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Protecting the Musconetcong River is More Important than Boating on Lake Hopatcong

Take a photo tour of the Majestic Musconetcong
[Update: 5/24/09 – The Ledger article today modifies slightly my negative assessment – posted yesterday – of their coverage to date. The money quote from today’s Star Ledger story is by DEP Director of Watershed Management, Larry Baier:
“We can’t jeopardize the Musconetcong River to help Lake Hopatcong.”
See: State looks to balance interests at lake
Today’s Star Ledger coverage warrants a repost of yesterday’s post:
The Star Ledger’s coverage of the Lake Hopatcong water level issue is not only biased towards short term economic considerations, it fails to inform and by doing so, actively misleads readers.
DEP is trying to maintain the flow in the Musconetcong River. A minimum river flow is required to protect water quality in the best fishing river in NJ.

What “reverberates down the Musconetcong” is the water that flows out of Lake Hopatcong. Ecology 101 tells us that this water supports the life in and around the river.
The relevant documents that guide DEP are on line – a simple Google provides the DEP’s Lake Hopatcong Water Level Management Plan. See:
The Lake Hopatcong Water Level Management Plan’s objectives state:
The Musconetcong River is one of the best fishing rivers in the state of New Jersey.
The trout fishing along the Musconetcong River is the most important sport for visitors to Allamuchy State park.
A minimum stream flow of 7.5 million gallons per day (MGD) at Hopatcong Dam is required own (sic) the Musconetcong River to ensure appropriate aquatic habitat for fish populations.

Musconetcong River

Water released out of Lake Hopatcong is not only vital to fish populations, it acts to dilute pollution from sewage treatment plants. As per the DEP Management Plan:
“The Musconetcong sewer authority operates sewage treatment plant on the Musconetcong River. The amount of sewage discharged is based on a minimum stream flow.
According to the Division of Fish and Wildlife:
The reduction of outflow from the lake will reduce the standard passing flow of 7.5 million gallons per day (mgd) or 12 cubic feet per second (cfs) to the minimum flow allowed of 5.3 mgd or 8.2 cfs. Maintaining the minimum flow rate is critical to protect aquatic life in the downstream reaches of the Musconetcong River, which flows from Lake Hopatcong. It also will ensure appropriate water levels in the river for opening day of trout season on April 11.”

Musconetcong River fisherman

“Shutting down the outflow of Lake Hopatcong will negatively affect the river’s ecosystem. It will also, of course, have an impact on recreation on the Musconetcong, but as stewards of the river we must put this impact far below that of the detrimental effects to aquatic life.” Sierra Club action alert:
In addition to the ecological and fishery protection issues, there are vibrant down stream economic, historic, agricultural, and scenic river uses that are indirectly supported by the exceptional Musconetcong River.
Take a tour with me along the Muskie as we go downriver to the where it flows into the Delaware River at Riegelsville:

confluence of Musconetcong and Delaware Rivers below Riegelsville
  1. lkhopatcong
    May 24th, 2009 at 13:14 | #1

    Most if not all of these scenes (the buildings, the rainbow, the bridge, even the fishing), were not in any jeopardy by a Lake Hopatcong dam closing, because Lake Musconetcong, 1.4 miles downstream is outflowing way beyond the minimums.
    People are just putting out propaganda to create panic for the whole river, when only 7/10ths of 1 mile at the Lake Hopatcong dam was at risk, and if there was no dam, that stream would be dead most of the year anyway. Now 7/10ths of a mile of the river is more important than the entire Lake Hopatcong ENVIRONMENT.

  2. nohesitation
    May 24th, 2009 at 13:44 | #2

    Dear lkhopatcong –
    If you care so much for the Lake Hopatcong ENVIRONMENT, then why don’t you address the sources of the lake’s real problems, which are due to over-development, nonpoint source pollution, and sedimentation.
    These are causing eutrophication of the lake.
    The lake is dying and all we hear about from the Lake “advocates” are economic impacts on boats and marina’s and restaurants.
    Give me a break.

  3. jkilmer
    May 25th, 2009 at 08:30 | #3

    I’m with you on this one. I think there’s been some less-than-professional reporting by the Ledger on this one, particularly at the outset of the so-called “crisis.” They began to correct that yesterday. Clearly, a variety of boats can still navigate the lake, just not the “Cadillacs.”

  4. nohesitation
    May 25th, 2009 at 08:36 | #4

    Dear jkilmer:
    I think you are correct about the “cadillacs”
    I toured Lake Hopatcong yesterday – methinks the complaints about lowered water levels as the sole cause of the boat/marina/restaurant economic woes are greatly exaggerated.
    1. High gas prices are driving down boating participation (6441)
    2. The depressed economy, burst real estate bubble, and unemployment rate have hit highly leverage debt financed boat owners – who are selling homes and boats (6385)
    3. The real problems at Lake Hopatcong flow from overdevelopment and non-point source pollution – look at that big boat in the background of this stormwater pollution outfall (6427)
    4. High nutrient and sediment loads lead to eutrophic conditions that are killing fish (6362)
    Where’s the outcry over that?
    I will get a post with pictures up on this later.

  5. lkhopatcong
    May 25th, 2009 at 11:00 | #5

    Lake Hopatcong has 45 miles of shoreline. Maybe you’re looking only in the middle of the lake. Most people can’t get there because ramps don’t reach the water, or they can’t dock their boats afterwards, because there’s mud instead of water.
    Cadillac does not make boats, by the way, but even jetski’s can’t operate in low water (sucks up rocks or mud), and even my $4000 I/O can’t be used yet.
    Lake Hopatcong is Trout Maintenance (like the stream), so stop bashing it, its nothing like Lake Musconetcong, part of the River, that is NON-Trout.

  6. unprovincial
    May 26th, 2009 at 07:20 | #6

    Ikhopatcong: You show your ignorance of the subject with every post.
    The man-made “environment” can’t support jet skis?! BOO HOO! So not only can’t you pollute the MAN MADE lake with diesel slicks and inevitable discharges from the tanks and filling stations, but now you can’t scare the birds either! Hurrah for the “environment”! You must be an engineer if you think the lake is an example of natural beauty. Give me the peace and quiet of a river any day.

  7. nohesitation
    May 26th, 2009 at 10:59 | #7

    Dear lkhopatcong:
    I toured the permimeter (shore) of the lake – there were plenty of good size boats and jet ski’s on the lake, so you are grossly exaggerating,
    Water level looked down about 2 feet at the bridge, but in most places I examined, that had little impact on docks, ramps, coves, etc.
    The shoreline is insanely overdeveloped (small lots, septics), which explains why it is impaired for fecal coliform and aquatic life die to phosphorus and sediments via non-point source pollution. Water level is also is impacted by water supply withdrawals from groundwater to support all that development. The USGS is conducting a study on this hydrology.
    Here are some facts on the lake – source is NJDEP TMDL – note the conclusion CRITICAL PROBLEM:
    Lake Hopatcong is a 2,406-acre public lake located on the border of Morris and Sussex counties…. The lake drains a lakeshed of 16,216 acres within the headwaters of the Musconetcong River Watershed. The lakeshed is 6.7 times the area of the lakes, making it fairly small relative to the size of the lake. Lake Hopatcong is a large, irregularly shaped lake composed of many shallow coves around the perimeter. About 50% of the flow into the lake is provided through headwater tributaries of the Musconetcong River, while groudwater inflow comprises about 25% of the flow. Mean depth (5.5m) and total inflow (39,700,000 m3/yr) were obtained from the Clean Lakes Report for Lake Hopatcong (Princeton Aqua Science, 1983).
    Lake Hopatcong is the largest freshwater lake in New Jersey and measures 9.5 miles long with a maximum depth of 58 feet. Originally, Hopatcong consisted of two separate lakes, but a dam built in what is now Lake Hopatcong State Park for the Morris Canal Company linked them together in 1837 to form one large lake. Lake Hopatcong was the major source of water for the 90-mile waterway that stretched from Newark to Phillipsburg. (The lake is also currently a designated emergency source of drinking water.) The predominant land uses in
    this lakeshed consist of 9,671 acres of forest and wetlands (including bodies of water other than Lake Hopatcong) and 3,974 acres urban, or 60% and 25%, respectively. About 90% of the land adjacent to the 40-mile lake shore is developed, with the majority in seasonal and year-round low, medium, and high density residential land uses. An estimated 500,000 visitors use Lake Hopatcong’s recreational facilities each year for fishing, boating, swimming, sailing, jet skiing, and passive recreation. The lake is known to have some good size fish, with largemouth bass averaging two to five pounds. However, several of its beaches are impaired for fecal coliform, and nonpoint source pollution into the lake has become a critical problem.”

  8. nohesitation
    May 26th, 2009 at 11:02 | #8

    lkhopatcong – one more point you raised.
    I think the Muskie is designated “Category One” and/or “trout production” waters.
    These are higher antidegredation designation and use classification than the Lake’s “trout maintenance” “Category Two” (if you are correct in that statement).

  9. scousenj7
    May 26th, 2009 at 12:04 | #9

    As a resident of lake Hopatcong I was on the water in a poontoon boat this weekend. The weeds are out of control chocking the lake and killing species so no not hooray for the enviroment. The commission estimates it cost’s less than a million dollars a year to control the weeds. The goverment bails out big business why not help the little guy out. It is a fact some boats cannot get in I have a friend on the lake and she cannot get a boat to her dock it is only a 23ft boat not a monster. There were far fewer boats this weekend than normal and the business’s are hurting which means fewer jobs. As for gas prices they are down from last year. The powers that be should be able to protect and manage both waterways there has to be a way I enjoy both the River and lake and want to continue to do so.

  10. lkhopatcong
    May 26th, 2009 at 16:38 | #10

    Nohesitation wrote
    “…I think the Muskie is designated “Category One” and/or “trout production” waters.”
    I assume you were , responding to my mention that Lake Hopatcong is Trout Maintenance Classification, the stream is Trout Maintenance Classification, but Lake Musconetcong is designated “Non-Trout”.
    that is the official DEP classification, I don’t know why you feel you should dispute it. They are not trout production classification, as there is no YOY (Young of Year) offspring, and frankly, there is no way for there to be holdover trout in that stream, so it is all simply a matter of the DEP stocking fish to sell their trout stamps (go to http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/pdf/2005/trout_proposal.pdf to see how its all about selling trout stamps).
    At the stream its just a matter of whether the fish die at the end of a hook or die in Lake Musconetcong, designated Non-Trout, or die because the you demand water from lake Hopatcong even though it is warmer than the water coming from the other stream .7 miles away. Lake hopatcong water, at warmer months, is actually BAD for the trout due to temperatures, and more fish would survive if Lake HOpatcong released LESS water during the hotter months. Until of course they all die in the winter anyway unless they somehow find their way through Lake Musconetcong, given its non-trout status.

  11. lkhopatcong
    May 26th, 2009 at 17:03 | #11

    In response to an earlier posting by nohesitation:
    – “Water level looked down about 2 feet at the bridge, but in most places I examined, that had little impact on docks, ramps, coves, etc.”
    First, law of physics to get out of the way: if its 2 feet low at the bridge, its 2 feet low everywhere. Fail to see the significance of your mentioning that its 2 feet low at the bridge. But you are totally wrong about the impact on docks, ramps, coves, etc. You obviously have no clue about the depth of the lake normally, buy a depth chart at any of the marinas or bait stores. They are written for the dam reading 9′, and much of the lake, especially at the marinas the public uses for ramps are about 4-5′ deep at that time. When the area is 2-3′ deep instead, some ramps don’t even reach the water at 2′ depth, and boats can’t be shoved off their trailers or dependably recovered later.
    Also, if a boat has a 2.5′ draft, and the lake is 3′ deep (instead of 5′ deep), its a short matter of time until the propeller is damaged on a stray rock or tree stump, or worse damage.
    The comments about fecal coliform is not from septics by the way, but from duck and geese poopulation (and perhaps other wildlife). As we try to keep the environment ‘natural’, by allowing the large geese and duck populations, this unfortunately closes beaches. note that the closures are normally after rainfall, where surface ‘crap’ is washed towards the beaches. If the problem was septics, the fecal problems would occur more generally, as it would not be a direct function of recent rainfall as is currently the case. The worst weed growth at the lake, by the way, is by an island that has no septics or humans living on it at all, but has significant wildlife.
    Even a sailboat rudder hits the bottom, I know, I tried in a 5′ cove this weekend, and after the wind couldn’t get me through the weeds and I paddled, I still was having the rudder pop up continually as it hit things, being 2′ low right now.
    Sewers would make things worse unfortunately.
    1) The towns that put in sewers have their water pumped to the MUA, instead of it being purified over time before it hits the water table or provide hydrostatic pressure. Those sewered towns are now being blocked from construction because they have a ‘water deficit’. In other words, because they switched to sewers, there is less water staying in the area, and so they are penalized for having sewers.
    2) According to the environmental consultants who are expert in Lake Hopatcong and many other lakes, they have indicated that the lake has about another 100 years of ‘naturally occuring phosphate’, regardless of septics. In other words, even if septics were removed and replaced by sewers, except in horrendous areas that had little flow other than septics, there would be no visible improvement in water quality for about 100 years. Even the stocked fish that die in the water contribute to the phosphate load. But we don’t complain, because with 100 years of load still stuck in the lake bottom, its not going to make much difference.
    According to the document you were quoting “An estimated 500,000 visitors use Lake Hopatcong’s recreational facilities each year for fishing, boating, swimming, sailing, jet skiing, and passive recreation”
    So with 500,000 visitors, the DEP believes that a 1.4 mile stream is more important? Note that the Lake Hopatcong State Park Beach was not in the announcement of beaches that were open for Memorial Day either, and that would have been $10 per carload to the DEP coffers.
    “Water level is also is impacted by water supply withdrawals from groundwater to support all that development. ”
    Funny you should mention that. Much of the area is actually served by the Morris County Utility, which gets the water elsewhere. Yet the 1.4 billion gallons of EXTRA water the DEP let out into the Muskie between December 15th and January 7th, in just 23 days, was equal
    to what the MUA provides to the county over 7 MONTHS! And having so much of the lake without water now, because of that, is causing a hydrostatic disruption to the water table, alot more than some homes in the area could possibly disrupt.
    Also,in the old report you cite, they wrote “Lake Hopatcong is the largest freshwater lake in New Jersey and measures 9.5 miles long with a maximum depth of 58 feet. Originally, Hopatcong consisted of two separate lakes, but a dam built in what is now Lake Hopatcong State Park for the Morris Canal Company linked them together in 1837 to form one large lake. Lake Hopatcong was the major source of water for the 90-mile waterway that stretched from Newark to Phillipsburg.”
    Note that they didn’t write that the dam was built and created a 1.4 mile stream to Lake Musconetcong. The 1.4 mile stream (or .7 miles to the next feed, of colder water, to the stream), somehow became more important than all of Lake Hopatcong? Remember also that Lake Musconetcong is NON-Trout (ie. pollution is obviously from somewhere else besides the Trout-Maintenance Lake and stream), and that Lake Musconetcong is OVERFLOWING the dam still (not even need to open the gates as is normally the case), so the rest of the Musconetcong River, and the pictures of rainbows/etc from other articles continues to be unharmed by Lake Hopatcong outflow.

  12. 14yrbumpkin
    May 27th, 2009 at 01:09 | #12

    If the lake is formed by a dam, then the groundwater table most likely was elevated above where it would be if the dam were not present. So there is not “hydrostatic disruption”, which isn’t even a hydrologic term. And a very large body of water will not necessarily show the same drawdown across the entire surface. You have the discharge point, which I assume is the dam overflow. Therefore, water is flowing toward it, meaning the level at the dam is lower than on the other end. Then there are possible higher levels in some locations caused by groundwater influx. And very large lakes, and I’m not sure if Hopatcong is large enough, would even experience “tidal” effects, which is caused by the moon’s gravitational pull. So Mr. Wolfe is not incorrect when he observes a greater change on one end of the lake than on the other. Quit while you can, lkhopatcong.

  13. lkhopatcong
    May 27th, 2009 at 10:02 | #13

    Believe me, there is no tide on lake hopatcong, and this is not a stream, water seeks its own level, and if the lake is down 2′ in one spot, it is down 2′ in every spot, except of course where it normally would be less than 2′ deep, in which case you just see more and more mud/rocks where water would normally be.
    Again, I was just responding to earlier comments. The key response is that most of the pictures here are of areas below Lake Musconetcong that is in no danger because Lake Musconetcong is dumping water beyond the minimums. The rainbow, the factory, the old buildings, the one bait shop, all safe. Even the vineyard (a larger user of water) is safe.
    Lake Hopatcong is a very small part of the Musconetcong Watershed. If the Lake Hopatcong dam was not there, the stream in between LH and the other stream about 1/2 way between the 2 lakes) would not even exist except ocassionally after a rainstorm. Instead, someone’s decided that the Lake is there simply to service that .7 miles of stream, and it makes no sense.
    The state needs to buy the gauges at the sewage treatment plant or the other places that have approved passing flows, and not simply dump from Lake hopatcong and assume no other sources downstream, as they assure that there’s enough water at those required spots. If 10 miles away needs 12cfs flow, that doesn’t mean that Lake Hopatcong needs to dump that much, the lake is NOT the only source of the stream. Just look at the gauge at Bloomsbury, or take real measurements in between, you’ll see that there are MANY other much more significant sources of water to the areas pictured, about 30 times more water in fact, than Lake Hopatcong normally provides. Please just go catch those stocked fish in that .7 miles of stream already before they die as they normally do each year.

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