Recap of Lake Hopatcong Commission Meeting
Monday, March 16, 2015, 7 p.m.
Roxbury Township Municipal Building
- In an update from the Department of Environmental Protection, commissioner Kerry Kirk Pflugh sounded a hopeful note to the public, saying that the State Park Service had been able to secure funding to pay for parts to repair the weed harvesters as well as funding to start the operation during the current fiscal year (through June 30, 2015), and that DEP Commissioner Bob Martin had put $155,000 into the budget as a line item for the weed harvest for the next fiscal year (beginning July 1, 2015). “What we have to do now is be hopeful that that will be passed and signed by the governor,” Kirk Pflugh said. “Our commissioner is confident that we can get the $155,000.” She also reminded the public that the funding would not be certain until the votes are counted, and that this would only be for one year. “We have to think long term [about sustainable funding],” she said. “I’m not suggesting you have this conversation now or tonight, but at a future meeting.” For now, she said, “Listen to the budget hearings and remind your legislators that the [weed harvest] budget item is in there.”
- As far as the weed harvest operation goes, Dan Bello of the State Park Service said the parts have been ordered to repair the weed harvesters for the upcoming season, (the order was delayed because of a freeze on spending after the open space amendment was passed in November). Commission chairman Russ Felter reported that Jefferson Township will contribute to the effort by using township trucks to remove the pulled weeds, allowing the weed harvest staff to spend more time on the water. Kirk Pflugh warned that, if the budget item passes, it would be a summer season where the harvest would focus on the high-priority areas and could stop abruptly if the staff determines the money is close to running out.
- The most contentious part of the meeting came when the commissioners discussed renewing the agreement with the Lake Musconetcong Regional Planning Board so the group could use one of the small harvesters on their lake again in 2015. Commissioner Anne Pravs expressed concern that the group had not fulfilled the agreement in 2014 because of the lack of detailed log of maintenance and use. Commissioner Dan McCarthy thought the machine was not taken care of properly; Steve Ellis of the State Park Service said that the machine broke down after two weeks of work, and the effort to remove the harvester from the lake may have contributed to the appearance of a lack of maintenance. McCarthy said he had deep reservations about voting in favor of the agreement because he believes the goal should be for all of the equipment to be used on Lake Hopatcong. Felter said that it was very important to move forward with the agreement because of the signal it sends to Trenton. “If we want funding this year, we better renew this agreement,” he said. “I can’t make it any clearer…. I wouldn’t let us sign anything that’s going to hurt us.” Commissioner Fred Steinbaum said he thought it was important to vote in favor of the agreement, saying that anything that can help the lake get four harvesters running is worth lending out one harvester again, and that the person running the operation at Lake Musconetcong is a reliable and receptive person. Six “yes” votes from the seven commissioners present were necessary to pass the agreement; ultimately, the vote passed 6-1, with McCarthy voting “no” and Pravs saying she would vote “yes” with reservations. The vote stipulated that McCarthy and Pravs would have a sit-down meeting with members of the LHRPB and the State Park to work out issues. The agreement that was renewed does include the ability for the Lake Hopatcong Commission to vote to revoke the agreement at any time.
- Dr. Fred Lubnow of Princeton Hydro spoke to the commission about the 319(h) grants; both the existing grant and applying for a future one. The existing grant has received an extension, and working through the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, Princeton Hydro is planning to redo some of the goose netting and replant some of the plants at the floating wetland islands; install four Filterra devices for storm water management; extend water quality monitoring through this year; add additional algae monitoring for blue-green algae; and conduct a bathymetric study of the near-shore areas. The commissioners voted unanimously to move forward with those projects. Lubnow also said that he would apply for the next round of 319(h) grants as a joint application between the Lake Hopatcong Commission and the Lake Hopatcong Foundation. That application would seek funds to install a stormwater management structure on a property owned by the LHF; two or three years of continued water quality monitoring with the blue-green algae monitoring; the development of a stream-monitoring program; and plantings around the shoreline. The commission unanimously approved moving forward.
- The commissioners discussed the issue of grit, sand, and salt on the roads after the snowy winter. Felter said that Jefferson is renting a second sweeper truck to remove the grit from the roads, and said the commission would write a letter to encourage towns to address the issue as well.
- Pravs said she and other commissioners visited the storage facility for the weed harvesters and were very pleased with the condition of the harvesters. “So much money is being saved by our crew up there” because of how meticulously they maintain the equipment, she said.
- New commissioner Mark Crowley of Roxbury attended his first meeting; he is the alternate commissioner for Richard Zoschak.
- LHF president Jessica Murphy encouraged commissioners to vote for Lake Hopatcong for a BoatUS Foundation Grassroots Grant every day through March 24, and updated the commission regarding plans for the Lake Hopatcong Block Party on May 9 at Hopatcong State Park.
The next meeting of the Lake Hopatcong Commission is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, April 20 at the Roxbury Township Municipal Building.