CRANBURY, NJ – Township boating enthusiasts looking forward to the upcoming Brainerd Lake canoe races will have to stow their enthusiasm, and their paddles, a little longer.

The races, scheduled for Sept. 11, have been canceled due to an overgrowth of aquatic weeds in the lake, and, according to township Committeeman Susan Goetz, the problem is going to get worse before it gets better.

That's because the lake is currently two feet too shallow and sunlight can penetrate to the bottom, promoting the overgrowth, she said.

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Increasing the depth will require dredging, and dredging will require money and lots of it.

According to comments Goetz made at a recent Township Committee meeting, the price tag on dredging the lake ranges between $5 million and $7 million, and the longer the township waits to undertake the project, the more expensive it will ultimately be.

In addition to timing, another question to consider, Goetz said, is how deep to dredge.

“The question is, do we only want to do two feet or do we want to do three feet,” Goetz said. “We're going to do it anyway, (so) let's take another foot but then that increases costs.”

Stopgap efforts to slow the growth of the vegetation have included periodic herbicide treatments, performed by ecological and engineering consulting services firm Princeton Hydro.

According to a treatment reminder sent out by the township, dated Aug. 26, the most recent treatment was applied that day, with residents bordering the lake being instructed not to use water from it for irrigation or livestock purposes until after Aug. 30.

The next treatment is scheduled for Sept. 8, according to an Aug. 30 notification Princeton Hydro sent to lake shore residents.

Complicating scheduling the dredging is the financial burden the township's affordable housing obligation is projected to impose.

“We have to look at the realities,” Mayor Dan Mulligan said. “We have $9 million in affordable housing, $5 million for the lake … If we can get through the next couple years when some of these rateables come online maybe we'll be in a better position where we can say alright, now we can do the lake dredging.”

According to its website, Princeton Hydro was formed in 1998 and offers expertise in aquatic and terrestrial ecology, water resources engineering and geotechnical investigations. The company has offices in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland.

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