Members of the Lake Hopatcong Commission present at Monday’s meeting.

Water quality discussed at Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting

JEFFERSON – Water quality in Lake Hopatcong dominated the discussion at the Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting Monday, September 15.

Fred Lubnow, director of aquatic programs at Princeton Hydro, presented a report on the water quality monitoring program for 2014, with four of five samplings complete.

According to Lubnow, the data shows the water clarity has been improving throughout the lake year after year, especially in problem areas like River Styx and Crescent Cove. But, reported Lubnow, the main section of the lake, which typically tests well above two meters in clarity, was less than two meters, something Lubnow said he hasn’t seen since 1997. Lubnow attributes the decline in clarity to an increase in phosphorus in the main lake area.

“We haven’t seen the phosphorus levels this high (in the middle of the lake) since 1991. I’m concerned about the increase,” he said.

Water clarity in the River Styx section of the lake was “above two meters going in June,” reported Lubnow, noting the improvement over previous years.

Fred Lubnow presents his water quality report to the Lake Hopatcong Commission.
Fred Lubnow presents his water quality report to the Lake Hopatcong Commission.

“But, the clearer the water, the greater the plant growth,” he said. Many River Styx residents complained throughout the summer that despite a cold winter with a hard freeze weed growth in their section of the lake was aggressive this season. Lubnow attributes that to clear water and a winter that saw snow early in the season. Snow cover, he said, acts as insulation and can actually prevent weeds from dying off.

Lubnow reported that the increase in phosphorus directly links to an increase in algae growth, especially blue/green algae blooms, thus decreasing clarity. Some areas of the lake saw an increase in blue/green algae blooms late this summer.

Lubnow said the increase in phosphorus in the water is a direct result of the harsh winter, with phosphorus materials rinsing into the watershed with the ice melt.

“Clear water might mean more weeds,” said Lubnow. “I would rather have the weeds than the algae. We can manage the weeds.”

Commissioner Kerry Kurk Pflugh, representing the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, examined the role storm water drainage areas, located at various locations around the lake, has in keeping the lake free of phosphorus material.

“I am very respectful of the restraints municipalities have with their budgets but it is against the law to not maintain these drainage areas,” she said. Lubnow agreed that proper management of these infrastructures is key to keeping phosphorus levels low.

Commissioner Dan McCarthy, representing Hopatcong, indicated that shared services between the municipalities could be the key, remembering that years earlier the commission had in fact had an agreement with all four towns to help maintain the drainage areas and basins.

“The commission came around and put in these million dollar structures with the agreement to monitor and maintain them,” he said. “Now there is no support, no money, no staffing.”

Dan Bello who is in charge of the weed harvesting program for the DEP, reported there have been 2,571 cubic yards of weeds removed from the lake this season, up from 2,350 cubic yards in all of 2013, noting that there is still three or four weeks remaining.

IN OTHER NEWS

The commission is still in the process of forming a dock survey committee, looking for volunteers from each municipality to participate with the ultimate goal of the committee to standardize the existing dock regulations around the lake.

Bello reported the two remaining pieces of harvesting equipment; the small weed harvester and the transport barge would be fully repaired but probably not put in the water this season.

“They will be fully operational for next year,” said Bello.

Commissioner McCarthy requested that the Lake Musconetcong Regional Planning Board, which is using one of the LHC small harvesters this season, submit a report as to what plant species were harvested from Lake Musconetcong, the time spent using the machine and the amount of mass removed from the lake. He is also interested in doing a physical inspection of their operation.

The commission’s next meeting will be held Monday, October 20 at the Mount Arlington municipal building. The meeting begins at 7PM.

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