Lakefront residents in all four Lake Hopatcong municipalities will be cautioned to use restraint while protecting their docks from ice.
The Lake Hopatcong Commission is planning a campaign to educate residents who use modern devices to circulate the water around their docks. Four members will serve on a subcommittee to create a presentation and ensure that residents and business owners are educated on the proper operation of these machines.
Commission Vice Chairman and Hopatcong representative Dan McCarthy, Mount Arlington representative Anne Seibert-Pravs, Morris County representative David Jarvis, and Governor’s appointee Fred Steinbaum will serve on the subcommittee.
“Ice eaters,” which are propeller devices, agitate water under docks similar to bubblers, Commission Vice Chairman Daniel McCarthy said, but create open water too far out from the shore or too far along the shore. Steinbaum stated that the older bubblers fell out of favor because they were loud, but newer bubblers with small compressors do the job with less noise. He noted that the bubbler system used for all docks at The Windlass produces no wave action and is quiet.
Some property owners have lost access to the lake because ice eaters are being used on both sides and melting the ice in front of their properties as well. “No system can prevent ingress or egress from the lake,” Seibert-Pravs said.
More dangerous, McCarthy pointed out, is that the propeller-driven devices melt the ice far into the lake, especially when assisted by the prevailing northwest wind. When they are off and the water refreezes, the ice can be too thin for boating or even for skating. A coating of snow can make that thin ice even more dangerous, he said.
All four lake municipalities have ordinances regulating the dock protection devices, but enforcement is difficult.
McCarthy said the owners should have timers and thermometers on the devices.
Tim Clancy of the Knee Deep Club said, from the audience, that running the ice eater for a half-hour twice a day should be sufficient. He noted that some summer people just run them all winter. In his opinion, the problem is worse this winter than ever.
“I see them running when it’s more than 32 degrees,” McCarthy agreed.
McCarthy said New Hampshire requires warning signs when propellers are being run.
According to State Department of Community Affairs representative Robert Tessier, the four municipalities could look at their ordinances and come up with a regulation including penalties.
In Steinbaum’s view, the ordinances are unenforceable. He suggested that the commission advocate for bubbler systems.
Jefferson Mayor Russell Felter said he had spoken with two marina owners in Great Cove about excessive propeller systems.
Jarvis stated that if people know how to fix the problem, they will.
McCarthy suggested that the subcommittee produce a document to be distributed next fall to prevent the problem over the winter of 2018-19.
Steinbaum noted that the good ice and lack of snow this winter should have created an “ice boating Mecca,” but it did not happen because of the ice eater problem.