The Lake Hopatcong Foundation is optimistic about legislation to aid lake communities, Board President Marty Kane told the Lake Hopatcong Commission on Monday, March 9. And rightfully so, since the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection awarded the Lake Hopatcong Commission $500,000 in harmful algal bloom (HAB) grant funding, using money allocated by the state after a 2019 outbreak resulted in a swimming and water sports advisory across New Jersey’s largest lake during much of the summer.
Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-26) introduced a bill to increase funding for the lake and the three state Senators who represent lake communities, Anthony Bucco (R-25), Joseph Pennacchio (R-26) and Steve Oroho (R-24) are also pushing legislation to provide $750,000 a season for Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake. Kane said the three senators enlisted the help of Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) to push the legislation forward.
The commission is continuing to compile data on the economic situation of areas around the state like the lake basin, Commissioner Fred Steinbaum said. He said if the commission has concrete data on the amount of revenue that is lost during emergencies like last summer’s Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB), the state would realize giving the lake communities more funding would actually be in its financial best interest.
Steinbaum said he has been in touch with an expert in tourism economics who could research all businesses in the lake basin, whether seasonal or year-round, for about $30,000. This consultant would evaluate income of lake basin businesses and tax revenue paid by them.
Commission Administrative Secretary Colleen Lyons said there could be money available from the Highlands Council for a project like that. Highlands Council grants would have to go through one of the municipalities.
Fred Lubnow, the commission’s consultant from PrincetonHydro environmental consultants, said he is also looking into a federal Environmental Protection Agency HAB eradication grant. He also may apply for a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant. Fish and Wildlife focuses on habitat protection, he said.
Lubnow said a recent Lake Management Society conference focused on three themes: HABs, climate change, and hydrilla. Hydrilla is an invasive species brought to this country about 40 years ago. It chokes waterways and is being actively fought in several areas of the country by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Jefferson Mayor Eric Wilsusen said the dialogue with the state has been good. He said the mayors and the state are working on communications in the event of another emergency. The lake communities were not happy with the way the state handled last summer’s HAB, especially the electronic signage on Route 80 that said the entire lake was closed when it wasn’t.
Lyons reported on a trip to Green Pond in Rockaway Township. She said there is interest there and at other lake communities in creating a statewide forum for lake groups.
Steinbaum also went along on the field trip. He said in Green Pond, which is only .72 square miles, divers hand rake the bottom. He suggested that could be tried in some Lake Hopatcong coves.
As the lake season approaches, the Foundation is planning on a busy year.
Jessica Murphy, president of the foundation, said she already has 16 field trips set for this season.
She also said the Foundation is looking for volunteers for the May 9 Block Party at Hopatcong State Park.