Donations Allow Another Month of Lake Hopatcong Weed Removal

Weed harvesters at work in Lake Hopatcong Credits: Lake Hopatcong Foundation

ROXBURY, NJ – Money from the Lake Hopatcong Foundation and Jefferson Township should be enough to continue weed harvesting in Lake Hopatcong through September, it was announced today.

The non-profit foundation said, in a statement, that it contributed $15,000 to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) State Park Service, the agency that performs the weed removal. It said Jefferson “committed to making a financial contribution” to the effort, but the statement did not specify an amount.

“Together, the additional funds should take the weed harvest season through September,” said the foundation, noting that weeds in the lake “tangle in people’s feet and in their boat propellers and they can contribute to dangerous algae blooms.”

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The park service pulls weeds from the state-owned lake annually. This year, the work was scheduled to end about now. The foundation said the DEP budget contained $155,000 for Lake Hopatcong weed removal this year. That’s significantly less than what was allocated in prior years.

“With a smaller budget to work with than in the past, state leaders made clear that it would be a bare-bones operation this summer, despite the high levels of aquatic weed growth in several areas of the lake,” noted the foundation. It said the DEP has been running three harvesters since early June.

Weed harvesting on Lake Hopatcong was once done by the Lake Hopatcong Commission. That arrangement ended in 2011. The commission removed 1,139 cubic yards of weeds in its last year of doing the job. In 2014, the park service removed 2,644 cubic yards, said the foundation, adding that the Hopatcong State Park staff “activated harvesting equipment that was mothballed years ago and put back into action last year, such as the large transportation barge.”

However, funding for past years’ harvests came from corporate business tax revenue, “which was redirected to open space preservation after a ballot initiative passed last November,” forcing the DEP to find money elsewhere, said the foundation.

“The idea of the weed harvest coming to an end this week, as it was scheduled to, when so many residents have not seen the benefit of the operation this season, was a major concern to us,” said foundation president Jessica Murphy. “Although we appreciate the funding that the state approved to get the harvesters in the water this season for as long as they have been, we don’t believe it is enough to get the job done on Lake Hopatcong.”

Murphy said she hopes the foundation’s donation, and the pledge from Jefferson, “is the beginning of a long-term strategy that will bring together the state, local municipalities, local businesses and the Lake Hopatcong Foundation in a way that can make sure this important service continues in a more robust, efficient, and effective way.”

The foundation is suggesting the pooling of resources from itself, Hopatcong, Jefferson, Mt. Arlington and Roxbury, as well as from Morris and Sussex counties “and other stakeholders in the region,” to tackle weed removal next summer and going forward afterward.

“There is no reason we should assume that weed harvesting is a ‘one size fits all’ solution for Lake Hopatcong,” said foundation chairman Martin Kane. “Certain areas of the lake have very unique situations and there may be a better solution or combinations of solutions for these areas than just harvesting the weeds there once or twice per season.”

Nevertheless, simply removing the weeds is worthwhile, the foundation said. “The main benefit of the weed harvest approach is that it removes hundreds of cubic yards of biomass from the lake each growing season, removing the nutrients that feed additional weed growth and algae growth,” it noted.

It urged people living around Lake Hopatcong to help reduce weed growth “by using phosphorus-free fertilizer (or none at all) on their lawns, by properly disposing of animal waste, by regularly cleaning out septic tanks, by planting lake-friendly plants in rain gardens and by practicing water conservation techniques, such as using rain barrels.”

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