The $500,000 in funding the state has allocated for Lake Hopatcong’s needs hasn’t stopped the commission from looking for alternative methods to fund weed control in the lake.

It is part of the commission’s statutory mandate to find means of funding besides money directly from the state.

One of the actions the commission took at its Monday, Jan. 22, meeting was to agree to contract with Benecke Economics of Pompton Lakes to provide financial advisory services. Benecke is a consultant to Jefferson Township. Jefferson Mayor Russell Felter, an alternate to the commission, said Benecke has worked with the township on three or four previous occasions and is now advising on a Route 15 property in need of redevelopment.

A letter from Robert Benecke describes how his firm can assist the commission in creating special local improvement districts to benefit the lake and its watershed. Control of storm water runoff and nonpoint source pollution and the preservation of certain environmental areas. He said he will prepare a comprehensive financing structure for the benefit of the lake.

The commission has a $12,000 budget item to cover the contract with Benecke. His letter said the charge will be $9,600.

The commission’s business plan committee will work with Benecke. The committee consists of Dan McCarthy, Hopatcong Borough representative; Robert Tesslier, NJ Department of Community Affairs representative, and Fred Steinbaum, a gubernatorial appointment.

As for the state funds, Anne Seibert-Pravs, Mt. Arlington representative to the commission, credited the public and social media for inspiriting the state’s action. “Especially the Lake Hopatcong Foundation’s change.org petition,” she said.

Foundation Board Chairman Marty Kane was at the meeting to invite the commissioners to the thank-you reception for the state legislators who sponsored the legislation for the funding.

Earl Riley of the Lake Musconetcong Regional Planning Board asked if his group would still have access to one of the small weed harvesters. Commission Chairman Ronald Smith said the commission would discuss the memorandum of agreement with the LMRPB at the February meeting.

The commission also received a $200,000 planning grant from the Highlands Council. Hopatcong Borough Mayor Michael Francis, who serves on the council, said from the audience that the lake will be named in the Highlands Master Plan revision. He urged the commission to consider alternate methods of weed control to the weed harvesting program.

Hopatcong Mayor Mike Francis at the Lake Commission meeting. (Photo: Jane Primerano)

Weed harvesting is the primary method used now and the bulk of the state’s money is going toward keeping the harvesting program going. Kerry Kirk-Pflug, director of local government assistance at the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the state will continue to manage harvesting, at least for the 2018 season. She said she discussed that with Smith, Felter, and McCarthy. Harvesting must start in May and the state funding will not be available until July. She also congratulated the commission for winning “a long and hard-fought battle,” to get the funding.

Kerry Kirk-Pflug of the DEP talks about funding to the Lake Hopatcong Commission. (Photo: Jane Primerano)

Melissa Casellon of the State Park Service reported on the off-season maintenance being done to the four large harvesters. She said they are taken apart and the maintenance crew is making a list of the parts that must be ordered. The hydraulic fluid must be flushed because the wrong oil was used in the past and sediments built up, which gummed up some of the works. She also said two propellers were banged up on rocks and had to be repaired. The two dump trucks were also sent out for maintenance. She said so far the maintenance cost about $81,000, including $8,000 for oil and $17,000 for parts.

“We’ve got to stretch $33,000,” she said, noting parts are still needed, including tires for the trailers, pistons, hydraulic motors, hoses, and fittings. In addition, everything that goes on the water must be painted every year.

Francis is endorsing using grass carp to eat the weeds.

Kane said there is not one perfect solution. Dr. Fred Lubnow from Princeton Hydro, the commission’s environmental consulting firm, said grass carp can be very successful, depending on the plant species. He said his firm has a lot of experience with them in Pennsylvania and New York.

Francis said at Candlewood Lake in Connecticut people can adopt a carp. “They have a radio chip and can be tracked,” he said.

McCarthy said he would also like to hear results of a sample hydro-raking project. Lubnow said some results must be recalculated but he will be making a presentation on that.

Riley said results of hydro-raking in Lake Musconetcong have been promising. “It’s a long, slow process,” he said, noting it could be a 15-to 20-year process in that tiny lake. He said the average water depth in Lake Musconetcong is 4 ½ feet and the average depth of sediment is four feet.

Jefferson representative to the commission Eric Wilsusen said after the meeting that Lake Shawnee has had good results with hydro-raking in small target areas. He noted hydro-raking can only remove sediment. Going too deep constitutes mining, which requires a complicated permitting process. The average depth of Lake Shawnee is about five feet, he said.

Josh Osowski, representative from the DEP, said cyanotoxins could be tried with a sign-off from the state department of health. Cyanotoxins are bacteria that can, under certain conditions, reproduce in blooms and cause toxicity. Lubnow said the founder of Princeton Hydro, Steve Souza, is serving on a team doing a cyanotoxins project. –

Lubnow said he would talk about possible alternatives at a subsequent meeting.

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