JEFFERSON, NJ – The Lake Hopatcong Commission is an underfunded and disrespected “carcass” being left to slowly fade away, said one of its members last night.
The comments by commissioner Daniel McCarthy came at a meeting full of frustration voiced not only by commission members but also by members of the public. Many on both sides are unhappy about the longstanding struggles to find money for weed control on the lake and to find ways to control its water level in a manner that satisfies boaters, lakeside property and business owners, downstream anglers and state officials.
McCarthy’s gloomy portrayal of the commission came after a discussion about a recent “emergency” use of a weed harvester by the New Jersey Water Supply Authority (NJWSA). The machine had been loaned by the commission to the Lake Musconetcong Regional Planning Board, but it was used in late July – without the full commission’s knowledge or approval - to clear weeds from a pond, near Clinton, owned by the NJWSA.
NJWSA Watershed Protection Programs Director Kenneth Klipstein told the commissioners that an emergency situation necessitated the use of the harvester. Klipstein said the 7-acre “intake pond” was part of the authority’s water supply system but had become so choked with water chestnut and other plants that fish were dying.
“We needed to move quickly and we needed support,” said Klipstein. “The support we received was terrific.”
But McCarthy didn’t see it that way, contending the authorization by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) for the NJWSA’s use of the harvester was an affront to the financially strapped commission and indicative of the commission’s slide into powerlessness.
“It’s very frustrating to watch” said McCarthy, who represents Hopatcong Borough on the commission. “We are no more than a carcass being picked apart.”
Earlier this year, McCarthy was the sole commissioner who voted against allowing the Lake Musconetcong Regional Planning Board use the harvester on Lake Musconetcong, contending the machine was bought for use on Lake Hopatcong. He pointed out, at last night’s session, that the NJWSA – unlike the Lake Hopatcong Commission – has a way of raising money: the sale of water.
Some good news relating to weed control in Lake Hopatcong came last week, when the Lake Hopatcong Foundation announced it and Jefferson Township were donating enough money to continue weed harvesting through September. The Foundation chipped-in $15,000 and Jefferson came up with another $10,000.
Foundation President Jessica Murphy told the commission that she understands the concerns of those who questioned whether the organization should be giving money for weed control. "We struggled (with the question)," she said. "But as much as it frustrates us ... we felt like we couldn't let people suffer ... It wasn't an easy decision for the foundation."
But uncertainty about long-term funding for weed removal on the lake continues to cause anxiety. Roxbury’s representatives on the commission, Roxbury Councilman Richard Zoschak and Roxbury Councilman Mark Crowley are not enthused about suggestions that surrounding towns, including Roxbury,fund Lake Hopatcong weed harvesting.
“I think the state should be paying the bill for the weed harvesting on Lake Hopatcong,” Zoschak said at the meeting. He pointed out that the lake, which is owned by the state, draws people from all over New Jersey.
Currently, the NJDEP gives the commission about $155,000 for weed removal, but commissioners say at least $400,000 is needed to do the job adequately.