LH Resident on Budget Cut for Commission: 'That's Just Silly'
John Kurzman discusses lake's woes.
The following letter came from Lake Hopatcong resident John Kurzman in response to the state legislature's decision to remove the Lake Hopatcong Commission's line item from the state budget before the budget even got to Gov. Christie's desk.
The Lake Hopatcong Commision (LHC) requested only $400,000 in their budget request, in accordance with the Lake Hopatcong Protection Act. But the state Legislature and DEP decided to fund the mandatory line item in the DEP budget for protection of the state’s largest lake with ZERO.
The DEP also just announced the same week that they are making $46 million+ available for the Barnegat Bay (saltwater) area. Barnegat just got 100 times the amount the Lake Hopatcong commission requested. The projects at Barnegat are the same kinds of projects that the LHC has been trying to accomplish for years, and would help avoid the need for weed operations. And Lake Hopatcong doesn’t have the entire ocean to help dilute it like Barnegat Bay. But the $46 million is only available to help Barnegat Bay.
And the State just announced ANOTHER $200 million plus to build on the Xanadu Wetlands, beyond the $2.7 BILLION already spent on that project, and which includes even indoor ski slopes. Obviously the state has money for some areas.
But did you know that also the same week that the Legislature removed LHC’s funding for their $400,000 budget request, that DEP Commissioner Martin was at a photo opp in Tom’s River saying that they surprisingly found even more millions of dollars for Barnegat Bay projects than they even expected, http://www.app.com/article/20110627/NJNEWS/306270063/Barnegat-Bay-funding-increase-expected-by-DEP-chief ? Their extra last minute "bonus" was many times more the entire LHC budget they denied. Why didn’t they just have a picture of the DEP transferring the money from Lake Hopatcong to Barnegat, and then adding some more millions?
The DEP says the solution for the LHC is to add another tax such as more boating fees at Lake Hopatcong. Yet only non-tidal water boaters (i.e. Lake Hopatcong, not Barnegat), already need to pay a special tax and carry an actual boating license beyond the standard proficiency certificate all NJ boaters carry for having taken the boating class. And the state recently decided NOT to collect the $15 per saltwater fisherman registration fee that it was entitled to by Federal Law, while the State continues to require multiple tax stamps and licenses for fishing in freshwater areas. The DEP obviously wants to tax some areas more, while delivering money to the very areas they refuse to tax.
Boat registration fees, some of the freshwater fishing license fees (the rest going to stocking), and non-tidal license fees should all be spent to maintain the water bodies and habitats where such boats and licenses are used, not just tax us here, and spend the money elsewhere. A lot of that money used to go to the "iboat fund," which also ended up at the shore, but once Lake Hopatcong caught on and got a very little bit of it last year, iboat was then closed down by the state.
The importance of Lake Hopatcong's 45 miles of shoreline should not be ignored. People use the lake from all over NJ, and it drives a lot of revenue for the state (almost $20 million per year incremental from the Lake to the state coffers). Yet the state just wants to collect taxes in the area, not collect taxes elsewhere, and not even give back to the lake to sustain the resource that drives that tax base? And put harvesting operators on State Unemployment. That’s just silly.
Isn’t it bad enough that the DEP just ran a public comment session about the Lake Hopatcong outflow, reviewing the detailed plan, and then AFTERWARDS, behind closed doors, added major regulations that totally change the plan, before Commissioner Martin signed that version, without public input? They have now even made Lake Hopatcong responsible for water temperature and oxygen levels miles away, below Lake Musconetcong, with no similar protections for Lake Hopatcong. Downstream groups have already celebrated and said bravo now that their changes were added after the fact, as the lake is being transformed into a reservoir for the river, ignoring NJSA 13:12-5 designed to protect Lake Hopatcong’s level.
The DEP is forcing the lake to be lowered quicker than ever during the most evaporative times of summer, quite literally into the weeds that will stay in the lake, also because of the DEP. Ask your government representatives to stop treating the lake like a neverending source of water and taxes, and let the lake keep its fair share of both.