In response to recent inquiries about the 2020 weed harvesting program, the Commission is providing this update to address questions about weed growth, present an update on weed harvesting operations and offer information on what we are doing to address the situation.
Weed growth on the lake this year has been stimulated by a mild winter. The lake never fully iced over and this allowed for an early growth spurt in the spring. In some shallow cove’s weeds already extend to the water’s surface. With more people home due to the COVID response there has been an increase in boating activity on the lake. We believe that the floating weed mats are a result of boat propellers chopping the tall weeds. Wind blows these weeds into coves or forms mats that float on the surface.
In a typical year, the weed harvesters would usually be on the water by mid-May. Unfortunately, due to state-wide budget issues weed harvesting has been delayed this season. The Commission provides funding to the State Park Service to run the Weed Harvesting Program on Lake Hopatcong. Our annual funds are derived from motorboat license fees and renewals. The closure of DMV on March 15th and extension of license expiration dates has caused lower licensing and renewal rates. As a result, the Commission’s funding has experienced a shortfall. This means that funds that should have been available for repairing, running and staffing our harvesters as well as weed disposal are not available. Additionally, funds that would normally be used for the Commission’s daily operations have fallen short. To complicate our funding issues, the State has also extended the 2020 fiscal year from June 30 to September 30. This has left the Commission with little funding until what is estimated to be the end of October.
The situation may sound dire, but the Commission is working with the Lake Hopatcong Foundation to organize a limited weed harvesting program for the season. With assistance from NJDEP, Morris and Sussex Counties, and the four municipalities we are hopeful that at least two harvesters will return to the lake in mid- to late-June. The current plan is to assess the worst impacted areas of the lake and address them first. Since we will likely be unable to get all of the harvesters on the water this year we are asking for your patience as we do our best to address the situation. We understand and share in your frustration and will continue to work with our partners not only on this issue but to maintain necessary funding for Lake Hopatcong so that it can be effectively managed now and in the future.