“Algae no, boat safety yes,” said State Police Sgt. Chris Jones at the Boat Regulatory Commission’s (BRC) annual meeting at the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club.

Jones, who was presiding at his last meeting as liaison between the state police and the commission, informed the residents in attendance the commission has no jurisdiction over the algal bloom that is plaguing the lake.

But residents of the lake communities had plenty to talk about at the Wednesday, July 10, meeting.

Some of the discussion was a continuation of last year’s concerns about wakes caused by the larger wakeboarding craft.

Commission member Bruce Strigh explained the BRC recently put out a proposal to increase the distance these boats must stay from the shoreline to 200 feet from 100 feet, as must water skiers. These regulations will be posted for public comment.

Resident John Kurzman pointed out that not only wakeboard boats cause wakes. He noted that the rules for water skiing call for the boat to be 100 feet from shore plus the length of the rope.

Chip Haney digs deep in the trough of the wake setting up his next move. (Photo: Anthony Lawson)

He also said wakesurf boats only create a wake on one side. He suggested the boats be prohibited from driving any closer than 200 feet from any shoreline or pier on the wake side and 100 feet on the non-wake side.

Board members pointed out it could be difficult to enforce two separate distances. Kurzman also noted technology is always improving and some boats can switch sides.

If the BRC implements the new distance regulations after the mandatory comment period, the rules will begin next season.

Seth Katz, who owns marinas in both Henderson Cove and Great Cove, said wake boats in Henderson Cove are a problem. The cove is narrow and the boats weave back and forth in the cove, Katz said. He also said boaters have stolen the 5-mph buoys in the cove.

“They actually jump the ‘no wake’ buoys” Katz said.

His customers have suffered damage and his property has also been damaged, Katz said. He hasn’t been able to get the registration numbers of the boats. He asked the state police to park in the lot because they may be able to get numbers. If he calls the police they can’t get there in time to catch the boaters.

He said some of his Henderson Cove customers want to move their boats to Great Cove.

Strigh pointed out there are places that are so narrow it is inappropriate to wake surf. Business owner Jesse Mullis said Henderson Cove is one of those places. He has about 30 boats and said he has a hard time keeping up with the damage from wakes.

Kurzman noted Woodport Cove bans towing sports on weekends from Mason Street to Smitty’s Marina.

Resident John Deermount said he has sailed on the lake for more than 60 years and is noticing more and more boat lifts around the lake to life boats out of the way of big wakes. He noted it costs about $4,500 for a lift.

Other residents reminded the BRC of the annual antique boat show and suggested boats with a wake keep far away from the valuable wooden boats.

Commissioner Ed Harrison pointed out many of the people on the lake aren’t residents and have less respect for the lake and other people’s property on the lake.

Katz said his customers are not transients and he knows Barnes Brothers Marina also deals only with regular boaters as well. He said Lee’s Park doesn’t record the boats that come in.

That was disputed by Fred Steinbaum of the Lake Hopatcong Commission, who noted a wave runner demisted a Hobie Cat and took off, but the police tracked the boat owner all the way to Staten Island.

“We absolutely keep a record because people have to pay to use the launch ramp,” Dave Helmer, executive director of the Morris County Park Commission, said of Lee’s Park.

He explained boats that come in before regular hours pay on an honor system, but there is a security camera so the park commission knows if someone doesn’t pay. Most people do, he said.

Dan McCarthy, vice chairman of the Lake Hopatcong Commission, pointed out neither the commission nor the Lake Hopatcong Foundation has any enforcement power. He said the commission is restructuring its committee structure. He said that might help with solutions, but enforcement is still up to police.

BRC members pointed out local police can enforce lake-related laws and have their own patrol boats.

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