Monday, November 16, 2015, 7 p.m.
Mt. Arlington Borough Hall, Mt. Arlington
A summary of key items discussed by the Lake Hopatcong Commission at its monthly meeting:
- Commissioner Dave Jarvis and Lake Hopatcong resident John Kurzman presented a one-hour PowerPoint detailing issues they have found with the current Water Level Management Plan based on their review of the USGS data on the outflow and weather. They used Kurzman’s own tracking of data as well as slides from the NJ DEP’s presentation at the September LHC meeting to convey what they said showed that the current Water Level Management Plan, which requires the nearly constant release of 12 cubic feet of water per second from the dam and controls the timing and size of the annual winter drawdowns, does not properly protect the lake from summers like this year’s, when the lake level never reached the top of the dam. “The intent here is not to make recommendations,” Kurzman said, “the intent is to look at the data.” He pointed out issues he saw with the water budget, such as the assumption that the lake would gain 2 to 4 inches of water for every 1 inch of rainfall, which was not the case in 2015. He related the water amounts to finance, saying that you can’t be spending money (or water) when you don’t have enough coming in to cover your cost. He also stressed the importance of containing December precipitation in the lake, showed that over many years the State Park released far fewer than 12 cfs over the dam, and called into question the timing of the refill related to the existence of ice on the lake, pointing out that if the lake had started its refill on March 21 instead of April 8, it would have captured 12 more inches of water. “We need to figure out how do we change the plan so we don’t have summers like last summer,” Kurzman said. Commissioner Kerry Kirk Pflugh, who represents the DEP on the commission, said that the state is implementing the plan that was approved by DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, who is satisfied with the scientific basis behind it. “I’m more than happy to take this presentation to professionals to address your questions,” Pflugh said. “But we have an adopted plan and we will be following that plan until there is a new one.” Jarvis said, “We’re not asking for a new plan, just to tweak [the existing one.]” Pflugh also added that the plan calls for the steady release of 12 cfs, rather than more judgment calls by park officials, is because the state was sued by lake residents in 2009 over the management of the dam. “The reason for the plan is because the community wanted consistency,” she said.
- As for this year’s drawdown, Pflugh said that it is due to start on or before Dec. 2 or 3, based on the current water level. She said she talked to local mayors on numerous occasions about whether the drawdown should be adjusted this year, but there was no agreement on what that change could or should be. If there had been a suggested change, it would have had to go out to 1,400 lakefront property owners for there input. “That didn’t happen, so we’re proceeding as planned,” Pflugh said. “I think the mayors are trying to be respectful of the diversity of opinion.” Commissioner Fred Steinbaum pointed out that there might not be a change to the start of the drawdown this winter, but that there was still a chance for a change in the plan for the refill.
- Pflugh reported that a meeting with the mayors around the lake earlier in the month went well, and said that the state was committed to providing $155,000 toward the weed harvest, as they did in 2015, and that anything else would have to come from other sources. She said the issue of dredging was discussed with the towns as well.
- Steinbaum cited a discussion at the LHF’s Lake Hopatcong Symposium on Nov. 13 about the assessment that the lake would begin to deteriorate in its phosphorus levels if the weed harvest would continue at the current levels, rather than the more robust levels of the past. He said he wanted to revisit the idea of user fees, and what might be possible in terms of keeping the income from such fees in the local community, rather than having the money go through Trenton. His suggestion was met with some pushback from the commissioners, particularly Jarvis, but Pflugh said, “I think it would be fruitful to do the research.” Commissioner Dan McCarthy warned that when the issue was looked at years ago, every option that seemed to keep the funds local was rejected by state officials. That said, he advised Steinbaum to revive the LHC’s supplemental funding committee to see if any viable options are out there.
- Pflugh announced that Melissa Castellon had become the new superintendent of Hopatcong State Park, replacing Emily Rich.
- Katelyn Shaw of the Lake Hopatcong Racing Association reported on the success of the racing event that was held at Hopatcong State Park in September, saying that with 78 boats it was the largest attended inbound hydroplane race on the east coast. They hope to hold it again in September 2016.
The next meeting of the Lake Hopatcong Commission is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, December 14 at Mt. Arlington Borough Hall.