Commissioner Kerry Kirk Pflugh, DEP representative, at Monday’s Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting.

Lake Hopatcong Commission discusses November ballot question

MOUNT ARLINGTON – An open-space referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot dominated the discussion at the monthly Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting Monday. The ballot question, if passed, will have a direct negative impact on the weed harvesting program at Lake Hopatcong.

According to Commissioner Kerry Kirk Pflugh, representing the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, the referendum is a constitutional amendment to dedicate six percent of corporate business tax revenues to open space. But, she said, the current dedication of four percent of corporate business tax revenues used to fund environmental programs would be reallocated, essentially cutting funds to many programs throughout the state.

“It will impact specific programs,” she said.

Kirk Pflugh read from a prepared statement outlining some of the programs to be cut, including Lake Hopatcong’s weed harvesting program, water quality monitoring programs throughout the state and future projects at Fenimore Landfill in Roxbury. The passage of the referendum would not impact the current capping project at the site.

“If this referendum is passed, as of July 1, 2015, there will be no funding available to support the weed harvesting program in Lake Hopatcong,” she said.

The six other commissioners present at Monday’s meeting tried to make sense of the ballot question. Rich Zoschak, commissioner from Roxbury, noting that in New Jersey, voters always vote yes on open space questions.

“So this (ballot) question is misleading?” said Anne Seibert-Pravs, commissioner from Mount Arlington, further wondering how to educate the public about the discrepancy.

“I buy open space and I’m upset about this,” said Commissioner Russ Felter who, in his professional life, is manager of park projects for the

Morris County Parks Commission.

Kirk Pflugh further explained the DEP’s position.

“The reason I bring this up—we felt it appropriate to have a discussion with all of you. We are funded through July 1. If we can parlay any money to make it to the end—to Labor Day—I can not make any promises.”

“This is horrific. This referendum is scary,” said Steve Ellis, DEP regional superintendent North Region.

Hopatcong Councilman Mike Francis.
Hopatcong Councilman Mike Francis.

Hopatcong Councilman Mike Francis addressed the commission in the public comment portion of the meeting: “It’s the responsibility of the local towns to stand together on this. When people figure out they don’t want to come here because of the weeds, they won’t come. We should become a strong lobby for our lake. I will be part of it,” he said emphatically.

Felter, speaking as mayor of Jefferson Township, mentioned that each of his counterparts in the four towns around the lake, Hopatcong, Mount Arlington and Roxbury respectfully, have been in contact and are arranging a meeting with local and state legislators to discuss future funding for weed harvesting and other programs at Lake Hopatcong.

“Only in New Jersey can something that is good for the environment screw the environment,” said Felter.

IN OTHER NEWS

Steve Ellis explained the “abrupt ending to the (weed harvest) season,” blaming it on a miss communication between the budget and accounting department in Trenton, who thought the program was running out of money, and his management team at Lake Hopatcong. (In late September, seasonal employees were terminated without warning, and without properly securing any of the weed harvesting equipment, which was left at various locations around Lake Hopatcong. A small harvester, loaned to Lake Musconetcong, was also not properly moved to storage.)

Once reconciled, said Ellis, workers were put back on the payroll and all the machines in the weed harvesting fleet were cleaned and moved to the Franklin Twp. garage, including the small harvester from Lake Musconetcong.

Dan Bello, DEP environmental specialist North Region, reported the final numbers for the 2014 harvesting season.

According to Bello, 2,644 cubic yards of vegetation were removed from the lake in 2014. The season lasted from June 6 until Sept. 26, approximately two week longer than last year, he said.

“Overall we’re happy with the way things ran,” said Bello.

Bello also reported the office building at Hopatcong State Park has been cleared of all antiquated electronic equipment, “minus a few cell phones and a computer or two.” He did request volunteers from the commissioners to help sort through the volumes of old files. Rich Zoschak did offer to help.

The next Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting will be held Monday, November 17 at the Mount Arlington Municipal Building, 419 Howard Boulevard. The meeting begins at 7pm.

4 Responses

  1. Kathy
    Kathy at |

    What future projects at Fenimore landfill is she referring to? I thought after capping was completed there were no further plans for the site.

    Reply
  2. Maureen Leuszler
    Maureen Leuszler at |

    The NJDEP is run by liars and thugs who continue to make their own rules and spin their lies to the communities surrounding the NJDEP’s Fenimore Landfill fiasco. This is the same NJDEP that sent their representatives, like Kerry Pflugh, around to 30 communities in three counties warning them of the extreme hazard and ultimate illness their communities would experience if the State were to truck the toxic waste material out of the Fenimore landfill by truck, over public roads, through their towns and counties, to a proper recipient of this material. Where was the concerned outreach and warning to surrounding communities from the NJDEP while hauling it in? That was scare mongering then, and I believe that this is scare mongering now.

    They lied when they said that trucking out the material would be more expensive than capping and monitoring for 30 years. The amount of money spent on the failed landfill project by the NJDEP since its inception has got to be one of the most expensive projects in the State.

    This visit to Lake Hopatcong sounds like more political theatre performed by the bad actors at the NJDEP. The governor doesn’t want the bill to preserve more open space and so he sends these bad actors to vulnerable communities to scare them into carrying his false message to their constituents. Lake Hopatcong has for years been the victim of severe neglect from the State of New Jersey. For more years than I can count, Lake Hopatcong was given no State funding to cut the weeds. Without consistent weed cutting, the lake becomes difficult for boaters to use and even more importantly begins to die from lack of oxygen. Only for the past couple of years do I recall the State funding partially or fully, the weed harvesting. This is a popular lake for people from North Jersey for boating, swimming, fishing, and picnicking but because it is not “down the shore”, the State historically treats it like an ugly stepchild. I’m theorizing that the DEP is using this preservation of open space issue as a threat to underfund the Lake Commission and the threat to underfund their own disastrous handling of the Fenimore landfill as a ploy to win the support of both communities to vote against the bill. The funny part of the entire interview is insinuating that the State of New Jersey actually compartmentalizes funds when we all know that the Governor has robbed the fund dedicated to landfill remediation for as long as most people can remember. This governor has outdone all previous governors in robbing dedicated funds from everything from the Hurricane Sandy fund to the Basic Cable TV fund for seniors and disabled residents of the State. I believe his words were, “Cable TV is not a right, it’s a privilege.” But did he send the taxes back to the citizens who have had them taken from their cable bills, NO! He robbed it and did whatever it is he does with his bounty. Our community members should vote for land preservation if that is the desire of the residents and ignore Kerry Pflugh and the NJDEP threats to withhold funds. They probably had already planned to withhold the funds and the ballot question gave them the perfect opportunity to kill 2 birds with one stone.

    Reply
  3. giulia iannitelli
    giulia iannitelli at |

    Vote no. Here are some reasons why. emptypurse.org

    Reply
  4. D CROWELL
    D CROWELL at |

    WE HAVE ALL BEEN PLAYED!!!!! BY OUR LOCAL AND STATE GOV. THIS IS A PERFECT EXAMPLE AS TO WHY WE ALL NEED TO STAY INVOLVED IN OUR LOCAL GOV. THE DEP TOLD US THAT “WE ARE IN THIS FOR THE LONG HAUL”. NOW THE PROPERTY IS UP FOR AUCTION. WHO KNOWS WHAT THE NEXT OWNERS WILL DO,OR WILL BE ALLOWED TO DO WITH FENIMORE. THE TOWN COUNCIL, MAYOR AND TOWN ATTORNEY IN MY OPINION SHOULD ALL BE INVESTIGATED, OF COURSE THIS WON’T HAPPEN BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL BEING CONTROLLED BY OUR GOVERNOR, WITH HOPES OF PERSONAL POLITICAL GAIN. NEW JERSEY POLITICS AT ITS BEST.

    Reply

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