ROXBURY – Some of the toughest critics of the 5-foot drawdown of Lake Hopatcong spoke at the Monday, April 21 Lake Commission meeting to compliment the state Department of Environmental Protection for its handling of lake recovery.
One, marina owner Ray Fernandez, pointed out the DEP used common sense in not following its lake management plan to the letter and allowing the lake to rise while still frozen.
DEP representative to the commission Kerry Kirk Pflugh noted the lake safely rose while frozen this season, but each drawdown year has different conditions.
“We manage the lake based on the conditions as monitored by the state park staff,” she said.
The commission discussed two items for action at the May 19 meeting.
The state agreed to Park Regional Director Steve Ellis’ request for $40,000 in maintenance money on the condition the commission agree to lend one of its two small weed harvesters to Lake Musconetcong.
Ellis explained the $40,000 would allow the small harvesters and the two transport barges to operate this season, making for a more efficient harvest on Lake Hopatcong.
The Lake Musconetcong Regional Planning Board sought to borrow a harvester last season. The commission voted 5 to 2 in favor, but requires six favorable votes to loan out equipment.
Ellis noted a trained operator would drive the harvester and it would be steam cleaned and disinfected before being returned. Lake Musconetcong has a severe water chestnut problem that Lake Hopatcong has so far avoided. He also explained the large harvester at Lake Musconetcong is too big for many coves on that tiny lake.
“We are going from no money (from the state) to our full request granted,” Commission Chairman Russell Felter noted. “If there is a caveat, we have to go along with it.”
The only commissioner who disagreed was Dan McCarthy of Hopatcong who cast one of the two dissenting votes last year. He suggested the small harvester be used in Lake Hopatcong for the first two weeks of the harvest season.
“I’m sitting here for Lake Hopatcong,” McCarthy said, “show me how River Styx won’t be harmed.”
River Styx is shallow and requires a small harvester.
As requested by McCarthy and Mount Arlington representative Anne Seibert-Pravs, Ellis will provide more information for a vote on the harvester loan next month.
Also set for May is a vote on setting up a committee to review the state administrative code’s requirement for dock length.
The administrative code sets a limit of 50 feet, but in some areas that is not long enough to get to deep water. There are longer docks, built or extended without permits.
Felter’s recommendation is to form a committee of experts, including dock contractors, business owners and residents as well as representatives from the four municipalities and two counties that border the lake and the commission and state park service.
Kirk Pflugh called this a unique opportunity for input into state law. Normally, the public doesn’t get a say until the state sets up stakeholders’ meetings after a law or revision is created.
Because the commissioners received Felter’s memo on the code change at the meeting, they will have a month to study it before voting.
On another matter, Mount Arlington representative Anne Seibert-Pravs said the educational team of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation is working with the four school districts around the lake on creating a floating classroom to provide instruction connected to the core curricula of each district. It will be modeled after the Lake George floating classroom and serve all levels of students. The educational team is going for a grant to help fund the classroom, Seibert-Pravs said.