LHC Votes Down Sharing Harvester With Lake Musconetcong

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HOPATCONG – The request from the Lake Musconetcong Regional Planning Board to borrow an unused harvester from the Lake Hopatcong Commission was put to a vote Monday night at the monthly commission meeting.

The latest version of the Memorandum of Agreement between the LMRPB, the LHC and the DEP stated that the LMRPB would assume full liability of the machine including insurance, training and cost of repairs, and would return the harvester steam cleaned and sanitized.

The issue was put to a vote.

Of the seven commissioners present, five voted in favor of releasing the harvester and two voted no. The motion was not passed.

Commissioner David Jarvis, representing Morris County, was one of the two who voted against loaning the harvester to Lake Musconetcong.

“It would be hypocritical of me to vote yes to lending the harvester to Lake Musconetcong,” he said after the meeting. “I think it would set a bad precedent to loan out the equipment.” Jarvis’ main concern is the use of volunteers operating the equipment. Lake Musconetcong is facing an uphill battle against aquatic plants and the invasive species water chestnut. The LMRPB uses only volunteers to man their weed harvester. Jarvis believes Lake Hopatcong should also be allowed to use volunteers in their weed harvesting program. The Lake Hopatcong Commission has been told many times that volunteers are not allowed to operate the weed harvesters in Lake Hopatcong because both the equipment and the lake itself is state owned and the liability is too great. According to N.J.S.A. 13:12-4, dated 1939, Lake Hopatcong, Lake Musconetcong, Bear ponds, Cranberry Lake and Greenwood Lake are all state-owned bodies of water. It was stated at the meeting that Lake Musconetcong is not a state-owned lake.

LMRPB is not sanctioned by the state but by local government where as the LHC was established as a state chartered board and is funding the weed harvesting program through the DEP.

According to Commissioner Dan McCarthy, acting as chairman for the vacationing Russ Felter, the matter can be revisited and reopened for a vote at the next meeting.

To start the meeting, Commissioner McCarthy presented the board with a motion to pay a $213.68 Verizon Notice of Suspension phone bill. Six yes votes were needed to authorize payment of the bill. It did not pass by one vote. The motion was revisited later in the meeting (after a late-arriving commissioner) and put to another vote. This time the motion passed 6-1.

In other news:

The commission, working with the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, is organizing a lake-wide cleanup effort once the five-foot drawdown begins in late September. Both the LHC and the LHF are seeking assistance from all four local municipalities to provide manpower and a dumpster to help in the cleanup effort.

IMG_7459Dr. Fred S. Lubnow, Director of Aquatic Programs at Princeton Hydro, briefed the board on the status of the existing 319-grant. According to Dr. Lubnow, a no-cost time extension will be filed with the state to extend the grant to September 2014, so next year’s water quality monitoring can be covered and the proposed floating wetland islands can be installed in Ashley Cove. This year’s water quality monitoring (2013) is being covered entirely by the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, he said.

Commissioner McCarthy gave Dr. Lubnow a sample of a tiny organism he found adhered to the bottom of his kayak after an outing with his son. Dr. Lubnow said he would “take a look under the microscope” but was not worried he would find anything disturbing.

Pflugh read aloud an update on the weed harvesting program from Steve Ellis, Acting Regional Superintendent, Division of Parks and Forestry. According to Ellis’ report, there is now a total of six fulltime staff working in the harvesting program. By July 11, all four large harvesters were operating in the water. There are two teams of two, one team working in the south end of the lake and the other in the north end.

John Kurzman from Lake Hopatcong questioned the consistency of the water level management plan the board uses to control and monitor the lake levels. According to Kurzman, “when the lake was at the ‘no wake’ level the first weekend of the season, there was about one inch per day less being let out of the dam than in 2010 and 2011 when the lake level was identical.” He believes that not enough water was let out during that high water level.

McCarthy also introduced an idea to create an ice safety program for local schools.

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