ROXBURY, NJ – Roxbury officials on Tuesday expressed optimism about state grants, announced earlier in the day, that will help fund projects that might prevent harmful algal blooms like the one that crippled Lake Hopatcong last summer.

“We look like we’re on the right path here,” said state Sen. Anthony Bucco at the Roxbury Mayor and Council meeting. “We’re optimistic that things will begin to get done, so we don’t have another summer recreational season like we did last year.”

A summer-long harmful algal bloom (HAB) wrecked recreation and tourism at Lake Hopatcong last summer as the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) urged people to stay away from the bacteria infused lake water.

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Projects For This Summer

Late Tuesday, DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe announced the award of $2.5 million in grants for nine demonstration projects around the state “that will implement and evaluate innovative technologies to mitigate and prevent harmful algal blooms.”

The largest grant, $500,000, was awarded to the Lake Hopatcong Commission. It will help fund a 2-year-long project that will entail nutrient reduction, direct treatment and habitat modification on the lake, said the DEP.

“The project will include evaluation of filtering media in two stormwater basins, three types of aerators, a product that inactivates the bacteria, treatment with non-copper algaecide, application of a charcoal-like biomass substance known as biochar to remove nutrients from near-shore waters and the consideration and/or installation of rain gardens,” explained the state.

Additionally, Hopatcong Borough was granted $145,680, for a 12-month project “to demonstrate the effectiveness of bottom-diffused aeration and prevention of harmful algal blooms at Crescent Cove,” said the DEP. It said the aeration system will be installed along the entire length of the cove, beginning at the River Styx Bridge.

“We look forward to the implementation of several HAB management strategies on Lake Hopatcong this spring,” said Lake Hopatcong Commission Chairman Ron Smith in a statement. “The summer of 2019 was difficult for the lake’s residents and businesses, and this grant award is a testimony to what we can accomplish when our community joins together in support of our lake.”

He noted that all the projects will take place this summer “and will be objectively and critically evaluated through water quality monitoring.”

Smith noted the non-profit Lake Hopatcong Foundation (LHF) partnered with the commission on the grant application which was prepared with the technical assistance of Princeton Hydro LLC.

The application requested state money with a local match of more than $330,000, including contributions of $75,000 from the LHC, $30,000 from the LHF, $25,000 each from Morris and Sussex counties, plus in-kind contributions from all four municipalities around the lake including Roxbury.

“In all, this will allow for $833,000 worth of projects of be undertaken on behalf of the lake,” Smith noted. “This is one of several grants being sought by the Lake Hopatcong Commission and Lake Hopatcong Foundation from state and federal sources to address the prevention and ability to address any future HAB outbreaks on Lake Hopatcong.”

Long-Term Fix is Needed

The grants announced Tuesday are part of Gov. Phil Murphy’s $13.5 million plan to mitigate and prevent HABs. These bacterial blooms affected 39 water bodies in New Jersey.

McCabe, the DEP commissioner, cautioned that the projects “represent short-term actions,” and stressed “it is unlikely that they alone will prevent the recurrence of harmful algal blooms.”

She said long-term prevention “will require years of efforts at the state and local levels to reduce the flow of nutrients into waterways, including increased public awareness of reducing the use of fertilizers and proper maintenance of septic systems.”

The DEP said it awarded the grants to projects it determined were ready to be implemented this summer and likely to have successful results.

Also announced Tuesday was a “draft Intended Use Plan” that earmarks $10 million in the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for projects that improve water quality, including sewer systems.

In addition, the DEP said it is reviewing applications for $1 million from grant program for watershed planning to address harmful algal blooms by reducing nutrients in stormwater.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Roxbury Mayor Bob DeFillippo thanked Bucco – who serves as Roxbury’s township counsel – for his efforts in securing the grants.

“The senator also mentioned the Legislators that helped us out, but none more than Senator Bucco,” said the mayor. “I was in meetings where I’m glad I’m not on the receiving end of the senator’s ire with the DEP, especially over having to match the funds. The reason we didn’t have to match them – with cash payments only – was almost entirely because the senator protested and complained about that.”

Nice, But More is Needed

State Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, R-26th Dist., who served on the Roxbury Planning Board in the 1980s, was deputy manager from 1991 through 2002 and was township clerk from 1988 to 2010, said the state needs to do more for Lake Hopatcong.

Although she noted Lake Hopatcong has been getting about $500,000 annually from the state, she said the money is "depleted quickly on annual weed harvesting." She also said Murphy's proposed 2021 budget shows no annual allotment itemized for Lake Hopatcong in the new fiscal year.

“The grant funding being made available to Lake Hopatcong this week will mean nothing if Lake Hopatcong gets cut-off from its annual allotment from the state, and Greenwood Lake will not be able to successfully combat HABs going forward if it also cannot anticipate annual support from the state,” DeCroce said.

Other TAPinto Roxbury stories about the 2019 Lake Hopatcong HAB: 

Swimming OK Again at Six Lake Hopatcong Beaches, says State

As Highway Warnings About Lake Hopatcong Cease, 'We'll Deal With' Surprised Visitors says Bucco

Floating Classroom on Lake Hopatcong Suspended due to Bacterial Bloom

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