Governor Phil Murphy made an impromptu visit to The Windlass restaurant on Lake Hopatcong on Thursday to discuss issues of grant money, weed harvesting, and HABs with Jefferson Township Mayor Eric Wilsusen and the mayors of Roxbury, Mt. Arlington, and Hopatcong, which also surround the lake. Lake Hopatcong Commission head Ron Smith and Lake Hopatcong Foundation chair Marty Kane were also in attendance.

“We had a really good meeting today with the four mayors and the heads of the Lake Hopatcong Commission and the Lake Hopatcong Foundation,” Murphy said. “We talked about the new HAB warning communication system, sewer work, and grants.

“This lake is the crown jewel of our state, and it has a great economic impact on the state,” Murphy continued. “The mayors and I discussed steps we will be taking to help the lake. It was a very constructive conversation.”

Wilsusen, who coincidentally celebrated his birthday on Thursday, was impressed with the visit.

“He promised when he was here several months ago that he would be back, and I’m impressed he followed up on that promise. It was a nice sit-down. He wanted to find out how Lake Hopatcong was doing,” Wilsusen said.

One of the main topics of discussion was creative methods of keeping the lake clean.

“Often when we discuss new alternatives with the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection), they seem to be close-minded,” Wilsusen said. “We’d like to see the DEP be more open to alternative ideas, and the governor said he would work to open up a meeting with the DEP so that our ideas could be heard.”

One method recently undertaken to clean the lake in recent weeks has been the application of Phoslock, a treatment to prevent phosphorus from exiting soil and enterin the lake. That treatment has been applied at Landing Channel and Ashley Cove.

Another innovative method to keep phosphorus from the lake is Biochar, a woody material that absorbs phosphorus.

Both of these methods have been paid for with part of a $500,000 state grant for the prevention and mitigation of cyanotoxins.

Funding was also under discussion, Wilsusen said.

“We know budgets are tight right now with Covid, but we did ask the governor when the balance of grant funding for the lake would be released and he said he would look into it.”

Weed harvesting also came up. After the accident that killed a harvester operator on June 24, all harvesting stopped pending an investigation into the accident.

“We’ve been told that an investigation could take six months, which means there would be no weed harvesting this season,” Wilsusen said. “We asked the governor to look into timing on that, and he said he would.”

Overall, Wilsusen said, it was a very positive visit.

“This is a beautiful place,” Murphy said before he left. “I’ll have to keep coming back here.”

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