Lake Drawdowns Under Consideration
Tensions run high during discussions at commission meeting.
Drawdowns of Lake Hopatcong—both the annual 26-inch and the five-year 60-inch—weighed heavily on the minds of attendees of the Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting on Monday night. There were mixed opinions among the attendees, and an assurance from the commission that no final decision has been made as of yet.
The annual drawdown begins each year in mid-November and continues until mid-December, with about an inch a day removed until the lake reaches a depth of about six feet, according to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Every five years, five feet of water is removed from the lake. The next five-foot drawdown is scheduled for 2013.
Tim Clancy, a Hopatcong resident and Knee Deep Club member, said he didn’t understand how the commission could even consider not doing both drawdowns.
“Last year we had one of the driest winters on record, and the lake was still spilling over the dam by June 4,” Clancy said. “In 2010, after the drawdown, the lake rose 24 inches within 48 hours, and in 2008, it went up 16.5 inches in five days after a drawdown.”
“If there’s no annual drawdown, the lake will freeze at the higher level and could cause great damage to property on the lake,” said Lake Hopatcong resident Sam Hoagland.
Landing resident Richard Pedati noted that the footings of his home are built under the water table.
“I need this drawdown,” he said. “If the water level goes too high, my home could move.”
“As for the five-foot drawdown, people count on that to be able to fix their docks,” he continued. “If you don’t have that drawdown, people won’t be able to fix their property. Most residents can’t afford to call in professional help to maintain their property, and count on that drawdown to fix things themselves.”
Byram Cove resident Jeanette Vreeland asked if residents would be surveyed as to their thoughts on the drawdown.
“Yes, we do have a survey that we plan to send out to lakefront owners,” said commissioner Kerry Kirk-Pflugh.
The DEP is considering not doing the drawdown because of concerns about the lake not recovering from the loss of water.
“We know that the lake fills because of rain, not because of anything we do,” Kirk-Pflugh said. “If it doesn’t rain, the lake doesn’t refill after a drawdown.
“However, we also understand that ice and flooding are very important issues for people who live on the lake. That’s why we want to do research, so we can make an informed decision on what to do.”
Business owners who make their living from the lake are more concerned with the affect on their businesses if the lake doesn’t recover from a drawdown.
“The lake is here to benefit many people, not just the lakefront property owners,” said Ray Fernandez, owner of Bridge Marina in Lake Hopatcong. “We’ve always recovered from a 26-inch drawdown, but we haven’t always come back from a five-foot drawdown.”
Commission Chairman Russell Felter said that the DEP, not the commission, makes the final decision regarding all drawdowns, and that a final decision hasn’t been made yet.
“Everyone just needs to stay calm,” he said. “The (60-inch) drawdown is by no means a done deal.”
Felter expected a decision would be made on that drawdown by the end of 2012.