DEP not cooperating on innovative solutions

“It isn’t our lake, it’s The Lake,” Hopatcong Mayor Mike Francis told the Lake Hopatcong Commission at its Monday, August 10 meeting.

Francis was asking the commission to chip in on a biological control which he hopes will supplement the aeration systems in Crescent Cove.

The cove is the first area of Lake Hopatcong to see a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) level to reach the “alert” stage in the state Department of Environmental Protection’s new rating system for the cyanobacteria that caused serious cyanotoxin problems on the lake last year.

Francis pointed out in an interview after the meeting that the HAB was found near the shore on the Hudson Avenue side of the cove, almost to the end of the main channel in the 70-acre cove. He said if the DEP inspectors took samples further from the shore they would not have found a harmful level.

He also promised to install an aerator closer to the shore to dissipate the HAB that was found.

HABs need three things to bloom, the commission’s environmental consultant Fred Lubnow of PrincetonHydro told the commission: phosphorous, warm water, and still water. The aerators keep the water moving and bring cooler water from the bottom of the lake toward the surface.

Francis bought in the aerators with $130,000 in funding from a state grant, but the DEP didn’t approve the biological product.

The DEP also refused to allow Francis to import 40 Triploid Grass Carp, a sterile fish that eats the type of leafy weeds prevalent in Crescent Cove. Although the fish are certified sterile, the DEP representatives Francis spoke to were worried they would leave the cove and get into the Musconetcong River. Francis noted half the fish would be radio tagged so their movements could be tracked.

He said when the mayors of the four lake communities lunched with Gov. Phil Murphy last month he told him about the DEP’s attitude and Murphy told him to try again. He did.

“They listened this time, but they still said no,” Francis said, adding he isn’t giving up on the carp.

He explained he retained EverBlue Lakes to introduce beneficial diatoms and good bacteria to balance out the HAB in the cove. They will work along with the aerators to more effectively end the bloom and prevent more, he said.

The mayor told the commission the biologic project would cost $21,360 and asked for half.

At first Commissioner Todd Stevens objected to the commission giving money to one of the municipalities, which is when Francis pointed out the lake belongs to everyone.

Commission Vice Chairman Dan McCarthy, who is from Hopatcong, pointed out the River Styx area, including Crescent Cove, is notoriously the worst part of the lake for weeds. Francis explained he has positioned 10 diffusers/aerators along the River Styx Bridge, thereby controlling the area being oxygenated and making it easier to determine just how effective the process is.

Crescent Cove was also the scene of a fatal accident with a weed harvester on June 24, two weeks before the aerators were installed. Francis believes if they were in or if the state had allowed the fish, the cove might not have needed harvesting.

The commission agreed to put $12,000 toward the project.

Francis said he would ask the Lake Hopatcong Foundation for a donation and seek other sources for the remainder of the money.

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