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Posted Thursday, January 16th, 2020

Freeholders Approve $50,000 in Matching Funds for Lake Hopatcong Commission Application to State DEP

Freeholder boards in Morris and Sussex counties have agreed to allocate a total of $50,000 in matching funds to support an application by the Lake Hopatcong Commission for a potential $500,000 state grant to study and reduce harmful algal blooms (HABs), which severely limited recreational use of Lake Hopatcong during most of the 2019 recreational season.Morris and Sussex Freeholders Jointly Support Efforts to Deal with Lake Hopatcong Algal Blooms

Combined with a $50,000 match from the Lake Hopatcong Commission and $150,000 of expected in-kind donations by lake towns — Hopatcong, Jefferson, Mount Arlington, and Roxbury — there is a potential $750,000 infusion of funds for projects to commence this spring to deal with the troubling issue.

Morris and Sussex counties, which share the shoreline of Lake Hopatcong, also have written letters this week to the state Department of Environmental Protection in support of the Lake Hopatcong Commission’s application for a state Water Quality Restoration Grant.

“Given our lake’s high ecological, recreational and economic value, efforts need to continue to restore and protect Lake Hopatcong and its associated natural resources,’’ the freeholder boards stated in their letters to the DEP.

In addition, the Morris County Freeholders, in a December letter to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, strongly supported a request by the Lake Hopatcong Foundation for an additional federal grant to develop approaches to reduce the flow of algal-feeding nutrients into the lake.

Deborah Smith

Freeholder Deborah Smith

“We are committed to working with the Lake Hopatcong community to deal with the devastating effect of algal blooms,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Director Deborah Smith. “It is crucial that we understand the causes and take action to prevent a reoccurrence of what happened last summer.’’

“The recreational and economic significance of Lake Hopatcong is important not only to the region but to the state,” said Sussex County Freeholder Director Sylvia Petillo.  “This cooperative effort underscores our commitment to the on-going health and stewardship of the lake.”

Sussex County Freeholder Sylvia Petillo

Sussex County Freeholder Sylvia Petillo

The Lake Hopatcong Foundation is partnering with the Commission on lake projects dealing with algal bloom. The DEP grant, if approved, could finance the trials of numerous technologies to find the best solution or combination of treatments for state’s largest lake.

“While there are many long-term measures we want to execute to minimize the possibility of HABs impacting Lake Hopatcong, we cannot go through another summer without identifying a means to treat an outbreak should one occur,’’ said Lake Hopatcong Foundation Board Chairman Marty Kane.

“Funds sought through the Governor’s initiative will allow us to implement strategies to mitigate or prevent blooms that last year impacted the entire Lake Hopatcong community,’’ said Lake Hopatcong Commission Chairman Ronald Smith. “Thanks to the support of the counties, municipalities, local, state, and federal elected officials, and the Lake Hopatcong Foundation we are able to leverage our funding match to request the maximum grant award.”

The potential state grant, combined with match dollars and services, could be applied towards projects to prevent, control, or mitigate harmful algal blooms, with implementation to start in the spring.

There is a limit of $500,000 to any one applicant, and grantees must provide a match of 33 percent to any DEP funding.

During the summer of 2019, New Jersey experienced an unprecedented number of harmful algal blooms in freshwater bodies, including Lake Hopatcong, resulting in advisories to limit direct contact with lake water, and closure of a number of freshwater recreational bathing beaches to protect public health.

The advisories had a negative impact on local economies and limited recreational use of these natural resources. Lake Hopatcong suffered an unprecedented season-long harmful algal bloom, which severely hurt lake businesses and the local economy in lake towns.

Photo of Lake Hopatcong shows algal bloom

Photo of Lake Hopatcong shows algal bloom

In response, the DEP issued a request for proposals to seek applications for grants totaling $2.5 million to eligible applicants to fund implementation of methods to mitigate or control freshwater algal blooms. Eligible projects include efforts to prevent, mitigate, or control HABs, focusing on root causes of blooms, short-term bloom reduction techniques, or water quality monitoring

Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are naturally present in lakes and streams in low numbers that can form dense blooms under suitable environmental conditions, such as optimal sunlight, elevated nutrients from stormwater and other runoff, warm temperatures and calm water.

These blooms can discolor water and produce floating mats or “scums’’ on the surface. Under the right conditions, these HABs also can produce cyanotoxins, which can be dangerous to the health of humans, pets and wildlife.