake Hopatcong Foundation), and a committee is in the process of being assembled of local stakeholders to determine if any changes or clarifications need to be made to the rules governing the construction and repair of docks around Lake Hopatcong. Each municipality needs to have its representative appointed by the November meeting.
The permit to lower Lake Hopatcong 26 inches for the winter has been obtained by the State Park. It is scheduled to start on November 12, but because the lake is low, it is currently on pace not to begin dropping until about November 22.
The next Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, November 17, at the Mt. Arlington Municipal Building, 419 Howard Boulevard, Mt. Arlington, NJ.