The Lake Hopatcong Commission’s special meeting on Monday, July 22, drew in hundreds of residents around the lake community to Hopatcong High School cafeteria to share their grievances and find out what is being done about the harmful algal bloom (HAB) that has closed the lake for swimming since the end of June.
By way of explanation and knowledge, Hopatcong Borough Commissioner Daniel L. McCarthy III, Esq. and Marty Kane from the Lake Hopatcong Foundation presented the history of Lake Hopatcong and how it got to its current state.
The first weed harvester, the primary tool used to manage the lake by the Lake Hopatcong Commission, started in 1979 as an alternative to chemicals, according to McCarthy. The weed harvesting program was expanded to three harvesters in 1984. During the 20th century, the Lake Hopatcong Regional Planning Board oversaw decisions about lake management, but the lake quality and weed problems worsened until 1999, when the weeds took over so much of the lake that it was deemed unusable from Landing Channel to Bertrand Island.
The state created a governing body called the Lake Hopatcong Commission in the early 2000s, according to McCarthy, which now has control over the maintenance of the lake. Since its inception, the planned budget of $1.5 million per year for the commission has faced several cuts, making it difficult to maintain the lake.
“We didn’t get here because it just happened this summer,” Kane said. “There’s a long history of how we got here and there were a lot of missed opportunities along the way.”
Kane highlighted how the weed harvesting was only a temporary fix, but the commission couldn’t focus on the needed long-term solutions for the lake because it was underfunded. He hoped that the HAB was a wake-up call that will redirect state and federal support to the lake.
The commission’s environmental consultant, Fred Lubnow of Princeton Hydro, outlined short-term and long-term solutions. Before breaking down this plan, he noted that when the commission had adequate funds from the state, the phosphorus levels, a major factor in the HAB, were lower than when the commission was poorly funded.
Lubnow’s fourpoint strategy includes completing the Watershed Implementation Plan, implementing Near Shore Demonstration Projects, getting the beaches and cove members involved in the implementation of their own projects, and conducting scientific investigations into other areas of helping such as dredging. All of these plans will help control nutrients coming into the lake and alleviate the problems that occurred this year.
After these presentations, many elected officials from municipal, county, state and even the federal level voiced their support for concentrated efforts on getting this problem solved. All four of the mayors of the surrounding towns shared in the public outcry and voiced the frustrations of many of their residents during a difficult situation. Many of these public officials and the residents in the audience hoped to see that the problem will near an end soon.