After several weeks of rainy weather, Lake Hopatcong reached the gauge height of its dam on Monday morning, hitting the 9-foot mark.
The water-level issue has been the source of significant debate in recent months, as a combination of factors resulted in the lake measuring in several feet below normal at the start of the 2009 active season. In addition to acrimonious Lake Hopatcong Commission meetings, during which residents blasted the commission and the state regarding the management of the dam, several lake businesses sued the state Department of Environmental Protection, alleging mismanagement of the dam.
But June has been a particularly wet month; according to Accuweather, the lake has received six inches of rainfall so far this month, already 2.14 inches above normal, bringing the lake up to the height of the dam, and a forecast of more rain this week has some thinking the Lake Hopatcong community might face the opposite extreme—high water level, resulting in wake restrictions—in the near future (such restrictions are put in place when the water level reaches 9.5 feet).
That does not mean, however, that the anger over water management will subside. "I want everyone to realize that…the lake has to be full the second week in April," Steve Gebeloff of Hopatcong told the commissioners at the June 15 meeting. "June is not acceptable."
Lake leaders have also pointed out that the low water level is likely to contribute to an increased weed problem this summer, when budget cuts initially meant there would be no weed harvesting. In a reaction to that concern, the lake’s municipalities, counties, and the state came together to organize a downsized weed-harvesting operation, which is expected to begin around the July 4 holiday.
Despite those concerns, the U.S. Geological Survey reading on Monday morning is likely to provide a sigh of relief to business owners and lake residents.
PHOTOS: The Lake Hopatcong dam on May 18 (left) and on June 20 (right).