ROXBURY, NJ — Joining an effort to reduce harmful algal blooms (HABs) and weed growth in Lake Musconetcong, Roxbury officials are seeking an $89,500 grant.

The money would come from the Highlands Council. It would serve as a contribution to a proposed “stream stabilization and habitat creation” project involving the stretch of the Musconetcong River between Lake Hopatcong and Lake Musconetcong.

The proposed project includes a “large and aggressive” effort to replace with native vegetation the invasive plants growing along the upper Musconetcong River, according to documents.

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Also being proposed is replacing a concrete slab in the river with a “scour protection area” designed to fight streambed erosion. Additionally, a fishing area along the river would be improved to prevent erosion and a stormwater discharge into the river would be upgraded.

The Lake Hopatcong Commission has applied to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) for a grant to fund the proposed work.  If Roxbury gets the grant from the Highlands Council, the money would be used as an “in-kind match” contribution to fund field assessment and design plans.

Most of the work would be done by Princeton Hydro, a consulting firm whose representatives visited the site in January.

In a report, the company said the stream bank work would “contribute toward reducing the pollutant loads entering Lake Musconetcong and the Musconetcong River.” However, Princeton Hydro noted the proposed project is significantly less extensive than work that was initially proposed.

“Originally, it was planned that major stream bank restoration/stabilization/regrading measures would be required at these sites that would involve lining a section of stream bank with rock and stone,” said Princeton Hydro. It said tree removal and other excavation were also envisioned.

But all that work would be “very expensive” and complex, noted the consultants.

“Bringing large construction equipment to the sites could potentially result in more ecological damage than benefit,” they said, suggesting the proposed, scaled-back project would be “more cost-effective and ecologically friendly.”

After removing the invasive species through cutting and herbicides, the project workers would engage in “a large and aggressive planting program of native vegetation,” said the consultants. This would slow stream bank erosion and help remove pollutants, said Princeton Hydro.

“Such plantings can be conducted by local volunteers from the numerous organizations” that care about the two lakes, including the Musconetcong Watershed Association, the Lake Musconetcong Planning Board, the Lake Hopatcong Foundation and the Lake Hopatcong Commission, suggested Princeton Hydro.

In a January letter to the Lake Hopatcong Commission, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said the proposed work is consistent with its “goal to improve water quality and will help prevent the downstream movement of nutrient-laden sediment into Lake Musconetcong.”

The DEP noted that HAB outbreaks in 2019 and 2020 impacted recreation lakes in New Jersey, including Lake Musconetcong. HABs are caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in lakes during the summer, something linked - in part - to excessive levels of phosphorus that often comes from stormwater runoff and failing septic systems.

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