Jessica Murphy, president of The Lake Hopatcong Foundation, addresses the Lake Hopatcong Commission board.

Advisory dock committee formed for Lake Hopatcong

MOUNT ARLINGTON – The majority of the positions needed for an advisory dock committee has been formed, the Lake Hopatcong Commission announced at Monday’s meeting. The committee will study and suggest potential code modifications to regulations that currently exist for docks around Lake Hopatcong.

Dan Bello, environmental specialist with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, will co-chair the committee with Commissioner Fred Steinbaum, gubernatorial appointee who lives in Hopatcong.

According to Bello, the committee will meet at least once a month beginning in January. All meetings will take place at the administration building at Hopatcong State Park in Landing.

Ten of the thirteen committee positions have either been filled or have potential candidates ready to volunteer said Bello. Three positions remain open but will be filled within the next two months.

Bello reported that a recent dock survey completed by the Lake Hopatcong Foundation (in partnership with Drew University) would be the starting point for the committee. The survey was completed using existing maps and aerial photographs, recoding the number of docks around the lake (2,183) and the approximate length of each dock.

“This is going to give us a baseline of what we have,” said Bello of the survey, adding that in the near future some field work will be done to compare the results of the survey to actual dock sizes.

Bello also reported on the weed harvesting machinery now in winter storage at the DEP building in Franklin. According to Bello diagnostics and maintenance on the machines is “a little behind schedule” but a full parts list needed for repairs should be completed within two weeks time.

Several commissioners expressed interest in visiting the Franklin garage, giving each a chance to see the maintenance operation first-hand. A tentative January date has been scheduled.

Bello also reported on the cleanup effort being made at the administration building at Hopatcong State Park. Commissioner Rich Zoschak, representing Roxbury and John Kurzman from Lake Hopatcong volunteered their time to help Bello sift through thousands of old files, helped download important information from outdated desktop computers and organized a multitude of filing cabinets, keeping about “eighty per cent of what was there” said Bello.

Bello also addressed the impending funding issue of the weed harvesting program.

“Nothing new to report from Trenton,” he said.

Chairman Russ Felter asked for the commission to extend the weed harvesting MoU it has with the state.

“We have to move ahead as if the funding were there,” said Felter, adding that if the MoU is not passed, the commission would not have any place to store the equipment let alone operate it.

“We should pass it subject to their (the state’s) ability to perform,” countered Commissioner Dan McCarthy, representing Hopatcong. A motion was

Chairman Russ Felter at Monday's Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting.
Chairman Russ Felter at Monday’s Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting.

made and passed to extend the MoU between the LHC and the NJ DEP for one year subject to their (the state’s) ability to harvest.

IN OTHER NEWS

Commission Richard Keir, alternative for Roxbury, is stepping down after five years of service.

“Thank you. I enjoyed it a lot,” he said of his time on the Lake Hopatcong Commission. “I learned a lot. Unfortunately I’ve got another position and I had to drop something and unfortunately it was this,” he said.

“I’ve been trying that for eighteen months,” joked Felter. Felter announced his retirement in September of 2013 but had agreed then to stay on until another chairman was appointed. The appointment comes from governor’s office, which has yet to address the situation.

In the public portion of the meeting, Jessica Murphy, president of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, read from a letter from the Foundation addressed to the DEP concerning the possible end of the state’s funding of the lake’s weed harvesting program. The letter touched on the economic impact Lake Hopatcong has on the region and its delicate eco system, citing a report from Princeton Hydro that states how effective the weed harvesting program is for the lake.

“The Lake Hopatcong Foundation…very strongly asks that the state not abdicate its role in managing the health of the lake’s waters…Lake Hopatcong is not only an aquatic state park, but is also the state’s largest lake and a major source of economic revenue for New Jersey via taxes, boating registrations, fishing licenses, and more. The state must properly fund the management of its waters and not allow the quality of the lake environment to deteriorate on its watch…We respectfully urge the allocation of funds to continue essential weed harvesting as well as the overall management of Lake Hopatcong.”

Also speaking from the public, Earl Riley, president of the Lake Musconetcong Region Planning Board, who thanked the LHC for its cooperation and assistance with the small weed harvester, loaned for use to Lake Musconetcong this past summer. Riley reported that the harvester was used in a small cove called Byram Bay, which according to Riley, was 100 per cent clogged. The small harvester was able to remove ninety-five per cent of the weeds, he said, but after 20 hours of engine time the machine broke down.

“We worked the hell out of it for three weeks,” said Riley. The result was the removal of approximately 110 pounds of aquatic material. Riley said the LMRPB is prepared to pay for all parts needed to repair the machine and “is looking forward to an ongoing relationship” with the LHC. The two organizations will renew their sharing agreement at a later date, said Chairman Felter.

Felter also announced that he would be back in January, despite his desire to step down from the Lake Hopatcong Commission.

“If funding were not an issue I would not be here,” he said. “I know how the captain of the Titanic felt,” he added with a chuckle.

The next Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting is scheduled for Monday, January 12, 2015 and will be held in the administration building at Hopatcong State Park. The meeting begins at 7pm.

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