Lake Hopatcong Foundation battles the biggest threats to Lake Hopatcong (Part 1)

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Recently the Hopatcong Lake Regional News team had the chance to interview Jennifer DeWitt and Donna Macalle-Holly from the Lake Hopatcong Foundation (LHF). The following article is the first of three covering current projects and the exciting plans they have for us in 2017.

Part I: Battling the biggest threats to Lake Hopatcong – Invasive Water Species

Everyone around the lake has heard of the weed problem that we seem to battle year after year, but did you know that some weeds are good, and help the delicate balance of the lake? While others kill off the life of the lake, its fish inhabitants, and cause even greater weed problems.

These invasive plants are not native to our lake and hitchhike on boats, trailers, fishing gear, or anything else that has been in another lake that is affected with this plant species.

According to Donna Macalle-Holly, “this is the biggest threat to our water quality in the lake today. The lake is a very delicate ecosystem if you have too many invasive species it blocks out our native system, and could cause a loss of oxygen resulting in a fish kill.”

Let’s cover the top three according to LHF expert Donna Macalle-Holly:

Water Chestnuts:

Water ChestnutsFirst, we have the Water Chestnuts that are normally found in the Northern Liffy Island, and Jefferson channel areas.

The Water Chestnut is an annual, rooted floating-leaved non-native plant that displaces native species, reduces biodiversity, hampers recreational uses, reduces real estate value and diminishes aesthetic values.

LHF Action: Since 2010 when the LHF Water Scouts started they have been able to pull over 300 of these weeds, where they remove the plant as far down on the stem as possible, pull it gently pulling it out with the seed pod intact. As a result of the LHF and the Water Scouts actions, this invasive plant problem is starting to decline.

Note: It’s important to understand that the Water Scouts are fully trained by the LHF as to how to identify, record and remove invasive plants. If you have a Canoe or Kayak and want to do something to help the lake, you can register on-line, become trained and be assigned a territory to monitor.

Eurasian Watermilfoil

WatermilfoilSecond, we have the introduction of Watermilfoil that happened in the 1980’s, and weed drastically alters a water body's ecology. Milfoil forms very dense mats of vegetation on the surface of the water. These mats interfere with recreational activities such as swimming, fishing, water skiing, and boating.

Watermilfoil is the predominant problem in the lake today.

Hydrilla is the new Weed Godzilla

HydrillaThe LHF is trying to block the spread of this new invasive species that has already been found in Trenton area and is working its way North. While this weed is not in Hopatcong yet, LHF wants to prevent its induction into the lake, as this weed has aggressive growth (20 - 30 foot stems can add up to an inch per day), and can spread into shallow water areas and form thick mats that block sunlight to native plants below, effectively displacing the native vegetation of a waterbody. Major colonies of hydrilla can alter the physical and chemical characteristics of lakes.

LHF Action: Development of the Lake Steward program where stations at Lees County Park and Hopatcong State Park help inspect boats and trailers before they are launched, and educating owners on cleaning their boats before they are launched. Long-term LHF would like to implement Boat washes at all of the public launches.

If you are interested in being a Lake Steward, applications will be available starting in April of 2017.

Also, LHF recommends that all Hopatcong Lake Marinas have boat washes, for all boats that come into the region. According to LHF, only Bridge Marina currently has the equipment at this time to do the proper boat washes.

Bridge Marina Boat Wash:

Bridge Marina

In a follow-up interview with Ray Fernandez, owner of Bridge Marina on his boat cleaning station. Ray stated "This is actually a waste water treatment system, which is it's offical name. We instialled this system over six years ago, and while it helps us remove possible invasive plants it also serves several other purposes to help the lake! We always try to be a leader and do what's right for the lake in everything we do!" 

What's in Store for 2017 from the LHF?

Starting in 2017 LHF will do a joint study with Princeton Hydro to look at different types of lake water management techniques such as Weed Harvesting, Herbicidal treatments and Hydro raking as a means of controlling the weeds and removal for the evasive plants.

During this study, they will look at the weeds that are present, and decide the best course of action.

HydrorakeThree Possible Alternatives:

  1. Herbicidal treatments: Known as only a quick fix, as it kills the weeds but adds to the phosphate of the lake and encourages additional weeds to grow.
  2. Weed Harvesting: Cuts the weeds at a certain level, but doesn’t fully remove the actual weed, but it does help the phosphate of the lake and diminishes the growth of additional weeds.
  3. Hydro-Raking: Removes the weeds at its core, like the claw you use when doing your gardening. The two places LHF is looking to use this technique in Bright’s Cove in Jefferson and Lake’s End in Landing as a demonstration.

Princeton Hydro will help us understand the impact of the weeds, and will publish a document that everyone around the lake can understand.

Part 2: Stay tuned to the next article where we disclose the events and a few LHF dates for 2017!


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