With funds dwindling, LHC future in question

With about $24,000 left in its bank account and funding legislation stalled in Trenton, the Lake Hopatcong Commission on Monday night seemed unsure about its future.LHC_-_August_2012

Lake Hopatcong resident Tim Clancy said he was frustrated that the four municipalities surrounding Lake Hopatcong (Hopatcong, Jefferson, Mt. Arlington, and Roxbury) had not thus far come up with a way to at the very least fund the salary of administrator Donna Macalle-Holly so she could continue to manage the commission and seek grants for Lake Hopatcong. “You have to be an advocate for that,” he said, suggesting that allocating just 0.1 percent of property tax revenue in each town would cover the cost. “It’s less than pennies.” (To read a copy of the letter Clancy sent to commissioners on the subject, click here.)

The commissioners said they had reached out to the leadership within their municipalities in the past. “We don’t have money… we’re operating by the skin of our teeth,” said Richard Zoschak of Roxbury. “How much can I beat the drum? Our elected officials are on this.”

Hopatcong commissioner Dan McCarthy, who was acting as chairman at Monday’s meeting at the Jefferson Municipal Building, said he spoke to his mayor and council members on a “continuing basis.”

McCarthy also described a meeting with local officials and state legislators, held the previous week, where commission chairman Russ Felter gave a detailed report of the needs of the commission. “They understand it, they get it,” McCarthy said. “I was impressed by their command of the facts.”

Currently, McCarthy said, a bill to fund the commission with an annual budget of $400,000 is stalled at the state capitol; it passed the state senate committee, but is in limbo at the assembly. “I don’t understand what the holdup is, but they understand our plight.”

The need for continued management of the lake and its watershed was supported by a mid-year water quality report presented by Fred Lubnow of Princeton Hydro, which showed that water clarity was slightly lower in July than in the past, and that sporadic algal blooms have appeared. Both were likely to be caused, in part, by the warm winter and dry spring, Lubnow said. He said the monitoring is showing higher concentrations of nutrients, which contribute to weed and algae growth, in the Woodport section of the lake.

One project Lubnow is looking to complete with grant money the commission has secured, is the installation of floating wetland islands for Ashley Cove that would help soak up some of the nutrients from the water.

McCarthy voiced his support for the storm water projects the commission has carried out with the help of Princeton Hydro, pointing to a view of both ends of River Styx during a recent thunderstorm; the end with the storm water infrastructure in place fared much better than the end without, he said.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the commission heard from Steve Ellis of the State Park, who reported that six harvest employees are currently working with four harvesters, and have thus far removed 1,300 cubic yards of biomass—more than the 1,100 removed for the entirety of the 2011 season. “We’re well ahead and we’re proud of that,” Ellis said, crediting foreman Mike Calderio and his crew.

Lake Hopatcong resident John Kurzman voiced his appreciation for the efforts of the weed harvest, saying it would have been nice if the harvesters could have gotten out earlier in the season to catch the curly leaf pondweed before it collapsed below the surface, but that he was impressed with how well the operation was going, all things considered. “They’ve done a fantastic job,” he said.

In other news:

•    Clancy reported that the Knee Deep Club’s Water Scouts had found no instances of the invasive water chestnut plant on the lake this year.
•    Kerry Kirk Pflugh of the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection said a meeting of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee would likely be held in September to revisit the Water-Level Management Plan and determine the course of action for this year’s drawdown.
•    Kurzman applauded the state’s handling of the water level at the dam. “They’ve been totally on top of everything,” he said. “It’s been very impressive.”

The next meeting of the Lake Hopatcong Commission is scheduled at 7 p.m. on Monday, September 17, at the Jefferson Municipal Building.

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