ROXBURY, NJ – Roxbury is one of four towns on Lake Hopatcong expected to provide "in-kind donations" of services that could help secure $750,000 to study ways of dealing with harmful algal blooms (HABs) on the lake.
Word of the "in-kind donations" came in a press release from Morris County. The release announced that Morris County and Sussex County will allocate $50,000 in matching funds to support an application by the Lake Hopatcong Commission (LHC) for a potential $500,000 state grant to study and reduce HABs on the lake.
The county noted, that combined with a $50,000 match from the LHC and $150,000 of "expected in-kind donations" by lake towns -- Hopatcong, Jefferson, Mount Arlington and Roxbury -- there is a potential $750,000 for projects to begin this spring.
The nature of these municipal contributions was not detailed. They likely would entail contributing to storm drain cleanups and other lake-related efforts by township crews, said Lake Hopatcong Foundation Chairman Marty Kane.
"Roxbury has not yet planned any “in kind donations” (labor and materials) for Lake Hopatcong HAB mitigation/prevention work around our portion of the lake," said Roxbury Township Manager John Shepherd in an e-mail.
However, Kane said mayors from the four towns agreed last month to provide the services. "We won't ask them to put up cash," he said. "For Roxbury, Lake Hopatcong is only a small part of the township. It could be storm-drain clean-outs."
According to the press release, the counties also wrote letters this week to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in support of the commission’s application for a state Water Quality Restoration Grant.
“Given our lake’s high ecological, recreational and economic value, efforts need to continue to restore and protect Lake Hopatcong and its associated natural resources,’’ the county freeholder boards told the DEP.
Additionally, in December the Morris County freeholders told the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) they strongly support a request by the Lake Hopatcong Foundation (LHF) for a federal grant to develop ways of reducing the flow into the lake of algal-feeding nutrients, said the release.
“We are committed to working with the Lake Hopatcong community to deal with the devastating effect of algal blooms,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Director Deborah Smith. “It is crucial that we understand the causes and take action to prevent a reoccurrence of what happened last summer.’’
'Can't Go Through Another Summer' of HABs
The release pointed out that LHF is partnering with the LHC on projects dealing with HABs. If approved, the DEP grant could finance the trials this spring of technologies to find the best solution or combination of treatments.
"The problem last summer was the lake turned green and nobody knew what to do," Kane said. "There was no approved treatment from the DEP. So these demonstration projects will basically come up with what we should do should another algal bloom occur, which is very possible. Last year the answer was, 'You have to wait until it disappears.' Nobody wants to hear that again."
LHC Chairman Ronald Smith, in the press release, said, “Funds sought through the governor’s initiative will allow us to implement strategies to mitigate or prevent blooms that last year impacted the entire Lake Hopatcong community. Thanks to the support of the counties, municipalities, local, state and federal elected officials, and the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, we are able to leverage our funding match to request the maximum grant award."
There is a limit of $500,000 to any one applicant, and grantees must provide a match of 33 percent to any DEP funding.
Last summer's HAB outbreak on Lake Hopatcong resulted in "advisories to limit direct contact with lake water and closure of a number of bathing beaches to protect public health," noted the county. "The advisories had a negative impact on local economies and limited recreational use of these natural resources. Lake Hopatcong suffered an unprecedented season-long harmful algal bloom, which severely hurt lake businesses and the local economy in lake towns."
In response, the county said, the DEP requested proposals to seek applications for grants totaling $2.5 million to fund projects to control HABs. Eligible projects include efforts to prevent, mitigate or control HABs, focusing on root causes of blooms, short-term bloom reduction techniques or water quality monitoring
Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are naturally present in lakes and streams in low numbers. They can form dense blooms under suitable environmental conditions, such as optimal sunlight, elevated nutrients from stormwater and other runoff, warm temperatures and calm water.
The blooms can discolor water and produce floating mats or “scums’’ on the surface. Under the right conditions, HABs also can produce cyanotoxins, which can be dangerous to the health of humans, pets and wildlife.
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